In Conversation with Kim Van Vuuren
For our second collection, we reached out to visual artist and graphic designer Kim Van Vuuren to collaborate with us. As one of two South African creators we have chosen to work with on our Building Connections collection, Kim’s simple yet dramatic forms evoke a sense of wonder for the viewer. We speak to her about her piece for FIELDS, the starting point for her creative process and why more than ever, she is proud of where she comes from.
How did the collaboration with FIELDS come about?
FIELDS reached out to me last year and after listening to the founder, Mikael, speak about the brand and its core philosophy, which not only highlights the quality materials used, but also speaks of each artist's collaboration item being a collector's piece - it was almost impossible to turn down. I enjoy collaborating with people who have a unique story to tell, especially when it involves empowering local craftsmanship. I mean, even the customer shopping bags are made from waste fabric, and sewn together by women in rural establishments in Cape Town.
What were the things to consider when creating for a garment that’s to be worn, as opposed to any of the more “traditional” surfaces?
Well there were many aspects to consider, colour being the most important for me. I normally work with an unlimited palette so it was an interesting exercise for me to be selective and ensure that the final artwork upholds my aesthetic as well as meeting the creative brief. In the end I was really happy with the result, I used three colours to convey a surreal zen space. And the fourth colour (being the fabric) completes the image, filling in the pool and giving life to the illustration.
Take us through the process of creating this particular piece?
For me design is a development of many ideas. I research a lot before I start sketching out compositions. And when it is a collaboration I try to focus my point of view on the needs, goals and purpose of the design. I like to try out as many ideas as I can in a project like this - it's sort of like a ping pong between different influencing factors from everyday life. Normally I will work on several designs until I feel that they are ready for the world and that they fit into the concept well enough. Once I was happy with my designs I presented Mikael with quite a few different options. I find that sharing more than one idea can be very valuable, and involving the client in the process can lead to new ideas and final solutions. We made our final palette selection together and I couldn't be happier with the outcome.
How did you interpret the fundamental message of the collection, Building Connections?
Well, I draw inspiration from nature and dream spaces where silence and strength exist in symmetry. The collection speaks of building connection with oneself, one’s surroundings and the people who influence such a space. I wanted to give the wearer of the jersey or jacket access to a surreal, yet natural world. I like to think that this piece also offers a refreshing sense of relief from the issues we are currently facing as humankind collectively. Hopefully, it starts a conversation about where fashion comes from, where it is heading and how we can all assist in changing the dialogue that exists within the fashion industry. I believe that the fashion industry can no longer ignore the impact it has on our environments and the climate. Working with FIELDS highlighted such thoughts for me as a designer.
What do you hope the wearer feels when putting your work on their body?
I want the wearer to be comfortable but showing their unique sides by being off-centre and unconventional. I'm actually really interested to see how the individual buying a piece is going to style it and interpret it with what they already have at home. I love the idea that one item can lend power to the things you already own. It's important to limit our buying and rather recycle what we have and give a tired wardrobe a new life with an interesting fashion item. I believe that now is a time to be more conscious of our fashion indulgences.
The idea of fashion being “wearable art” has long been debated, what are your thoughts about it?
While I’m not a fashion expert, I’ve always believed fashion to be a form of art to portray individuality and character. That’s why as an artist, and through this collaboration with FIELDS, we took parts of the gallery off of the walls and into the public to be consumed and enjoyed by everyone.
You live abroad, is it important to you, and how do you ensure you and your work remain connected to South Africa?
Now, more than ever, I'm very proud of where I come from. It will always be important for me to keep building connections in South Africa. Ideally, I would love for half (or even more) of my clients to be South African. Currently, I continue to sell my work in Cape Town and Johannesburg through stores and private commissions. This collaboration with FIELDS is perfect for me because it showcases my work as wearable art. It tells a story of where I'm from, my experiences and also communicates a deeper message as to what I hope to achieve in my industry.
When investing in a piece of clothing, what is important to you?
If I decide to invest in any item of clothing it will be a printed shirt by an artist or illustrator whom I admire. Lately I've been creating t-shirts with a company in the UK. They practice sustainability, have a zero waste policy and all profits go to the artists. Other than that, if I'm investing in a winter jacket/coat, I’ll look for something locally produced, always reversible, and preferably in collaboration with an artist.