“I dream of wearing my own creations but realize that is not going to happen, so I try to make other people happy through my creations…. I want to feel free and keep spreading my motto – that no one should ever give up on their dreams like I’m not giving up on mine.”
Tanika de Koning, the teenage designer who is afflicted with a disease that leaves her bedridden celebrates life daily with beautiful and intricate designs. Her passion and dedication to pursuing her art no matter what has inspired all of us at Runway Passport as well as Lady Gaga. The two have become mutual fans of each other.
To watch her meeting with Lady Gaga click HERE
To view photos of her collection click HERE
Photographer: Giusy de Ceglia* – http://www.giusydeceglia.com/
* when noted on photo below
WHERE DO YOU GET THE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR COLLECTION?
I’m inspired by just about everything – from nature to a lamp in my room and the whole universe. Despite the fact that I have a horrible disease, I keep fighting it back so I also have a “Fighter” Collection. Most of the time when I feel I have something to express I just pick up pen and paper and let it flow.
I like mixing beautiful dresses from the past with futuristic elements – that’s why I love 3D printers. Also I like spraying bodies and re-create my designs on them.
Movies and amazing artists like Lady Gaga majorly inspire me too. Designing for my Pijn-lijn (“Pain Collection”) is always a bigger challenge because it needs to fit bodies that are forced to sit on a wheel chair for hours, so there I use beautiful materials that will make you feel good no matter what goes on inside.
I dream of wearing my own creations but realize that is not going to happen, so I try to make other people happy through my creations. Haute Couture creations are my absolute favorites.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BECOME A DESIGNER?
As a child I actually dreamt of working in theaters, movies or as a dancer because I used to be really good at that. I loved singing too and people often got very emotional when I started humming a tune, because the way I performed touched them. I was also a good athlete, stronger than guys my same age (crazy now that I’m stuck in bed huh). I tried judo for a while and did it at a high level but at a certain point my body just couldn’t handle it anymore.
During my very last performance on stage at a theater I got so weak I couldn’t even stand on my legs anymore but I kept going because I’d never let my disease get the best of me. At the end I had to be taken down the stage and laid on the wheel chair but first I saluted the public still standing like a real artist needs to do. I started drawing because no one should ever give up on their dreams no matter what but I had to “adjust” mine because of my medical condition. I realized I had talent and went on drawing and creating those dresses I dreamt of as a kid and did wear from time to time, alternating them with short pants and boyish clothes.
I have always been a “chameleon” and still am. That’s the same mix of styles you see in my creations today. “Make a Wish” helped me produce my very first collection – the couture “Queen of Fantasy” one – as well as the fairytale style princess dresses and the “Pain Collection”. Designing clothes remains my main activity but I also like designing furniture, red carpet dresses, theater outfits, shoes, bags, hats – and even my own make-up.
I want to design as much as possible, knowing I’m on this earth for a reason and trying to make the most out of it, without letting my disease get the best of me.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST PIECE YOU EVER DESIGNED?
On paper it would have to go back to when I was a little girl 😉 My first real creations date back to 2009, when my “Queen of Fantasy” and “Pain Collection” were shown. Earlier than that I designed some shoes and took part in a Japanese T-shirt competition.
HOW HAVE YOU GROWN AS A DESIGNER SINCE YOUR FIRST PIECE?
Definitely a lot, though I’m by far not where I’d like to be yet. At this very moment I’m at a crucial crossroad that might lead me to major changes.
I’ve come a long way if you think my first creations were faceless (because I felt it was all about the clothes) while now I design up to their smallest details and style them too.
I have learned a lot about materials (recently I have created my own materials too), working with light as well and I’m busy with a secret project right now.
Right now I’m also trying to set up a commercial collection but my ideas are often too complex to be translated in simpler designs, though I’m working on it.
On a personal level, I’ve learned to open up and say more in interviews. I used to be a very introverted person but then I started to share my dreams and passion with the world.
Many famous people in Holland love my work and Lady Gaga has two of my designs framed at home. While I grow weaker and sicker every day physically, my soul gets stronger instead.
As long as my hand keeps moving, despite spasms and all the pain I feel, I’ll keep creating and designing. I’m stuck at home most of the time but my creativity and my story go around the world. I have met many people online with whom I can share my ideas and so much great stuff has come out of that. Like I’m talking to you at Runway Passport now in New York, isn’t that amazing??
I want to feel free and keep spreading my motto – that no one should ever give up on their dreams like I’m not giving up on mine. It is a great honor to know that people are touched by my story and if I can inspire them, my mission has been accomplished.
An institute has been created in my name in 2010 and in 2013 I started designing T-shirts that are now on sale. All money goes to my own institute called “Stichting Tanika” (www.stichtingtanika.nl)
WHAT IS A PIECE YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
My Japanese princesses for sure, so many people want them 🙂
Still I think my best creation ever will come out of the Secret Project I mentioned earlier, hopefully this year still. I’m so proud of it and can’t wait to share it with the world.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST EXCITING MOMENT AS A DESIGNER?
My very first runway show on December 12th 2009, that’s where it all started.
On a personal level definitely meeting Lady Gaga and giving her my two creations which she loved so much!!
What was amazing about meeting her was that we shared so much both as people and artists at the same time. Then giving this kind of interviews makes me intensely happy!! I hope my story spreads around the world like a butterfly flying high and inspires people.
YOU ARE AN INCREDIBLY ADMIRABLE PERSON BY PURSUING YOUR DREAMS DESPITE A BATTLE WITH A VERY DIFFICULT ILLNES – HOW DO YOU FEEL YOUR VISION AS AN ARTIST HAS GROWN OR BEEN AFFECTED BY YOUR STRUGGLES?
First of all thank you so much for your beautiful words!! My disease and everything that comes with it has shaped me into who I am today. I strongly believe it is so important to never ever give up, no matter how healthy, sick, rich or poor you are. Always fight for your dreams!! I have “adopted” a little girl in India from afar and am supporting her in every way I can, but most of all I’m making her feel loved and that’s the most important thing ever.
Last year my health got a lot worse but that still didn’t stop me and made me work even harder on my projects, so that all I was going through could push me even harder to create art, clothes and music. I’ll keep designing until I die and most likely even after.
I’m a dreamer who keeps on fighting and you can see my daily struggles in my clothes, as well as the surrealistic tone they sometimes get when they become too creative but what matters is that I never stop seeing the light, never!!
I keep sharing my dreams with my father, my family, my friends, my little girl in India – there is so much to fight for!!
I’m thankful I get helped by so many people through it’s sometimes frustrating not to be able to pick up needle and thread and sow my own clothes but that doesn’t matter – I keep on going through everything, creating even more beautiful and better clothes.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ANYONE WHO IS PURSUING THEIR DREAMS DESPITE DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES?
Sorry for repeating myself but I can’t say this enough: Never ever give up!! Keep believing, keep fighting!!
Surround yourself with people who have your same passions, embrace the help you’re offered even if that’s difficult sometimes (at least for me it remains a challenge to do so) and follow your heart. I’ve been cheated on, lied to, stolen from many times (not just emotionally) because there are many bad people around but also just as many and more wonderful people who are there for you and want to help.
Follow your inspiration, trust your guts’ feeling and inspire other people. And if a door closes, an even bigger one will open!!
Not all dreams will come true but if you keep fighting hard enough, some certainly will. Learn to forgive yourself also and those who have hurt you, because letting go of negative energy will help you focus on what really matters. Try to live every day like it’s your last and ask yourself what you would do if you knew that was your very last day being alive.
That will help you stay true to yourself and make the right choices. Life is so precious, so take care of your body and soul. Don’t be afraid to open up to people who deserve it and talk about what makes you happy but also miserable.
You will never reach your dreams if you don’t find peace in yourself. Someday all the pieces of the puzzle will fall into the right place and your dreams will happen.
Don’t give in to negativity and don’t waste energy for something that’s not worth it. Realize you need to work hard for your dreams because you might get some help on the way, but at the end of the day you need to make it happen yourself – and you will win if you believe in it!!
Breathe in deeply, visualize your dreams and go for it!! Don’t let anything or anyone stop you ever. Don’t forget to help other people and learn to enjoy also the simplest things, as they will often be the ones that make you smile.
When you give, just enjoy giving without expecting something back. Live your life to the fullest, every day.