Barbara í Gongini recently launched her Spring / Summer 2014 collection with more than just a mere nod to the avant-garde in the historic chambers Chambers of Copenhagen City Hall during Copenhagen Fashion Week. We caught up with the designer to discuss her inspiration and passion for sustainability in today’s fast fashion landscape.
Noora: Your SS14 collection is hauntingly beautiful. Where did you get your inspiration?
Barbara: I always draw inspiration from my heritage, where the forces of nature continuously capture my fascination – the social codes in a small island community, the sound shapes, the sent of moist and fog, and the ever-present sea in outburst. I’m challenging these elements in my working methods by moulding together expression and functionality.
The often unstable matter of weather conditions in an extreme hush environment of the Northern Atlantic often requires a fast change in terms of dressing down and dressing up, given the climate situation. This gives me a creative challenge that over the years has turned into a part of my brand DNA.
Moreover, the urgency to take care of the natural environment is equally a vital issue for me. As there is an increasing need to sustain our planet, I’m trying to emphasise this by the concept of multi-functional garments – as one of many other concepts within our designs. This becomes an important principle that I have pursued over the years. The idea of shifting shapes captures me and invites the consumer to interact and finalise the twist of our garments to her or his individual liking, which in turn prolongs the life cycle of the garment. This is quite an exciting aspect for me to fulfill.
Designs that can be carried years for years to come are an important aspect of our sustainable principle. This idea builds the premise of inspiration of our current collection, as the previous ones, as well as the collections to be born ahead.
N: How would you define the style your line exemplifies?
B: There is a certain poetic beauty to be told in our designs. The sometimes dramatic and somber tone set in the monochromatic colour palette in my collections stems from the Faroese landscape and climate – the country where I was born and raised. Natural key resources such as stone, moist, leather and fog become frequent subjects of reference in my work. They form a foundation that later transcends into the diverse textures, forms and colours found in our garments. Some experience my universe as dark and melancholic, but it should not be confused with destructive forces but rather the opposite – a collection of endless possibilities of story telling bound to individual preferences. These are the sub-elements in me and what I present into the already established ‘avant-garde’ scene of fashion and artistry, where I believe our style expression exists.
N: When did you realise you wanted to become a fashion designer?
B: I was early on inspired by art and fashion and very much liked to explore this field. I started experiencing the art scene at an early age and found my calling in design.
N: Is there something you don’t like about fashion?
B: Fashion is more to me than just the aesthetics of items. Fashion serves as a means of expression and is quite a powerful tool that can underline a strong sense of identity. Equally, it’s a playful approach giving the ability to experiment with the perception of identity and to challenge conventional views of fashion. This is an important drive in my work, granting wearers that sense of freedom and choice. I believe that there are many untapped opportunities within fashion that are yet to be discovered. As mentioned earlier, the sustainability principle is an important factor in our design DNA and since it’s a mutual responsibility to be taken, I think that there will be more actions fulfilled towards issues such as animal welfare, fair trade and the attempt to minimise our CO2 footprint within the industry in the near future.
N: You come from the Faroe Islands, a small island situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Do you feel that growing up in a place like that has affected you as a designer?
B: Absolutely, my design take its starting point in the Northern Atlantic environment, as mentioned previously. Apart from the Faroe Islands, this Nordic heritage includes Denmark where I live today and where my brand has been based for many years. Therefore, an important aspect worth mentioning is the vivid and pulsating city life of Copenhagen, which acts as my source of tendency and sense of time in my creations. I consider these two geographical destinations as each other’s counterpoints, acting in my work as both canvas and context.
N: In your opinion, what skills are important for a successful career in fashion design?
B: To start with, success is by definition what one makes of it. Nevertheless, staying true to one’s personal and unique design language is of the utmost importance. I believe that an absolute passion for the creative sphere and then of course, refinement of your techniques supported by a great team that are supportive of your universe, constitute the key factors for a successful recipe in praxis.
Interview: Noora Uusitalo