Jef Montes Interview with Amsterdam Fashion Week Designer

Fashion Photographer Giusy de Ceglia
Click here for runway photos.
Click here for backstage photos

HOW WOULD YOU BEST INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO RUNWAY PASSPORT’S READERS AND FOLLOWERS?

As an artist rather than a clothing designer, who’s seeking boundaries in fashion through my presentations, I follow my own instinct and my personal view on aesthetics without being limited by the practical requirements clothing has. When I start designing a collection, I start with a story. This story develops into a particular image in my head and eventually this will be converted to design.

I start with an image and don’t consider portability. When working on a collection, I use the immersion from former collections and knowledge from my previous research. It all becomes one continuing process. Material development remains the focus point in all my collections and I try to challenge myself to experiment with apocalyptical material manipulations, and specifically the possibility of the sculptural shaping of the material.

I studied Fashion Design at ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem and I graduated in 2012 with a honours degree. During my studies at the academy, I developed a fascination for light and especially the effect light has on materials. Light has become the overarching factor of my work. For my dissertation thesis I collected all kinds of objects to which I felt a personal connection. Most of the objects were from my Spanish background, e.g. porcelain statues, communion candles and miniature ships. Especially their shape and shine has become the basis of my signature work, whereas my drive for experiments is the main part of my signature work. It can be seen in every collection I made. I’m fascinated by ‘experiment on stage’ and it’s my goal to develop one design directly on the catwalk in every collection . RESOLVER was a total collection experiment on stage.

HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE AT AMSTERDAM FASHION WEEK AND IN WHICH WAY WAS IT DIFFERENT FROM THE PREVIOUS ONES?

This year was a exciting experience due to the tight schedule I worked on. In earlier collections I sometimes made the wrong choices concerning time schedules and communication, which resulted in something different from that that I had hoped for. It created chaos and obscurity. But it gave me the opportunity to learn and now I’m able to use that knowledge and my judgment in order to get myself and my team a better result. I feel like one needs all these experiences to learn each other’s ways and languages to be able to get better results in the future collections. For me, RESOLVER is such a result. For this show we had quite a few challenges, but it worked out really well.

YOUR SHOW – “RESOLVER'” – HAS BROUGHT UP MIXED EMOTIONS AND SHARP COMMENTS FROM WITHIN THE FASHION INDUSTRY. THE MOST CONSIDERED IT A MASTERPIECE, OTHERS WERE PUZZLED OR FOUND IT EVEN DISTURBING. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON ALL THE BUZZ THE SHOW CAUSED?

In times where fashion seems to revolve around quotes such as ‘Fashion is Dead’ (Li Edelkoort) and ‘Why fashion is crashing’ (Suzy Menkes), I think a lot about my future as a designer. Resolver is Spanish for ‘to solve’, and stands for a new fresh start. My label gives me the freedom to create my own aesthetic reality and rules – this season I wanted to start with a clean slate by literally resolving garments. What is left? A blank page, the bare-naked truth, purity and love. RESOLVER is an abstract and highly personal response to the current speed of the fashion industry. It was my goal to create a buzz, because it was a collection meant for the press. What is left of the garments is too little to use in a showroom or to be lend to stylists. It was purely meant as a statement. And I’m glad that the show brought up mixed emotions, because it means that it makes people think and even encourages new awareness.

HAVE YOU HAD AT ANY POINTS DOUBTS ABOUT YOUR PLANS FOR THE “RESOLVER” SHOW? WERE THERE MOMENTS WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT MIGHT HAVE NOT WORKED THE WAY YOU WANTED TO AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?

The main challenge was the material. Together with the Textiellab in Tilburg (lab for fabrics) I developed a dissolvable fabric. This fabric consist of polyvinyl alcohol and cotton which dissolves in water. The threads are woven into a cloth in such a way that the dissolvable layer was on top of the cotton layer. The idea to weave it this way was a result from two former collections of mine. My First collection ILLUMINOSA was focused on pigment and my second collection VELERO was focused on the melting procedure.

When throwing water on the new fabric, it firstly would obtain a kind of a black spot (like ink) and then it would dissolve. The Textiellab donated 50 metres of this fabric which I used to create 17 garments. When testing the dissolvable fabric in Tilburg we used only a one layer garment even though the collection consisted of multi layered garments. Sometimes garments even consisted out of six layers. My biggest concern of course was whether the multi layers would prevent the garment to dissolve the way I had envisioned beforehand. I even instructed my team backstage to rip the garments in case they wouldn’t dissolve the right way. But the magic happened on the runway and when I saw the almost naked models I was euphoric. It was so much better than I had envisioned.

WHAT DID YOU DO BACKSTAGE TO ENERGIZE THE MODELS FOR THE RUNWAY FOR THIS SPECIFIC SHOW? WERE THERE ANY “CRAZY MOMENTS” LEADING UP TO IT?

Originally I had plans for this experiment in July during the Future Generation, but due to the policy of the model agencies I worked with ,it couldn’t happe, so I had to postpone this collection. This time my fantastic team managed to find beautiful models who dared to go naked on the runway. Of course some of the models were nervous, some were afraid about whether the balloons would crack and others about walking naked on the runway. Just before the show some of the balloons cracked because the water inside was too warm and we had to change the temperature of the water a little. But the risk of cracking too early was still there and that was very thrilling. Apart from the foreseen obstacles, there were a few that arose on the runway during the show. The dissolving garments left threads that sometimes went between the model’s toes and the water made the runway slippery. ‘Fashion dying on stage and models crashing like fashion’. But the models handled their responsibilities perfectly and it was a great feeling to realize that everyone was so committed to perform this show the best they could.

WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR HEAD RIGHT BEFORE THE SHOW AND RIGHT AFTER?

Just moments before the show I felt all the adrenaline going through me and I was very curious to see how the collection would dissolve and what it would look like in the end. One week before the show all the garments were finished and we made photos of models wearing the garments. Then I got a little scared about destroying the garments because I thought they were interesting enough as they were at the time. So just before the show started I had this ‘kill your darlings’ feeling, but I needed to do it to complete this experiment. Right after the show I was so euphoric because my vision came through. What is left of the garments is like pieces of contemporary art.

NOW THAT IT’S ALL OVER, WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE PAST WEEK?

My favorite part of the past week was that my collection was destroyed in a successful way. The audience was very impressed by the show and even grabbed fabric from the runway and took it home. This was a big compliment to me. At the end of the show I got a splash of water thrown over me, this was liberating and felt like a fresh beginning of a new creative chapter. Also the love I felt from my team was amazing; everybody was blown away by the result.

YOU ARE KNOWN FOR BEING QUITE THE ARTIST AND NOT ONLY A GREAT DESIGNER. WHAT IS YOUR NEXT PLAN TO MERGE ART AND FASHION OR YOUR NEXT ARTISTIC PLAN?

My next artistic plan will be designing my new collection TORMENTA, with the focus on the unravelling process. Tormenta is the Spanish word for storm and I will present it in Paris this year.

WHAT COMES NEXT NOW, GENERALLY SPEAKING?

I want to cross the borders and show my work more internationally. Up until now I needed to do everything in the Netherlands for my evolution. By making mistakes and doing research I feel like now is the time to expand outside the Netherlands. I also look forward to experience different interdisciplinary collaboration in other countries. I hope to find more investors so I can continue experimenting with limitless creativity and showing more collections in the future. For me it is good to have a direction, but on the other hand I want to be open to unforeseen events because in the end I am someone who listens to his inner feelings.

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