• image by HÅKAN LARSSON

    Personal heroes and points of reference

    Written by Philip Warkander by Michaela Widergren

    Growing up, I often had the feeling of not fitting in, of not being in the right place. I lived in a plain one-story house but fantasized about magical palaces with hidden doors and secret passages.
    Instead of our small garden, I dreamed that I would one day own a private park, with fountains, peacocks and antique marble statues. Instead of a bicycle, I wished for a white horse, not to take me to school but simply away, somewhere else, anywhere but where I was. Life in my hometown was mundane, and the repetitive boredom of everyday life made me invent alternative realities to which I would escape as often as I could.
    It didn’t take long for others around me to notice that I wasn’t like them, that we didn’t share the same interests or ways of thinking. This distinction was enhanced through differences in dress. At school, the unarticulated but strongly enforced clothing codes were unknown to me and even though I tried I could never fully master these unwritten rules, dictated by my peers. I would wear the wrong jeans or a T-shirt with what apparently was an unfashionable print, or come to school in a jacket of the wrong color, making me a constant target of ridicule.
    Consequently, I began to escape into my fantasy realities more and more frequently. There, no one would question how I looked or talked, or what my interests were. As the years went by, I would start to explore alternative worlds and different ways of being not only through my personal imagination but also through literature, film and art, looking for a place where I would feel safe and at home. I became acquainted with the icons of past times, and one by one, I made them my personal heroes and points of reference. My perspective on the world was seen through a filter composed of people such as Jean Cocteau, Jean Genet, James Dean, Margeurite Duras, Arthur Rimbaud, Simone de Beauvoir and Montgomery Clift. I would read everything by and about them, memorize facts of their lives, cursing the fact that fate had placed me so far from them in space and time.
    As I grew older, I began to mimic the appearances of my idols. I would style my hair like James Dean, hold my cigarette the way I had seen Jean Cocteau do, imitate the speech of Montgomery Clift. These practices made me feel less lonely, giving me a vague and undefined, yet seemingly intimate and personal, connection with my idols. To me, they were larger than life, flawless super-humans representing the possibilities of an adventurous life and glamorous existence, far from my own experiences as a young and bullied schoolboy.

    Today, the memories of this time are distant, blurry images of a life that once was but not longer is. Much time has passed since I finished school and left home, for other cities in other countries. Philosopher Judith Butler once wrote that life is a series of performative acts, and with every new action that takes place we become slightly removed from what used to define our former selves. This is related to what Buddha said about life being a form of suffering; because life is about being in constant motion; we are constantly letting go of our past, pushing ourselves into an uncertain future. Being alive means leaving our old selves behind, turning away from former heroes and icons to create our own path in life. This is a painful process but the only way for us to live life to its fullest.
    Today, I no longer style my hair, wear my clothes or pronounce words based on the practices of people I have never met. Instead, I have become influenced by people with whom I have shared a life, as well as experiences of my own. A former lover’s favorite sweater, left behind one morning, now belongs to me. I wear it often. A perfume a friend once recommended has become part of my daily routine. My neighbor, a hair stylist, cuts my hair. Small things that connect us, and point to how our lives successively, have become intertwined.
    Similar to life in general, also fashion can be defined as a series of performative actions, articulated through its need for continuous change, forcing us to question how we look, act and think. For me, fashion was once a tool; I could use to escape from a place where I didn’t feel I belonged, to experiment with a new way of being by imitating the styles of my idols. However, what was at first a liberating experience soon became confining, as I realized that to rely on icons for inspiration and support is to live life vicariously. I knew I had to decide for myself who I wanted to be, not based on what others thought of me or on what had been done in the past by people I looked up to. I needed to learn to focus on the present moment, and not fantasize about past eras I had never been part of. This way, I could begin to see the magic of my own life, instead of dream of what could have been.
    The process of letting go is not easy but necessary. In order to live in the now we need to be free of past experiences, to create a space for ourselves where we aren’t defined by who we once were. In my life, I have used fashion and clothes as tools to construct that kind of space, and to help me move forward through time. This is not done by citing the icons of my youth, or by trying to fit with someone else’s expectations, but in the style that I have made my own. Its expressions are not constant but forever shifting, as I continually develop as a person. These changes become materialized through the garments I wear, influenced by the people that I meet and who are part of my life.

  • An interview with Sveta Dorosheva

    Written by Michaela Widergren

    Born in Ukraine but living in Israel, Sveta Dorosheva is inspired by the medieval and retains influences from 18th century artist’s like Edmund Dulac and Harry Clarke. Fascinated by the minds of children, Dorosheva creates alternative worlds using ink and paper.

    First, tell me what’s happening in Rehovot, what are you doing today?

    It’s a beautiful sunny morning; I’ve sent all the kids off to school and kindergartens. I am having my morning coffee and procrastinating before starting a new project by answering these questions. Thank you for giving me something better to do than housework to fill in this little break. Usually I work during morning hours till noon, after that the kids return one by one and I work as mom till night time. After they go to bed, I have a second shift of drawing time.

    What projects are you working on at the moment?

    I have several commissions in various stages of development. They are a marvelous diversity: reinterpretation of two Tarot cards; poster for a mystic puppeteer and entertainer; personal campaign for a book store, dedicated to literature and dreams; and a new deck of trick cards. That pretty much contains ‘a few of my favorite things’ - mysterious emblems and alchemy, eccentrics and eccentricities, fable, magic and trickery.

    You were born in Ukraine, how come that you moved to Israel?

    Ah well, that’s complicated :) My parents moved to Israel, when I was 18 and I stayed at home, because I wanted to finish my degree first (official version. The truth - I was in love). I did finish my degree in literature and languages though, and by the way, my thesis was dedicated to fairy tales, which are my passion since childhood. After that I fell out of love and moved to Kiev from my home city. There I worked as an interpreter, journalist, copywriter, designer, art director, and, lastly, as a creative director of a network ad agency. By that time I was married and had a four year-old son.

    Now we’ll make a detour from this exemplary career ascension. As is evident from this bio, I have no academic training in art, which is my life-long grief. I adored drawing when I was a kid, but then school kept me very busy for several years. My next drawing spree was in at the University, because studies were excruciatingly boring. I started to draw at lectures and at home late into the night. I copied artists that I liked, doodled and illustrated a diary.

    When I started to work, I continued to draw in the evenings. By that time I knew I needed ‘my fix’ (If I don’t draw for several days in a row I turn into a wicked witch), but did not dare to treat it as anything but a ‘pleasant hobby’. That came to an end after the birth of my first son. Before that I had work and hobby and they lived cozily together in one life. After that I had work, family and hobby, and there just wasn’t enough room for three large spheres in one life. One had to go. Of course it was drawing, because “it’s not serious”.

    After four years of not drawing, I felt so utterly wrong about everything I did, despite an impeccably successful front, that I quit at the top of my career into ‘nowhere’. I knew I wanted to draw and had no other way than to make it my work, but couldn’t make up my mind, how to go about this whole new endeavor. I even did not know what I wanted to do, let alone how to approach it - draw books? commercial illustration? art in a studio? And then I had to labor through the “I am not a ‘real’ artist” thing. While I couldn’t make up my mind, life made it up for me and I was pregnant with our second son. With that many crucial changes in life, another twist did not matter. We decided to move to Israel to be closer to grandparents (official version. The truth - it is easier to start something new in a completely new environment).

    How is the cultural climate in Israel for artists like you?

    I am not sure. I gave birth to our second son a month after the immigration. At that time we thought we were taking a year’s break to figure things out while I am on a “mom’s leave”, and then would return to Kiev. But you know how life is? It sucks you in here and now. In a wink the senior boy went to school, my husband mastered a new career in web and app design and I was pregnant with a third boy! Moving back was out of the question.

    My point is I am not leaving house much, except for child playgrounds, parks and seaside. I don’t know local art environment. This weekend I have been to Yaffo to hang a small exhibition of my works in a theater, and that impressed me like a world cruise. You know - nicely dressed people with no kids languidly walking the atmospheric ancient streets, strewn with galleries and coffee shops and all…

    A lot of illustrators and artists work digitally today, why do you prefer pen and paper?

    I’ve worked digitally for seven years in advertising. That’s not half as enjoyable as hand drawing, and then I guess to me hand drawing is just easier. I do use Photoshop though, I am not as medieval as it may seem.

    There is a strong influence of folklore and fairytales in your work; do you have a favorite story?

    Oh, oh. Not sure what to answer, because there are so many of them. When my kids ask me to tell a story, they have to answer a dozen questions, before I decide which to tell: funny or scary; witty or mystic; eastern or western; crazy or reasonable; people or beasts; long or short; riddled or plain; gory or peaceful? (I have three boys, so no princesses, yes). So, now I don’t have a favorite story, like a gourmet can’t have one favorite dish, because he is so sophisticated in food, but in childhood I did have favorite tales.

    My dad read to me Russian and Grimm fairy tales a lot and I knew them by heart. We had an unabridged edition for researchers, so luckily these tales were not robbed of their initial richness ‘not to scare kids’. I did not scare a bit, but was enthralled by the murky, fickle world, where everything turned into everything else, beasts talked and threw off skins to turn into people; wicked stepmothers ordered their stepchildren killed in the woods to eat their hearts and spit a golden coin every morning ever after; dead water revived heroes; a forest witch lived in a house of chicken legs and had a flipping bed that tossed incautious travelers into the underworld; tree fairy had her arm cut off to spill gems and rubies from the wound in order to help the hero fulfill the wicked king’s desire; death of an immortal skeletal villain was hidden in a needle, needle - in an egg, egg - in a fish, fish - in a duck, duck - in a hare, hare - in an eagle; eagle - in a chest; chest - on a tree at the end of the world; a dragon had nine fire-spitting heads and a magic finger to grow new heads if some got chopped off; treasures turned to autumn leaves; people returned from a one-day visit to the underwater king to discover hundreds of years had passed in the real world; golden-skinned princesses jumped out of oranges; princesses threw off swan’s feathers, frog skins, snake skins, lizard skins; princesses washed ugly sorcery off their faces with black soap; poisoned pins in the hair turned princesses into birds; wrong moves - into stone… There was even an ancient version of ‘Donkey Skin’, where the stepmother was a wicked witch and turned the girl into… a cow’s stomach. She predicted that “the enchantment will be broken only if the King kisses you, ha-ha-ha”! Indeed. The Cow’s Stomach took the job of a shepherd on royal pastures and stalked the king until one day he was crossing the field during a hunt. Then the Stomach entangled the king in his… eh guts and threatened to strangle him if he doesn’t kiss ‘her’. Well, if there’s a happy end to this story, then you know, nothing in life can ever upset you really much…

    I remember very well, that when as a child, this didn’t seem strange or weird or cruel or unreal. They were just part of a gripping story. I first started to appreciate just how weird that is, when Dad read these same tales to my junior sister (we shared a room). She was 6 and I was 15 and I listened to them once again from a whole new perspective. Her favorite tale was about a princess that got abducted by this ugly immortal villain and her fiancé pursued to rescue her. He gets killed three times, chopped into small pieces. But his brothers revived him with ‘dead’ and ‘live’ water, when they saw that the silver spoons he’d left them blackened and that meant he was in trouble. There was a part where he has to scramble out of a bottomless abyss, and a huge magic bird condescends to carry him on her back. But she warns him to prepare enormous food and water supplies. These end long before the end of the journey out of the gargantuan abyss, but the bird demands more, or else she will fall exhausted back into the abyss. She advises the lad to cut his wrist and give her some blood to drink, and then to cut some meat off his legs and give her that to eat. Well, he does so several times and by the time they are safe and sound on the surface, he is dead. But of course his brothers know this, because of the black spoons and are waiting there with dead and live water. The bird throws up his flesh. Brothers put the pieces back, spill some dead water on them and they grow back into place. Then they spill some live water on the lad and he comes back to life. 

    Now, I am lying there in the dark, while Dad reads this to my sister, shocked and wondering just how weird and disgusting is that, when my sister stops father and says: “read that all over again, starting from the bottom of the abyss”. And that’s the difference between kid and adult perception of fairy tales. Kids don’t attach any characteristics - nothing is ‘terrible’ or ‘wonderful’ to them - it’s all just a part of a fascinating plot. They do not divide things into pleasing and disgusting, real and improbable; they just take everything for granted. Yes, the mushroom turned into a little man. Yes, the cow stomach turned into a beautiful girl. Quite natural.

    I like to illustrate this point with another story. I remember my three-year-old son finding a dead bird in the bushes once in December. He insisted that we go and see its metamorphoses every day. I felt rather ill at ease at certain ugly stages of decay, but he was interested, because he did not KNOW it was ‘disgusting’… To him bird-turning-to-a-skeleton or frog-turning-to-a-prince is the same type of natural metamorphosis that makes the world tick and such an interesting place to observe. There’s no good or bad, there’s just infinite variety and wonder. I am glad I’ve smuggled a tiny measure of that perception into adulthood and I think that is mostly what my drawings are about.

  • photography by MADS TEGLERS

    An interview with Barbara í Gongini

    Written by Michaela Widergren

    It’s literarily as cold as ice outside. I’m in Copenhagen, backstage at the overly crowded and very warm Barbara í Gongini aw13 show. When I get the chance to speak quickly with Barbara, flashes are going off and on as the surrounding people are filming us with their phones. I get the impression that I’m not the only one trying to get a word with the Scandinavian redhead.

    Tell me how you started the collection?

    We actually started with a team this season, we wanted to cut into the surface and construct openings so you can see through the fabrics so that you could compose the garments together in different layers.

    And this is your first men’s line, right?

    Yes, the men’s line is our absolute first, so we are super happy, Barbara says smiling and quickly introducing me to her passing assistant.

    Is there a difference creating for men?

    No, I don’t think so because actually this is the very base, so it’s within the same collection as the women’s line that was originally cut for women; we just took the most masculine parts and tried them out in a different silhouette.

    How are you working with sustainability?

    It’s a consideration for all to make and we are very much in the debate all the time. What we’ve found out is that it’s a very complex issue. You know, ecological cotton sounds fabulous but it’s still polluted… So what we have done is that we use recycled plastics, I mean, until the industry gets cleaned up, we’re just going to find our own ways and work with sustainability in ways that we believe in. For example, there is a Japanese company that can create textiles that can easily be compared with silk, but it’s completely made out of plastic. It’s so high-tech but still super refined.

    How do you feel about using animal products?

    We used to work with fur but when we got directly in contact with the suppliers to have a right on discussion with them, what we learned is that they couldn’t guarantee us anything. So we keep to sheep only, and we found Scandinavian suppliers for that. I mean the conditions are really important for us.

    After out chat I’m filled with warmth, but not from the temperature in the room, it’s from my talk with Barbara. I love a designer with a point of view and a greater understanding of eco-responsibility. I’m sure all of us standing in the buzz backstage felt the passion and ambition of the team, not just aiming to create new garments, but also aiming to create new ways of creating them.



There’s nothing to see here.