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Anne Sofie Madsen is, first and foremost, an artist and her artistic designs are becoming the leading story from Copenhagen’s blossoming fashion community. In addition to being a designer, she has a full and flourishing career as an illustrator. She contributed her haunting gothic drawings, many of which incorporated images from fashion photography, into 11 published graphic novels and books for young adults, as well as countless fashion editorials.
Her artistic aesthetic is intimately connected with her collections. Her clothes move on model’s bodies like dance costumes and hang like independent sculptures when left alone. Even her tailored silk t-shirts, printed with her distinctive illustrations, are full of dramatic narratives, colors, symbols, and expressive detail. Here, she explains the inspiration for her most recent collection, launched during Copenhagen Fashion Week, which was inspired by an understated conceptual-art video by French artist Pierre Huyghe.
WHITEWALL: What is the story behind this collection?
ANNE SOFIE MADSEN: The collection is mainly inspired French artist Pierre Huyghe’s “A Journey That Wasn’t.” For this video installation, Huyghe takes the viewer on a journey into Antarctica where he searches for a rare albino penguin and then to Central Park in New York City. Both the Central Park production and film recount and re-create an adventure that took place earlier as Huyghe’s response global warming and melting of ice caps. Knowing these aspects of nature are endangered, Huyghe created newly undiscovered territories in Antarctica. Inspired by this work, I made mankind’s simultaneous destruction of nature and yearning for Utopia central to the collection and my technique. This collection is about wild nature and the fast mechanic pace of the city.
WW: It looks a little dystrophic to me.
ASM: Maybe it is a true dystopia – or the end of an era and a beginning of a new one.
WW: Tell me about the world where you imagine women wearing these garments.
ASM: I am very fascinated by contrasts and ambivalence, so, my woman has to be inviting yet remote. She is streetwise and ladylike. If that makes sense, she boyish and gamine, at the same time.
WW: Who embodies those qualities for you?
ASM: I don’t have a specific muse. She is a mixture between different female characters that fascinate me. At the moment she is part Princess Mononoke [the heroine in Hayao Miyazaki’s animation film of the same name] and Sibyl Vane [a character in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey].
WW: Huyghe is also known to blur boundaries between fact and fiction. Was that part of your thinking with this show, to mix fantasy and practical pieces?
ASM: I always try to match my method with my inspiration. It is a challenging and exciting way to control the process. And at the same time, it creates a meaningful link between the inspiration material and the final product.
WW: So, are your clothes like costumes?
ASM: No. I am interested in creating garments for “real women” in a “real world” and not for princesses in a fantasy. But I still want to bring magic to reality. “A Journey That Wasn’t” is about ideas of adventure and discovery, dreams and imagination, as well as nature and civilisation and this is somehow always a theme in my collections. I am searching for the borders between “primitive” and “civilized” – between nature and culture. I suppose it also reflects our relationship towards body and sexuality.
WW: Is there a distinctive Copenhagen aesthetic? If so, can you describe it, please.
ASM: Our tradition is very functionalistic, very protestantic – like a Christian librarian on a bicycle.
WW: Why did limit your colour palette to black, white and grey?
ASM: And blue – I think no more colours where needed. This story is told in surfaces, shapes, structures and silhouette.
WW: How does the fantasy aspect of fashion relate to the Huyghe’s artistic quest for a rare, maybe imaginary, creature?
ASM: It’s what fashion looks for each season – a new, rare, imaginary creature?