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Tiffany Chung

04 Dec 2020

Text by Tiffany Chung

ØLÅF CITIZENS: REBEKKA BACH

04 Dec 2020

After more than a decade as the Head of Women’s Design at G-Star RAW, Rebekka Bach is now using her creative superpowers to make a positive impact on the world. In this episode of Citizens, we talk to the freelance designer and denim specialist about her journey into the industry, finding ways to include sustainability and humanitarianism into all her future designs, and the inspirations behind her latest projects.

 

Hey Rebekka, did you always know you wanted to be a fashion designer?

“Yes, since I was very small I had always wanted to be a fashion designer. I told my mom, but she always told me I can't make a living from it. So, her and my dad, they more or less forced me to study to be a doctor. When I had some of my first biology classes where we had to dissect a piglet and find out how it died, I had to throw up or stand outside the classes. Still until today, I can’t look at needles. It's very strange because I work in fashion, but every time I see a needle I almost have to faint. Knowing I wasn't going to be a doctor, my parents were convinced I had to do something like law. So, I went to business school and after one year I was like, ‘no, this is also not me’. Finally, I went to fashion school and I was like, ‘this is me’ and they could see that it really made me happy."

 

You’ve been dubbed a ‘denim specialist’. What made you choose denim?

“Actually, I never had an urge to work in a specific fashion direction. It’s the creative process that I enjoy. It suits the way my mind works. I have worked in semi-couture and with all sorts of different types of materials and fashion. But I think it all changed the moment I met the Head of Design of G-STAR in the Amsterdam Airport – the legendary denim master, Pierre Morisette. He literally ran after me at the airport to ask me where I bought the jeans I was wearing. They were jeans that I had designed myself and made at a factory in Italy. He was like, ‘Oh, I love them. You have to come and work for me.’ and almost a year later I quit my job in Italy and joined him at G-STAR. I was there for 13 years."

 

Rebekka Bach

PHARRELL X G-STAR

 

Do you still have those jeans today?

“I do! They are in a box somewhere. Every time I’m cleaning and I find them I always think, ‘No I’m going to keep these’. I must say I’m a little bit of a collector."

 

What do you collect?

“I’ve actually been decluttering my whole wardrobe lately. I really enjoy getting rid of stuff. It feels like a relief. But instead of throwing it out, I have started reselling them. I like the idea that some of the clothes I have can have new owners and can actually be used again properly. So, I don’t keep clothes, I prefer to only collect denim. Most are old jeans, but if I see one special pair I’ll keep them. It’s super nerdy sometimes, like for example, the other day I saw some denim pieces from a Levi’s series called Type 1. The concept involves a heavy stitching with 1-1.5 cm in between the stitches. It's technically more advanced as they may have been stitched by heavy-duty sewing machines and the designs are bolder and more outstanding than classic and authentic jeans. These pieces are from the 90’s and from a special capsule. That’s the type of thing that I like to keep. It's not for wearing or trying, my collector’s pieces are often too big because they are men’s jeans. It’s just for me to study."

 

Do you like designing things outside the world of denim?

“I must say denim is always the thing that keeps coming back to me. I think it’s because I naturally acquired a lot of experience with it. I love the denim industry, I love the people there, and I love the materials. But with fashion in general, I like the impact of what you can do with shapes and colours and also the connection it has in society. I like to see what it can do for individuals but also for a larger group of people. For example, one of the recent projects I have worked on involves jewelry and supporting women in Afghanistan in secluded areas. It’s a female empowerment project initiated by the United Nations and organized by CRS/Sustainability advisor, Caterina Occhio, who is also the founder of the meaningful jewelry brand, ‘See Me’ and the ‘Heart Movement”."

 

 

It’s really cool you get to work on projects like that.

“Yes, I love to work freelance now. I love the flexibility and freedom I have in terms of working with so many interesting and different people, companies, and industries, like the jewelry project, and looking into what I can do to help other people. Now that I have my own company I choose to work primarily with sustainability. So right now, I’m working freelance for a creative and innovative Dutch label, which is rooted in upcycling premium and luxury fashion. The brand is called, ‘1/OFF Remade in Paris’. Each piece is unique and re-designed from high-end vintage garments. It’s a great challenge. I like these kinds of projects where I actually feel the purpose of my work has a bigger impact."

 

Is it hard to break into the Dutch fashion industry as a foreigner?

“Mmm. Well yes, I think maybe it is. But in the years that I worked here, it was for an international company so most of our activities were global and I never had to face any issues integrating into the Dutch fashion scene.

 

1OFF Paris.

 

 

Are you interested in exploring the industry in other countries?

“First of all, I’m really happy to live in Amsterdam. I was travelling a lot over the years and had cities in mind where I would think, ‘oh, I could definitely live there’. But through the years, I realized that whenever I was in Amsterdam I could really relax. There’s something very soothing about the bikes and the canals. I love it here. As for other cities, there’s something about Japan that connects with me. I think I would like to explore and live there for one or two years at some point in my life. Also, I love Copenhagen, I lived there before. I was raised in Denmark but was born in Korea. I was adopted and recently had the pleasure of meeting my birth family there. I found Seoul to be a beautiful and very interesting city. The people as well. It has a strong connection to me."

 

Your Danish and Korean background must influence your design aesthetic.

“I think so. When you grow up in Scandinavia, you grow up with a certain kind of aesthetic that you’re being impacted with all the time and you don't even realize it. Danish design aesthetics are Nordic, natural, simple and minimalistic. I can feel how the Italian, Provence, and Parisian influences differ from the Scandinavian. I find it inspiring and appreciate the difference. But I do definitely think that my Danish upbringing has an impact on my view of things. My Korean side, I don’t know. I was three when I came to Denmark. Maybe it’s more in my personality. Sometimes people say Koreans are very strong-minded. [Laughing]"

 

With Inge Onsea, owner of Essentiel Antwerp."

 

Do you wear your designs?

“I often get inspired by what I’m working with or wearing. A very great example is the first freelance job I had after my years with G-Star. I was working with the Belgian brand, Essentiel Antwerp, and their design values are nearly opposite to G-Star. It’s all about flower print, pink, fun, and colourful. I had been working with blue, black, grey denim for so many years and was so ready to get out of this monochrome colour card. I immediately was like, ‘let’s go and jump all in”. I really enjoyed it so much. When I design something radically new, I need to try it for myself. For example, I need to know what it feels like to walk out in a complete neon pink jumpsuit. I think it's a great experience to understand what it feels like for the consumer. I think it's like being a chef. You need to taste what you’re cooking."

 

 

Denim fabric by ANUBAH Mill.

 

And for our last question, what has inspired you lately?

“Uhhh, so many things. With the upcycle work at 1/OFF Remade in Paris, I’m getting inspired by all the unique and beautiful pieces of vintage clothing. When you work for a conventional fashion brand you often start like: this is the concept, this is the colour card, these are the silhouettes per season. But with this brand, the clothes are already made, it’s genderless and seasonless. So, you have to think about what you can do to redesign and repurpose it in order for a person to find it relevant and desirable today. For example, for SS21 we designed a beautiful tracksuit made from 3 different vintage sports garments like Nike and Adidas, and a vintage Hermes scarf in a hybrid with a Ralph Lauren shirt. One of the iconic pieces is a beautiful fusion between the classic tweed Chanel jacket and a Levi’s denim trucker jacket. It’s a very fascinating combination. Each garment tells a story and gives inspiration."

 

“Besides this, this summer I was working on a denim capsule and they weren’t specifically asking for sustainability. Like with many companies, it isn't really a high priority due to the pandemic and other business issues at the moment. But I thought I would try to push them. They wanted a small capsule for a spring/summer campaign, so I made a whole concept for them that was sustainable, very masculine, non-dyed denim, organic cotton, with performance characteristics such as an antiviral coating which was inspired by what’s going on today with Covid and virus protection."

 

“And lastly, for the current jewelry project I’m working on, I’m very much inspired by the location in Afghanistan. In that area, there are mountains with certain types of gemstones. These stones are said to be spiritual and have certain meanings and properties like healing crystals. I was reading all about it and buying all these vintage books about stone energies and the history of jewelry. I think during these times with the pandemic, we feel extra sensitive and drawn towards having extra energy or a spiritual gem in a necklace or next to our bed. So yes, all this inspiration is coming from what’s happening in the world right now."

 

Article image by: Valeria Heilbron

Tiffany Chung

08 Aug 2021

Text by Tiffany Chung

CITIZENS: REGINALD SYLVESTER II

08 Aug 2021

Reflecting the world we live in today, Reginald Sylvester II is an abstract artist that captures moments in time on canvas. In this edition of Citizens, the New York-based painter tells us about his foray into the art world, his creative process, and the characteristic an artist needs to push the work further.

 

How did you become an artist?

“I worked corporate for a while as a graphic designer for Gap. Corp, specifically Old Navy. Got some really great advice from my Senior Designer that I should pursue my creative endeavors outside of work. That working corporate could become a bit stale for someone as young and creatively driven as I was at the time."

 

So, did you go through a starving artist phase?

“I wouldn’t call it a ‘starving artist’ phase but I definitely struggled."

 

These Songs Of Freedom II & III, 2020. Acrylic on canvas.

 

Is the business side of being an artist something you had to learn as you go?

“Most definitely. You learn as you go. The unique relationship I have with my Dealer and good friend Max has been fruitful in the sense that I’ve been able to learn as he grows. Having full transparency with your business and business partners is key."

 

When you're creating a piece where do you start?

“It all depends on the day and circumstance. I’ve noticed since I'm right handed it’s usually the upper right hand area of the surface that is confronted first."

 

How do you know when you're done a piece?

“Hard to say. Paintings are like time stamps. I suppose when I’ve lived with a work long enough, when that time is finished the work itself is finished. Then again you could say it’s never finished until it’s realized in front of the viewers beyond my studio walls."

 

When you're in the studio what do you need to help you work?

“Music, then sometimes silence. Focus."

 

What music are you listening to?

“A lot of different things. From Hendricks to Miles to Jay Z. I’ll transition into Hans Zimmerman then to Lupe Fiasco to Mary J. Blidge. Depends on the feeling, time and day."

Last Laugh, 2021.

Last Laugh, 2021. Late 1800’s early 1900’s bronze slave transport, discarded car parts, rope, and black oxidized bricks..

 

 

What do you wear in the studio?

“Painters pants, tee, and Rick Owens Birkenstocks."

 

Do you ever feel insecure about your work?

“Without a sense of insecurity there’s really no need to feel as if you need to push your work forward. No room for what ifs."

 

Shoot for @plastermagazine.

These Songs of Freedom II, 2020.

 

 

Complete this sentence. ‘An artist should always…’

“Create with humility."

 

True or false. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

“Possibly true to a certain extent."

 

Here's a difficult question, do you have a favorite color?

“Navy blue, brown, and black."

 

Which artists do you pay attention to or think other people should be paying attention to?

“Artists that excite me are Janis Kounellis, Frank Bowling, Julian Schnabel, and David Hammonds to name a few. Artists to pay attention to today: Tschabalala Self, Spencer Lewis, Somaya Critchlow, and Coco Capitan.">

 

Heel chair, 2019.

 

As the art world becomes more digital, what are your thoughts on NFTs?

“No real thoughts on NFT’s pertaining to the world of art. I feel there’s other areas of focus that are more important to me at the moment."

 

To wrap things up on an inspirational note, name a person, place, and thing that inspires you.

“I think my dad is super inspirational in the sense that he just wants to build. That's all I want to do. So, the conversations that we have had as of late, or as I've been becoming my own man, they've really been based off of building belief systems, family, generational wealth, heritage."

 

“A place that inspires me is tough. It’s between Mexico City and Tokyo. They actually remind me a bit of each other. Tokyo is more of a grander place and definitely more industrial, but I think the things that I like about Japan are the little nooks and crannies. I like how things are kind of crammed together. I think with Mexico City, you find little essences of that. But the biggest reason why I like Mexico City is just the balance I feel between nature and city."

 

“The thing that inspires me is the act of making. The fact that you can think of something and use objects that already exist in the world in order to create something new. I just think it's like the closest thing we can get it to God, aside from women being able to give birth to children. Making something that didn’t exist at one point and then does for a minute, day, year, is just inspiring."

 

Article image by: Jesse David Harris