in the Category: art

Hannah Vanspauwen

In a world driven by excessive consumption and increasing detachment from reality, designer Hannah Vanspauwen returns to core values of morality, truth and honesty, seeking to infuse meaning and emotion into the oftentimes soulless industry of contemporary fashion. Working with post-consumer textile waste, last year's finalist of the H&M Design Award strives for a more sustainable future within the fashion world, where consumerist logic is replaced by a genuine connection with the garment. A collaborative project between Hannah and her sister Geraldine, Paule Josephe's latest shirt collection carries an aura of authoritative femininity, somewhat fragile yet tough in its execution, speaking to the need of rediscovering intimacy between the consumer and the clothing.

Interview by Silvija Daniunaite
Photos by Tiny Geeroms


Where do you draw inspiration from? 

It comes from my general life. Paintings, music, the energy from my friends, all my travels. I recently went to Russia and I was fascinated by the work of painter Natalia Goncharova – the colours she uses, the natural imagery. I’m really inspired by that. I also live surrounded by nature, and a lot of that scenery comes into my embroideries.

I live surrounded by nature, and a lot of that scenery comes into my embroideries

How do these different cultural influences feed into your designs?

I think that’s not something you can directly recognise. Film, perhaps, is more of a concrete influence, while philosophy relates more to my own values and the values I want to communicate through my clothes. With music and poetry, it’s more about the vibe. It’s all interconnected. Fashion is important because it has the ability to connect with all artistic mediums. Clothing is always present, and in that sense, fashion is a very powerful tool.

You engage with so many different mediums and disciplines – fashion, film, music, painting, philosophy. How do they shape your creative process?

To me, making clothes is never a fixed process. It can be really spontaneous. Most of the time, it starts with drawings, but I also draw a lot from film. Before I make designs, I always imagine my clothes as if they were in a movie scene. I see the background, the setting, the characters. I see all the small gestures that the character makes while wearing the clothes. I create my own story and then piece it all together.

What's your reflection on the fashion industry today?

Philosopher Jean Baudrillard says that we’re moving to a phase where everything has lost its meaning – ethnic symbols, for example, get torn away from their original meaning and are used for plain aesthetics. I've created an additional phase, where I see fashion as visual fiction. Fiction can change things in reality, especially in our society today, where what we see is largely what we know. Through a certain story, fiction can help represent people in ways they haven’t been represented before. For me, fashion is about going from the meaningless phase to the idea of fashion as visual fiction, a tool to break boundaries.

I've created an additional phase, where I see fashion as visual fiction

How do we see these ideas in your own designs?

I look for honesty. There’s so much material in the world that you can re-use. That gives more value to the piece, instead of less, as many people now believe. That’s a boundary I want to break – to tell new stories through the old ones which already inhabit the shirts I use for my latest collection. It’s a story I might not know, but it’s still there. Model-wise, I want to invite more naturalness. To see more people of different shapes and heights being represented in the industry. We see that happening already, but it often turns into a marketing tool. It doesn’t feel honest.

At its very core, what should fashion be about?

Honesty – in what you produce, in how you produce, in what you want to say. I think that we don’t feel any connection anymore, that’s why we throw clothes away so easily. We know we can always buy new clothes at a cheap price and get rid of them a week later, without much loss. It’s this endless circle of consumerism. I don’t want to participate in this abundance. I hope people will buy less, but better. That’s a shift we have to make, a shift I made myself, too. I want people to feel a personal connection with the garment.

I think that we don’t feel any connection anymore, that’s why we throw clothes away so easily 

What feeling do you want to evoke with your own designs?

At first sight, my clothes might seem fragile and feminine, but when people wear them, they also feel tough and empowered. I can relate to this contrast myself. I’m not the ‘typical’ feminine girl. I’m trying to strike a balance between sensitivity, femininity and toughness. The specific feeling doesn’t matter that much, as long as people discover the connection and feel good wearing my clothes.

How did your education at KASK contribute to your vision?

KASK taught me to work really hard. I especially loved my last year there, when I was working on my master collection. I chose Marina Yee as my mentor. She talked a lot about not trying to fit into the fashion industry, and I always felt the same way. She forced me to get out of my comfort zone while allowing me to stay true to myself. Learning from someone whom I respect inspired me a lot, contributing, in a way, to what I aspire to do now and in the future. Marina Yee and Bram Jespers, my second mentor, were very critical and honest about my work, but always in the most respectful way, which often isn't the case in fashion education. I evolved so much more when there was a positive atmosphere instead of a fear to show my work. My teachers were always supportive and encouraging. I'm very grateful for that. 


Subbacultcha and KASK & Conservatorium are teaming up for
a series of artist portraits, featuring some of the interesting alumni profiles.