Thursday, 12 April 2012

INTERVIEW: HENRIK VIBSKOV ON WERTICAL


18th-century English painter Thomas Gainsborough once famously said of his competitor Joshua Reynolds, “Damn him, how various he is!” 21st-century designer Henrik Vibskov could provoke similar bursts of envy among his own peers. While the multi-talented Dane is best known for his eponymous fashion label, he is also a fine artist and a musician: he is the drummer of electronic band Trentemøller and exhibits in museums and galleries worldwide.

Vibskov studied fashion design at London’s famed Central Saint Martins college. He moved back to his native country ten years ago to start up his own business. Since then, he has built up a solid reputation as a multidisciplinary artist.

Ever-present, yet at the same time unreachable, Vibskov cuts a striking figure. Standing six feet and seven inches tall, his laissez-faire attitude belies his workaholism. His studio in Copenhagen’s city center is hidden in a cozy red brick building on a back street. It looks like housing for an extended family, and in a way it is: it hosts Vibskov’s army of workers.

When asked whether he defines himself as a designer, a musician or an artist, Vibskov likens his skills to the different ingredients that make a dish special.


Wertical: How would you describe your profession in one sentence?
Henrik Vibskov: I am a tour guide in a kindergarten. {Laughs} It actually depends on my mood. If I don’t want to start a big story, I just choose a regular profession. If I decide to describe myself thoroughly, I have to be more verbose.

WE: You have a big team working with you. This means assistance as well as dividing work and handing over responsibilities. Are you afraid of losing power?
HV: Every now and then, but I am in fact pretty relaxed. As a result, my company builds up on a flat structure. But when it comes to the final steps, I turn up again with a voice. I generally try to communicate a lot with the people I am working with. I like to discuss and hear an outside opinion. Thus, teamwork perfectly suits my demands. {Vibskov directs the attention to a table on the other side of the room, where three women and one man are seated. Most of them are students who are here on an internship.} This is the future over there. They know what is happening out there.

WE: And they either prove your thoughts as worthwhile or worthless.
HV: Exactly.



WE: You have been making music your entire life. When did you become interested in design and art?
HV: I have indeed been doing music for many years. I came into contact with fashion because of a girl. She told me that she would be attending Central Saint Martins college and, on the spur of the moment, I said, ‘me too!’ ‘

WE: Although you did not?
HV: No, I did not and I actually never thought about doing so. But then I met her again and she asked me how my application was going. I lied, saying it was going really well. That was the moment when I decided to act on my words. I called Central Saint Martins and discovered that there was only one more day to go before the deadline for applications. I immediately put together a portfolio and sent it in.

WE: What did you show in your portfolio?
HV: I had already done some really weird stuff with fabrics that I would not describe as fashion, but in the end, I got accepted. The first months in London were hard for me. My English was bad as I hardly ever spoke it before, and I did not like being there as I was playing in a band in Denmark and we were pretty successful in those days, touring all kinds of festivals.

WE: What was the name of your band?
HV: It was called ‘Luksus’ and we played some indie music.

WE: It’s well known that you are a graduate of Central Saint Martins. So, you managed to pull through despite the initial difficulties.
HV: Yes, I got my degree. The situation changed in my third month at college. I did a project with a blown up egg. People liked it and applauded during the presentation. So I started to get into it and enjoyed it after all. I became more confident and started talking to people.




WE: Did the egg project mark a turning point when you found a way of combining fashion and art?
HV: Of course, this project could be seen as a performance rather than fashion, and would therefore justifiably be categorized as art, but I don’t see myself as an artist. Of course, I create visual material and I am working with sound, but I am afraid of the term artist. I have the feeling that everybody styles himself an artist these days.

WE: That’s true. The term is widely used without considering its meaning.
HV: Yes, and I don’t want to be that kind of artist. Therefore, I think it is nice to be a craftsman. In my view, the term ‘artist’ is too fluffy.

WE: And in this vein, a free ticket to do everything you want to do.
HV: Indeed. I have just been part of a debate about the crossover of art and design.

WE: To which conclusion have you come?
HV: I think it is a strength that people have multiple talents and can work in different fields. Nobody should hide their competencies; they are a bonus.

WE: In most cases, it is the image that eventually gets scratched.
HV: Yes, this is it – the question of image. In our high-end culture, people feel they have to be perfect and constantly feel forced to do the proper thing.

WE: People are afraid of doing something uncool.
HV: Yes, we should learn to stay true to ourselves.

WE: You definitely do. Are you self-critical?
HV: I often have the feeling that I am not really there yet. For me, works are not completed the moment they are presented in public. I keep on working until perfection. The big white piano drum machine that I did for the presentation of the men’s autumn/winter 2012-2013 collection, for instance: It was really nice visually, but sound-wise, I am still not confident. So, even though it’s already been on stage, I am still working on it.



WE: Your artwork contains stage designs, paintings, as well as small and big installations. Because you studied fashion, you know how to work with fabric. How do you work within the other disciplines? Do you simply draw your ideas and somebody else realizes them?
HV: I do as much as possible myself and get involved in the whole process.

WE: Taking your latest art works as an example; what have you been working on?
HV: We filled nylon socks with foam. They created different shapes that we painted in five colors. In the end, we used bristles and pearls to decorate the sculptures. The works are about putting things together as I always try to sum up all my competencies to one.

WE: Which is maybe your secret of success. Can we say that your artwork is the basis for your fashion designs as well as an inspiration for your music?
HV: Yes, but it can also be the other way around. It can also be that we are working with a certain pattern for the clothes which is later used as a pattern for the artworks.

WE: What is first, the art itself or a future exhibition?
HV: In the case of the nylon sculptures, the exhibition was first. My next show is in Ruttkowksi;68 gallery in Cologne, Germany. As the space is pretty big, it has set me off to do something special for it. In this way, I came up with the idea of the filled tights. I created thirty of these sculptures in three different sizes. But the show doesn’t only show my new work. There are early artworks on display as well. As I am professionally working for ten years now, the exhibition Ruttkowski;68 Vibskovski;72 serves as a retrospective.

WE: You are building up universes in the prevailing fashion rhythm of six months. How can we describe your first thoughts? Are your initial ideas three-dimensional or flat?
HV: It is often only a color, an object or a sound that acts as a trigger and evolves into an idea.

WE: Is it important for you to keep up to a certain standard, in that you come up with something new in your fashion designs so must do so with your artworks too?
HV: I am definitely keeping up with my own standards. No fashion show is a normal fashion show; it is a performance as well.



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