A FAROESE WORLD OF WONDERS.
Every now and then, one meets an individual so unique and sincerely perceptive. Carefully chosen words, resonate calmly, are spoken with intent and accompanied by hand gestures underlining polite understatements, always supported by a powerful yet open gaze. These elements shaped my first encounter with Barbara I Gongini, creator of her eponymous label, several years ago. Ever since, I have felt drawn to her intriguing universe: a collage of mindfulness, set in lush monotones, always referring to her ancestry of the Faroe Islands. Simply enough reasons to share her ideology here.
Barbara, let’s begin at your origins. What led you to where you are today?
Well, as you know, I grew up in the Faroe Islands. An astounding place, with a raging nature and unique seasonal shift. As a creative, I always had a strong sense for design and architecture. Therefore, this became a natural pursuit for me. My education brought me to Denmark, and Copenhagen is the city where I reside today and where I officially launched my brand in 2005 – yes, we are indeed approaching a decade in 2015.
Hooking into that, as mentioned, to me the Faroe Islands are a magical place. What inspires you in their character and how do you incorporate these elements into your collections?
The architectural landscape of the islands and all the elements of mother nature are intertwined. Soil and climate have a direct impact on the people in the community, both their moods as well as their garment and shielding selections. These aspects have transcended into a certain tangible shape or form in my creations. For instance, the volatile and swift shifting climate in the North Atlantic forces one to layer up and huddle down in garments to take cover. This fact has resulted in my designs being rich on multi-functionality, where a single garment can fulfill several functions as well as grant various looks. As a result, a design emerges with a prolonged life-cycle that can be revoked years to come.
Lets speak a little of SS15, the collection you just presented in Copenhagen and Paris. Could you tell me about the textures, fabrics and general feel behind the garments?
As the sustainability principle is a vital pillar within our design DNA, we strive on a continuous basis to work with eco-friendly solutions, which is having a direct effect on the choice of fabric composition. As our collections rest within the darker spectrum of the monochromatic color palette that we work with, the focus therefore lies on tactility within the fabric range, textures and surfaces, as well as its ultimate function, with all elements in juxtaposition. You will find designs in the coming collection built upon, for instance leather, cotton, silks and sheers. Each collection forms another chapter in the design process, noting expression and utility simultaneously.
Indeed, you told me once that you work from a wardrobing concept, with each collection a functional interchangeable continuation of prior ones. Could you describe this to our readers?
Well, this wardrobing concept entails longevity, as our collections are based on a numerical order. The numerical order implies that our collections are not trend based per say, but rather part of a continuous playful imaginative tale of craftsmanship that breaths freedom of expression. Therefore, the designs in our collections have inter-relevance and fit with the previous, current, as well as the future collections to come.
The key in our designs is such, that once you strip down our look from its multiple layers to their individual elements, you can discover an endless range of possibilities; from minimalistic and casual, to urban and street smart, to raw and edgy, to romantic and intricate, and so forth. It is a poetic beauty that takes various shapes depending how it comes together, which to me is the richness of our designs. Our garments are not static but instead put forward an open source for experimentation and customization, allowing for individual freedom of expression. This is what wardrobing implies-a conceptualization that never goes out of style and where our wearers, whomever they are, can find a Barbara garment that fits their personal aesthetics. I welcome anybody to explore what we do if they feel ever so inclined.
What immediately connected for me was a sense of environmental care, with a clear focus on sustainable futures. How far do you take this into account and work this into the production process?
In practical terms, we will most likely never become a 100% sustainable brand for factual reasons. Nonetheless, we take pride in rating our collections according to our sustainability factors. This means we constantly strive to minimize our production footprint whilst working with more eco-friendly fabric solutions that will not compromise the sake of our design aesthetic. For me it is important to take action towards corporate responsibility, which is key to sustain our planet. It should be something undertaken holistically within the business by all actors in the industry.
When I read about your work, you are often dabbling in arts and music as well. In short, from where do you gain insights and inspiration?
Various movements rise from other creative scenes such as music, film, and art of all its forms. Each element grants me a sense of current direction and input that later, in a particular state, take action in my tangible creations. It is during this modular phase that the creative nerve can strike anywhere along the spectrum.
Also important is to speak a little of your menswear and womenswear collections. Could you describe the differences and connections and why you decided to separate these from each other?
As we are navigators of the avant-garde realm, our focus lies on functional design between the sexes where androgyny is the key word. Our brand DNA is centered on the strength of individual and not on sex or sexual orientation, societal order or other normative pressures. Having said this, we have nonetheless divided the creative focus between the masculine and feminine collection, where the essence of inter-changeable elements are still entailed, but the split was necessary for pure functional reasons in order for our creations to be suitable for a range of different body types.
Barbara I Gongini SS15: