THE SURPRISE CONTAINER
Kristofer Kongshaug, executive creative director di Boon Paris, e Geert Bruloot, curatore e art director con base ad Anversa, intrecciano le rispettive conoscenze ed esperienze legate al retail, al design, all’arredamento e alla moda, lasciandosi andare a un dialogo volto alla ricerca dell’innovazione e di nuove visioni per il futuro.
Un progetto di Linda Loppa
prodotto da Nam – Not a Museum
11 containers tematici e una rassegna di 11 conversazioni tra coppie di personalità provenienti da tutto il mondo e attivi in diversi ambiti di competenza: moda, design, scienza, arte e letteratura. Un gioco di equilibrio tra opposti per ritrovare il piacere di parlare insieme, con la moderazione di Linda Loppa, curatrice del progetto.
“Lo spazio dell’improvvisazione”.
“La moda è piena di sorprese. Per questo non abbiamo più bisogno di programmare i progetti con molto anticipo: saremo creativi, coglieremo l’attimo! Ci siamo incontrati per caso. Lui/lei ha una buona idea. Qui propongono un’idea folle! Chi è quella persona che abbiamo visto ieri alla festa? Il designer dovrebbe arrivare, chiamiamolo! È un piccolo contenitore, ma in una posizione strategica, sotto gli occhi di tutti. Ci si può sostare al suo interno per godersi una mostra / uno spettacolo / un servizio fotografico / una performance di styling / una danza / delle riprese video… a sorpresa!”
All’interno del Surprise Container, Kristofer Kongshaug, executive creative director di Boon Paris, e Geert Bruloot, curatore e art director con base ad Anversa, intrecciano le rispettive conoscenze ed esperienze legate al retail, al design, all’arredamento e alla moda, lasciandosi andare a un dialogo volto alla ricerca dell’innovazione e di nuove visioni per il futuro. La multi-stratificazione dei significati che compongono la moda oggi –abbigliamento, linguaggio corporeo, arte, comunicazione, necessità di vendita – insieme a una radicalizzazione dell’industria attorno a grandi monopoli che dettano il gusto e le scelte, stimolano il settore creativo a tornare alla ragione di vita della moda stessa.
Una sfida affidata soprattutto alle nuove generazioni di designer, nati in un contesto che non ha confini disciplinari, demografici, tecnici e geografici. Ciò che emerge è la necessità di una ricerca sincera, che esprima a fondo le modalità espressive della contemporaneità: interazione, interdisciplinarietà, libertà dai lacci istituzionali. Agli operatori longevi del settore compete la responsabilità di creare piattaforme, predisporre e lasciare lo spazio alle nuove creazioni, mettendo a disposizione competenze e intuito per il talent scouting su tutto il globo e fuori dai percorsi tradizionali. Moda e design, da sempre radar anticipatori delle tendenze e dei bisogni del tempo che abitano, rappresentano un vettore privilegiato di “global awareness” e un fattore di aggregazione delle persone. Ecco dunque l’elemento da cui ripartire: il linguaggio e non il sistema, l’identità e non il consumo, il fine e non il mezzo.
SURPRISE CONTAINER – TRANSCRIPT CONVERSATION
I start with Geert because he’s my best friend in the world. Geert and I we have so much in common, we did so many projects in that small city, in Antwerp. We did whatever was necessary to bring the designers to an international platform. Geert worked with their companies to help them go to London, to organize their shows. He organized the shows for the Academy of Fine Arts where I was teaching. I mean, it’s too long to say what we all did. But it was fun and we enjoyed every minute of it. We were both retailers and we learned a lot about retail and about the system. And we were traveling a lot to Paris and London and Florence too, of course. So that was my little introduction to Geert.
Kristofer is a completely different story; I was here at Manifattura Tabacchi, Kristofer came to me and we started talking for two hours, and it seemed like an old friendship. The things that bring you together are fashion and design as well, but also this activity, this kind of potential you have, to bring people together. I mean, you both have that. And it’s very rare, because normally it’s a society where everybody is quite about the me, but we are changing that a bit into the we, the world is changing, finally. So, first I wanted to know Kristofer about your BOON project, the agency, and, of course, your story before – because you were a designer.
Well, yes, we’ll start somewhere, I guess. You know, when I started, you guys were already far ahead, I would say. So, what you guys have been living through and being part of, it’s something that, when I started in fashion, I was looking up to, and, you know, those things that we looked at to learn from and we also hoped to repeat, I guess. But time has its way, and I think it doesn’t really repeat itself, but it moves forward. So we learn new things. I went to fashion school, worked for different brands and started my own brand. At the same time, I started BOON, kind of to create a community, to have a space to work in and to have a business to support my brand. After some years, it was going okay. But I got caught up by the other side of the business. I learned one thing, it’s that when you want to do something, something you’re passionate about, it’s easy to lose track of it when you’re trying to do several things to reach that point. And in my case, I think, with time, I kind of discovered that I had passions for more things than just design. I slowly also brought in furniture design, objects, art, and so on, to the business we have in Paris. And today it has become an agency which focuses on international sales management for fashion, consulting, event management. We work with a lot of young brands helping them to develop their collections, helping them to have a better understanding of the industry and how things work, helping them with production and so on. On the design side, we wanted to connect art, design and fashion in a new way. I think all these industries are more and more interacting. We’re not going in consulting the designer, it’s more of bringing them together. And now we’re creating a new brand where designers we work with from both fashion and design, come together and create, additions, for our brand basically.
I think the big difference between your story and our story is that the context has changed completely. We were many fewer players before than we are now. Society and commerce have evolved much more to producing more, selling more, but when we started contemporary fashion was quite new and therefore when designers started a fashion collection, it was easier somehow, because it was simpler, it was not so complex. They could dream and believe in it without having all the dangerous planning beforehand. It was easier to dream for success than it is now. When I analyze what I have tried to do from the beginning until now is that we had stores. My drive has always been that when I discover something extraordinary, I want to show it to the people. Afterwards I analysed that was the basis of opening a store for me. I wanted to show the people what extraordinary things I had discovered, and I wanted to share it with them. I think this is a very contemporary idea that we have lost a bit today.
Definitely, stores today don’t necessarily know their clients anymore, which I think is a huge, huge disadvantage. It’s almost sad because buyers, when they come to showrooms and buy, the entire buying pattern has changed. It has become optimized and digitalized and you follow the algorithms, you don’t buy for your end consumer anymore. I kind of experienced it when I started in fashion when I was very young, when I was coming to Milan as an assistant buyer for a store in Norway. Everything we bought, we had somebody in mind for that piece and that we don’t see any more in the shows in Paris; very few buyers have that connection with their clients.
Afterwards, people ask me often, why were you never strong online with e-commerce? And I didn’t have an answer right away, but over time I realized that my biggest fun was starting a store, decorating a store, showing all that I had found, presenting it well, trying to bring it to the customer who came in, sharing my enthusiasm for it. And that was the act of selling, which is something I never found on the internet or the e-commerce. E-commerce is more – for me – about products, selling a product to a customer, somewhere in the world at whatever moment of the day.
Definitely. We’ve been trying to figure out a way how to personalize and make the experience of e-commerce more connected with the end consumer. And my kind of end of the research is it’s not really possible. That’s why I find the physical space is so important. And especially now with Covid, if you look at it from the showroom side as well, we’ve got a fantastic chance through video conference to spend time with buyers, learn about their problems, share, try and find new solutions. But the common ground for everyone is that at the end of the day, that physical experience we have meeting face to face, whether it’s in the showroom or in the store with the client, it’s necessary somehow. It’s the human way. We might sell and increase sales online, but it takes away the pleasure of it all somehow.
You cannot share emotions online in a classic e-commerce store as we know it now, maybe there will be a new e-commerce store in the future.
You can land on a web page and it can be, a beautiful story about the product, about the designer but the issue is that your attention span lasts for 10 seconds, you don’t really get the story. In the end, my research shows that an online store functions better when it’s just concentrated on the products, and then that takes away all the charm basically. Sadly.
I think when I was reading the questions that Linda has sent us, that this is more a quest towards how the challenges for the future will be in what we do. This Covid period is a very tough period for the world; it’s such a pity that so many people are getting sick and dying. But it’s a very interesting period, because it’s really opening new doors and it makes us think differently about what we want, how we want it. I think there is a big change coming, and we are part of that big change.
A lot of the people I’ve been speaking with, especially fashion designers, furniture designers, have this need to slow things down and by doing so, giving people time to reflect – do I need to do four collections, six collections, eight collections a year? Do I need all these products? But on the other hand, the big problem is connected to the retailers. In the beginning of the period, everybody wanted to slow down. And then as a result of how the industry functions, at the end of the day, they kind of continued in the same pattern. And I don’t know if it’s unconscious or if you just ended up doing the same. So, finding the balance, it’s hard. And I think everyone has to reach for a new path. You can’t just have one player that wants to find it.
I feel that the industry, the last 20 years, has taken over a lot. From fast fashion to luxury fashion the industry has taken over a lot and it has been producing more and more. Urban life in many cities in the Western world has changed also towards selling fashion. The oldest streets, who before had little cafes, flower stores, bookstores, food stores, whatever, all of them have changed into fashion stores. Are we doing the right thing? I don’t know. I don’t know. And this is the quest of all these questions, that Linda sent us. Should we continue like this? Or do we have to change? And I think we have, me I’m convinced we have to change, but I don’t have the answer. No one has the answer for the moment, I think, but we have some big challenges in front of us.
The industry has never been bigger in volume and turnover than today. And maybe one of the biggest issues is that the groups are just growing and growing and growing and their need for profit is just growing and growing and growing. And there’s less and less space for young brands. But what happens is that now also the young brands are starting to become part of the groups, at least the few that manage to kind of stick their heads above. And there’s very little room for independents left. How do we find that space? Is it by going to places where luxury is not looking? Is it by going local?
I don’t know. I try to, first of all, change myself to get rid of many references I had from the past. A shop has to be like this, a collection has to be like this, a creator has to be like this. I tried to get rid of all these references, to free myself so that I can think on a white sheet of paper. I see also now a period of vintage, people buy vintage furniture, people buy vintage clothing; this is good because clothing has a second life with it. Dries Van Noten opened his new store in Los Angeles recently. I talk regularly to him and he said, do you know what department goes the best? It’s the vintage part. His pieces from his old collections. When I talk to Raf Simons, he says, when I do a stock sale, it goes better than my collection because it’s vintage. So, people are eager for the past somehow. And I think they’re just eager for a simpler way, a simpler approach to fashion that we had in the past. If they buy for instance, a Supreme piece or a Prada piece or Vuitton or whatever – they know they buy one small part of a big production. If they go to a vintage store, there is one piece, you buy it or you miss it. That’s the feeling that gets them. So maybe people are not unconsciously, are not wanting to be part of that system anymore.
I think there are two sides to the story. Especially in fashion, we’ve seen more and more brands over the last decade that based most of their collections on vintage research. So maybe instead of just looking forward, they tried to add sustainability, upcycling, biodegradable materials, technology, you wonder if it’s, you know, nanotechnology in the fabric. It can be so many different things. But when it comes to the shape of the clothes and print research, most look to the past. And one of the reasons for it, I think, is this constant need to create new things, that you don’t really have the time to create.
The biggest evolution in clothing and what we wear over the last 20 years, for me, was in sportswear. Sneakers, trainers, duvets, everything we wear to protect ourselves against nature, or to make us be able to move more freely. Also, material-wise, as on shapes and not referring to the past. So, I think the essence of what we want to wear has moved. And we see it now with the pandemic as well. Everyone is wearing free clothes because we don’t have to go to the office anymore. We are not allowed to travel or to go in the city to show ourselves anymore, or to a restaurant. So, I think we should see fashion more broadly than only the big brands, the fashion brands or the luxury brands.
In the store, we had to sell, in the last years, many fashion sneakers by big houses. It started with Prada, it ended with Balenciaga. Sneakers that changed all the time and that were extremely expensive at the end. And then what I saw is that people moved towards sports sneakers and these sports sneakers became more and more fashionable at very affordable prices. And they produce new styles every two, three weeks, let’s say. So, I think we have to see fashion much more broadly. And if we look, because that was one of the questions of Linda, if we project into the modernity of fashion, I think there is a lot of modernity in there already.
The biggest change for me, I think is the marketing, suddenly everyone is targeting everybody. I went to a private sale of Filling Pieces, the sneaker brand, I think it’s Dutch. And I didn’t really know the brand but I got the invitation and it was next to my office. And it’s in a Parisian backyard and there’s a line of, I don’t know, maybe 500 teenagers. I was like, wow, this is really popular. Standing in the line, I was probably twice the age of the oldest person there, like between twelve to twenty, maybe.
It’s pretty amazing. I was standing there waiting. And then I started listening to the conversations and it’s all these, you know, sneaker collectors basically. And I really love shoes, but I’ve never really been into the collecting part of things and listening to these kids as they’re talking, in reference numbers, product numbers from Balenciaga and so on. But in their mind, all these luxury brands they’re mentioning and they know everything in detail, the materials, the product numbers, serial numbers, and so on, but in their mind, these are not fashion houses that make clothes, they’re sneaker brands. And when this machinery has managed to convince these teenagers, who should not, I would say, be able to afford to buy these types of sneakers, that it’s a sneaker brand and that it’s something they need to kind of stand out – it’s like, wow, I’m breathless. And you know what? I just couldn’t be there anymore. I had to leave and go back to the office, sitting, reflecting. What’s going on? You know, it’s not the same way anymore.
I think that’s why I try to advise young designers to think more freely and not only shape-wise and material-wise, but also conceptual-wise. I try to advise them to think out of the blue, try to rethink the reason of fashion. Why do we create fashion? Why do we create art? On one side you can say, we create art for the art business because there’s a huge business in there, until before the pandemic. And otherwise, you have artists that make us think and make us change our mind and make us rebellious people, artists who are rebellious like Paul McCartney, or like Louise Bourgeois. So, you have different roles for art, which you don’t have yet for fashion, but I’m convinced this is the future for the creative part of fashion.
I truly hope so. I think, for me, that’s possibly one of the reasons I got into fashion to begin with. Fashion is maybe not the most modern industry in the world. It’s a creative industry based on the body. I think now people are thinking more about concepts and gender, and it goes into more political movements as well, than shape. One f the things I was talking about to Linda some days ago, what I really miss in fashion is volumes and shapes, maybe kind of dépassé somehow, which we don’t see anymore.
Because the industry of fashion has a lot of challenges. If we talk sustainability, I had a talk a year ago on sustainability and fashion, which is the biggest contradiction, I think and I did some research and I found that in 2015, textiles represented more than 50% of the amount of the waste the state of New York.
I think at the pace that’s going right now, there will be Primark and Zara on this earth way longer than there will be humans!
No, guys! I have to intervene. We are in the surprise container. So, surprise us, Supreme and Zara, please don’t do this to me. Can we find some new talent in unknown countries and unknown neighbourhoods? Why are we always talking about Paris, London, Milan? Come on, those days are over.
Very much so. I think also, Paris, Milan and London are kind of stuck. I think one of the biggest jobs we do at BOON is talent research, talent scouting. And we’re looking all over the world. For so many decades, people learn from France, from Italy, but we kind of learned everything they had to give. And now I think we need to look to very different communities to get something new here. And we have great designers coming out of Africa, from Nigeria, from South Africa that are great, that are coming from Southeast Asia.
I think it’s not only fashion, it’s in all creative disciplines that we have to look much broader, much more globally. I see a lot of interesting architecture all over the world. It’s amazing what happens at the moment. And I think it’s normal that it happens like this, only we or the industry should look more forward to all this. I mean, we, as Linda says, the industry is too restricted to what happens here and you see already that art, the artists are moving already. African artists, Mexican, Latin artists, are being discovered and also in restaurants, in cuisine, it’s amazing. All the exotic cuisines are hyped for the moment.
I am interested in looking at people. It’s that new way and maybe that surprise that we have to create, that we created in those early days in Antwerp, that was like a surprise; what’s going on there? Maybe we can translate this into a new way of meeting people and talking to people. I talked to Ting Ting Zhang, I never met her and we did the Zoom here and she was fantastic, so cute and so intelligent.
Is she Chinese?
Yes. I’m discovering amazing people.
Before, we went to London to look for extreme creativity and new things. Now, as a scout, we look to China, it’s in China it’s happening. The technology – it’s way beyond. And the amount of people that are doing incredible things are spread all over China, it’s incredible. It’s really breathtaking. I think also, how the culture is built as it was so suppressed for such a long time. And, I’m not going to argue that it still is in many ways, but, at least now its creative freedom. People that get the opportunity to come and study abroad, they come to Florence, they come to Paris or they go to London. But they bring something to Europe and they bring something back and they mix it with their local identity. And that identity was taboo until five, six years ago. You couldn’t really have a collection and try and sell a collection internationally if you were influenced by your local ethnicity.
I was working with a Vietnamese brand and his collection is 100% based on Vietnamese culture. The designer managed to modernize it and take the references and is making some of the most beautiful creations I’ve seen in years. And I think you can go all around the world and you find these people that are suddenly – it’s okay, that you’re not what we are in Paris or London. You’re creating something new and they’ve passed us. It’s on a completely different level. Our job as a showroom, as curators, is to make the people in the industry open their eyes, and kind of embrace it. And I think now it’s becoming easier and easier to do so. And one of the core things of what we’re doing at BOON is that we’re a creative community. We work with, I think almost 150 different talents from all over the world and they all are extremely different with completely different backgrounds, with completely different backing as well, which is something very important. Managing to do things on different levels, with different resources and then bringing it all together. And together people discover things, they start communication like we’re doing today. And we learn from each other.
So, we will be surprised next year.
Linda, but this is not so new. What you have done at the Academy was a bit the same. You’ve created a mixture of cultures in the Academy, which was never seen before. At the moment you left there were more than 70% who were foreigners from all over the world. From Russia, from China, from everywhere. So, it really started there. And it’s just that we may not forget to continue looking for that and developing with all the possibilities we have now.
So, and all our customers that we used to have in the past, who were fortunate enough to buy luxury fashion; they are not interested anymore. For them it’s not even luxury anymore. It’s a big question mark as well. So, I think we’re all eager to discover what’s new, we’re all eager. And that’s also a very nice thing that Dries Van Noten has done in his Los Angeles store, that he invites young artists, musicians, whatever, to perform in the store. And it’s temporary. Someone paints on the wall and two weeks later it’s painted over. People come in, you can turn your music on if you want. You see, it’s more like a clubhouse than a store.
I think we have to open our institutions more like clubhouses so that people come from all over the world, because young people, they don’t like institutions.
They want to interact.
Yes, that’s what we have to create to bring them in, to give them a podium, a platform; we the elders, have to create the platform for these young entrepreneurs and young designers and young creatives, with all the knowledge we have. And I think that’s what Linda is proposing; and that’s what I like to do also, and to stimulate.
We can stimulate and bring people together. I think it’s fantastic. And I think both fashion and designers have always been a bridging point for global awareness and how to learn culture, politics, sexuality, and so on. Everything kind of comes together. Right now, more than ever, the cultural aspect of things is coming into contemporary fashion, and contemporary design as well. That’s kind of the bridging point for me that everything is really connecting through art, to design, through to fashion.
In Paris we’re trying to create a community with all these artists from all over the world where they can come together, and we’re giving them a base where they’re free. We have something we called “Rooms By” where we try to have a monthly exchange. We give one of the people we work with a huge space and they can do whatever they want. And in this way, we can really enable them and make more awareness and more visibility. Paris is still a global centre somehow for creativity, having outputs from all of these different countries, all over the world. In Paris, it’s something really, really great.
Thank you both because I’m happy with what I’ve heard. I heard that there is “connecting” a lot. I heard that there is looking for new people outside those fashion systems and cities we know. And I think the Surprise Container is going to work and it will be full of ideas. It’s surprising. Thank you for the conversation.
We should stay in touch, it’s interesting. Next time I come to Paris, I come to see you, Kristofer.
Wonderful, looking forward to it.
Good. Thank you both for joining the Container Project. Thank you. Bye bye!
Kristofer Kongshaug è il CEO di BOON_ORIGIN, un gruppo internazionale che opera nei settori dell’arte, del design e della moda. Kristofer ricopre anche il ruolo di direttore creativo per BOON_ROOM, galleria e concept store, BOON_EDITIONS, edizione di arredamento e design da collezione, BOON_AGENCY, showroom b2b internazionale e distributore di oltre 100 marchi di design e moda, agenzia di consulting e talent e BOON_PRESS, agenzia di PR e comunicazione. La sede centrale di BOON_ORIGIN si trova a Parigi.
Nato a Oslo e cresciuto in una famiglia di creativi, Kristofer si è appassionato presto all’arte, il design e la moda; un percorso naturale, non obbligato ma neanche aperto ad alternative. Ha studiato fashion design prima a Milano, poi a Parigi dove si è laureato alla Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne. Ha lavorato per diversi marchi di moda come Givenchy, Plein Sud, Anne Valerie Hash e altri come designer, consultant e head designer di prêt-à-porter femminile; oltre a fondare il proprio marchio, Kristofer Kongshaug, dal 2008 al 2013. Il suo percorso attuale è iniziato già nel 2006, quando Kristofer incontra il business partner di lunga data Clemente Pediconi, architetto e imprenditore italiano. I due hanno lanciato la loro prima avventura imprenditoriale nel 2007 come investitori e project advisors: Door Studios, allora studio fotografico, showroom e atelier di designers; un collettivo di creativi. Un paio d’anni dopo inaugurano Creative Door, agenzia di PR e comunicazione. Nel 2015 nasce BOON che rappresenta l’unione delle due agenzie. Con un focus principale sulla moda, offre servizi di consulenza per brand emergenti, showroom e servizi di gestione per le vendite internazionali, PR, comunicazione ed event management. L’azienda ha presto ampliato le proprie aree di competenza sia all’arte contemporanea che al design. Oggi BOON è diventato un gruppo globale; BOON_ORIGIN con showroom e distribuzione di design e moda, gallerie d’arte e un proprio concept store – oltre a più di 700 partner commerciali in tutto il mondo di arte, design e moda – offre a talenti unici il supporto necessario per avere successo.
Geert Bruloot su Instagram
Lier, Belgio 1953.
Si trasferisce a Ostend nel 1955.
Ha studiato arte concettuale presso il St-Lucas Institute di Gent dal 1968 al 1974.
Si trasferisce ad Anversa nel 1980.
Lavora come vetrinista e fashion stylist prima di avviare nel 1983 il negozio di scarpe firmate Coccodrillo insieme a Eddy Michiels.
Conosce i fashion designers di Anversa durante il Golden Spindle contest nel 1985 e organizza le prime presentazioni internazionali delle loro collezioni al British Designer Show di Londra nel 1986-1987 e a Parigi nel 1988.
Questo rappresenta l’inizio degli “Antwerp Six”.
Ha creato le grafiche degli inviti e dei cataloghi per Dries Van Noten fino al 1988.
Nel 1987 inaugura Louis ad Anversa, il primo negozio a rappresentare solo designers belgi.
Ha curato il coordinamento scenico per le sfilate annuali della Royal Academy di Anversa dal 1986 al 2006.
È così che ha continuato a conoscere le next generation di designers di Anversa e Louis è diventato un punto di incontro iconico per giovani creativi.
È entrato a far parte della fondazione del Flanders Fashion Institute, un’iniziativa di Linda Loppa nel 1999.
Il FFI si trova all’interno del Modenatie, sede del nuovo museo della moda di Anversa MOMU e del dipartimento di moda della Royal Academy. Aperto nel 2001.
Ha curato la mostra “25 years of Fashion this is Belgian!?”, presso il Modenatie.
Ha curato la mostra e co-curato il libro “6+ Antwerp Fashion”, presso il Parlamento fiammingo a Bruxelles nel 2007 e a Tokyo nel 2008.
Ha curato la mostra e il libro di Stephen Jones “Stephen Jones, the accent of Fashion” presso il Momu nel 2010. La mostra è stata trasferita a Istanbul nel 2011.
Ha co-curato la mostra “Dream The World Awake – Walter Van Beirendonck”, presso il Momu nel 2011. La mostra è stata trasferita a Melbourne nel 2013.
Nel 2014 ha co-curato la mostra e il libro di Dries Van Noten “Inspirations”, al Musée des Arts Décoratifs di Parigi e al Momu nel 2015.
Ha curato la mostra e co-curato il libro “Foot – Print” presso il Momu nel 2015.
Louis è stato rilevato da Marjan Eggers nel 2000.
Coccodrillo ha chiuso nel 2019.
Attualmente sta lavorando insieme a Ann Demeulemeester e Patrick Robyn al progetto Ann Demeulemeester-Serax.