Right out of Artez she won the Frans Molenaar Price with her collection ‘Afternoon of a Replicant’, got a job at the Dutch wax prints company Vlisco and the Italian textile company Mantero Seta. Her design for Chloé won the French Chloé award at the prestigious fashion festival in Hyeres. She recently showed her fourth collection during Paris Fashion Week.
Liselore Frowijn works from a bright studio in the center of Amsterdam, with large windows that overview the canal. The bookcases in the centre of the room are filled with art books and next to her desk she pinned some pictures against the wall; an image of some flamingo’s, a painting of a woman in 18th-century clothing and a little lace collar.
IMPRINT: Your last collection was shown in Paris. Models stormed the runway with phrases like ‘no wall’ painted on their faces while MIA’s ‘borders’ was playing. I was wondering, do you feel you have to contribute to the current political discussion as a designer?
Liselore: It’s not that I have to, but I want to. We have this platform, as designers, and not just any platform. I mean, Paris Fashion Week for me is the most important fashion week. This is where all the established fashion houses show their collection, it’s very traditional in a way. But I got appointed a place on the calendar, as a young designer, and it feels like it’s not a moral imperative, but an opportunity to tell a broader story, not just show pretty clothes.
IMPRINT: I can image that there is more opportunity to do so in contemporary fashion.
L: Yes, I guess so. It doesn’t happen a lot though, but that’s okay. People do their own thing. I noticed that a new generation of designers is trying to find new ways to make a statement. It’s different from the way the established names do it, they can just put eighty looks on a runway, they have the means, which makes it all about showing a mass of clothes. “Young designers are trying to distinguish themselves not only by the clothes they make but also by the way they present their work as a reflection of their ideas.”
Young designers are trying to distinguish themselves not only by the clothes they make but also by the way they present their work as a reflection of their ideas.
IMPRINT: Is it a way to distinguish solely, or is it a new view of what fashion is and can do?
L: If I look at how this new generation of fashion designers work, it’s very different from the generations before. We collaborate a lot more with different partners and communicate this very easily. Nothing is behind closed doors, anonymous or hidden anymore, it’s transparent and often open source. You show where you get your materials and your ideas. As a young designer, there are no big investors breathing down your neck or high stakes to take into account, so you can use that freedom to express yourself in different ways.
IMPRINT: You collaborate a lot with other creatives. How does something like that start? Do you go out and search for someone to collaborate with? Or do you get inspired by someone’s work and is that the starting point for a collaboration?
L: I think for me, it always starts with people: a conversation, a shared passion. For instance, I met print designer and artist Michiel Schuurman while we were both working for Vlisco. He created most of the artwork and print designs in this collection. We share this craving for design, colors and this surreal view of the world. It sort of comes together? I like working with people I went to school with, who I know, and know of their capacities, even though they are not household names yet, or even still searching for a job somewhere. I like to collaborate in a way that makes both parties reach a different level. But it all starts with a conversation, a cup of coffee or a meal.
I like to collaborate in a way that makes both parties reach a different level. But it all starts with a conversation, a cup of coffee or a meal.
IMPRINT: Is that how your collaboration with Olya Oleinic came about?
L: It started three years ago, actually. I stumbled upon her work on the website of the Royal Academy of Art and was really surprised by her photography. She has a very particular handwriting; you instantly recognize a picture taken by her. I wanted to work with someone who could really picture the collection in a different way, that didn’t feel ‘art academy’. We sat down together and did the first shoot shortly after. Over the years we still worked together from time to time. For this collection, I really wanted to work with her again because her style fitted the collection so well. So we moved all the clothes to a studio downtown and build these totems together with stylist Pieter Eliens. We just played around all day in a studio, having fun with it. I think you can see this in the outcome.
IMPRINT: The collection is inspired by a trip you took to Mexico. Is a journey like this one a big part of your creative process?
L: Yes, it is an important part. I traveled to Mexico in March. I wanted to go somewhere to get some inspiration. And Mexico was in the news quite a lot, not for very good reasons, and I figured, now that Trump has been elected and all this talk of a wall, I should go and check it out myself. See a different side of the story. It was a brief trip, I’ve spent three weeks there, but I spoke to a lot of people. We started in the north, a place called Monterrey, a city near the border with the United States. It’s a pretty dodgy town, not the safest place. But it was interesting to talk to the people who lived there, hear their opinions and stories. They are really suffering from the pressure of their neighboring country. This wall isn’t helping the relationship. It certainly limits their options but somehow their willpower doesn’t budge. All these experiences, you take them with you. When I travel I write a lot. Afterwards, I filter, take things with me and leave other things behind. Notes turn into drawings. You decide what you want to show and what not. I really wanted to transfer this positive attitude within the collection, the heat, the color of the desert. The landscapes there are incredible and you see this reflected their craftsmanship, the colors of their embroidery and art.
IMPRINT: How does this come about? Do you leave with a certain idea in your head about what you want to find, or does the inspiration hit once you are there?
L: Well, I’ve always had this fascination for the work and life of Frida Kahlo, but I didn’t want to make this cliché collection about her without ever visiting Mexico. Coincidentally, there was an exhibition opening about her wardrobe in the house where she used to live, which is a museum now. This wardrobe has been locked away for forty years, never seen by the public, and showed all these garments she wore, from dresses to corsets, but also these prosthetic limbs and what not. It was such a great experience seeing all these pieces. You can get this from a book, or a movie or documentary, but to actually see them with your own eyes and to be able to walk around them makes it more real. It was plain luck, but with it, the image of what I wanted to show in my next collection became sharper. The effect of her wardrobe is something I took with me in my own collection. Those white brims, the silhouettes of the skirts and dresses, they are inspired by her pieces of clothing but with a modern twist to it.
IMPRINT: Frida isn’t the first female artist that inspired you. Are female artists a big source of inspiration?
L: Yes, I think so. My previous collection was loosely based on the work of Niki de Saint Phalle. I think it something that just finds it’s way back to me and somehow female empowerment and fashion is very intertwined.
IMPRINT: What kind of women do you design for?
L: I design for a woman who isn’t afraid of color. Someone who works hard is practical, but also a little adventurous. She will put on this dress knowing it will give a certain vibe, even if she has a ton of stuff to do. I work a lot with silhouettes, layers, it’s the opposite of modest, it’s really out there. These pieces can intergrade into your wardrobe, mix and match with the pieces you already own. I like the idea of adding your own style to them by throwing them over a pair of jeans, or a basic white T-shirt.
We try to create this contemporary image with all these influences from art, human contact and a global society.
IMPRINT: Niki de Saint Phalle once said in an interview “I’m not the person who can change society, except by showing this kind of vision of these happy, joyous, domineering women.” Are you doing a similar thing with your collections?
L: Yes, maybe I do. It is a very present collection. It’s hard to miss, in its expressive style but also in its optimism. Whether you like colour, prints and big silhouettes or not, the work we are creating right now, together with all these partners, is in that sense authentic and fresh; we try to create this contemporary image with all these influences from art, human contact and a global society. I really hope that there is always going to be something in my work that strikes the viewer, catching him or her off guard.