By Lisbeth Løvbak Berg
The Helsinki’s Aalto University graduate, Maria Korkeila was awarded of the special prize of the jury, worth €10,0000 sponsored by Schiaparelli, for her collection ‘Under Wraps’. The collection featured menswear with layered and transparent fabrics, and prints and embroideries of erotic pictures of women.
In a ‘talk of the devil’-moment, these creations and their imagery appeared on the catwalk, while one of the themes of on our trip to Hyères, much due to the presence of Caryn Franklin and discussions with her, was selfhood and objectification. A part of this discussion is the normalisation of objectifying, even erotic images of women in all sorts of contexts. These images are popular as decorations in cafés and bars, but what is this doing to us and the perception of the female role? We get so acculturated to them that we don’t even notice.
It occurred to me that Korkeila’s use of these sexualised images must be a statement of some sort, and I wanted to know more. I decided to talk to her to understand her concept better:
Interview with Marie Korkeila
LLB: First of all, congratulations on the prize. What are your plans going forward? How will you spend the prize?
MK: Thank you! My plan for the near future is going to work for a fashion house in Paris full-time and then carry on with my own more small-scale projects.
LLB: Your collection is called ‘Under Wraps’. Can you explain the concept and the title? I understand that the female motives are erotic images from the 70’s, how did you come to use these?
MK: Under Wraps is my BA menswear collection. It’s thematically about concealment and disclosure: about the act of covering and revealing.
It all started out with nouveau-realiste artist Christo’s wrapped objects and magazines. Christo and his late wife and partner Jeanne-Claude are best known for their monumental wrapped buildings and installations, but Christo has also been making smaller sculpture-like wrapped objects since the late fifties to this day. I was interested in how the act of covering and wrapping mundane and trivial objects with opaque and/or transparent materials rendered them into something entirely different and more enigmatic and intriguing. I saw this as an analogy to how covering up the body can be seen as more sexy or provocative or even more offensive as showing everything (take for example fishnet tights or knee socks in comparison to bare legs, for example, or how the act of dressing and undressing is considered more stimulating than simply being dressed or undressed). Christo’s wrapped magazines with pictures looming underneath combined with this theme of sexuality led me to research 1970s adult magazines like Playboy and Mayfair. I combined the two references (wrapped adult magazines). That’s where the name Under Wraps also comes from.
LLB: In one of the festival videos, you mention the idea of a rebel gang. Can you tell me more about this gang?
MK: Vivienne Westwood, the mother of the punk aesthetic, particularly during the SEX /seditionaries shop era, is one of my biggest influences as a designer. While I was working on the collection I was also listening to a lot of punk and post punk, from Sex Pistols to Television and Cocteu Twins… So punk became an important part of the process for Under Wraps. Rather than directly referencing the punk aesthetic which I felt would be rather counter-intuitive to its spirit, I aimed to capture its raw energy, DIY mentality and attitude. Rather than designing with one particular person in mind I wanted the collection to have the feeling of being a punk degenerate gang. Because of this I also felt like the clothes should be utilitarian and uniform-like.
LLB: How do your material and aesthetic choices relate to your concept?
MK: I started to develop materials, in reference to Christo’s wrapped magazines, where magazine-like artworks with nude female motifs were covered with transparent layers (prints layered with plastics and sheer fabrics, multilayer woven jacquards…) as well as materials which would cover more in some places, and partially reveal the skin underneath (like the jacquard knits). I also developed other surfaces and artworks to mimic the shine and folds of Christo’s wrapping plastic (more abstract jacquard motifs, button embroidery…)
Finland is rather on the outside of the fashion industry so things, fabrics for example, aren’t as easy to find. This sparked my interest in making my own.
LLB: I have been reading a bit about your work and in the text by Magalie Guérin about your collection on the Hyères Festival web site, it is hinted that the images you have used are symbolically revealing the more immoral thoughts of the wearer. Can you explain this further? We live in a society where sexualised images of women are so common we don’t even notice them all that much anymore. What are your thoughts around using the before mentioned images?
MK: My collection is also very much based on punk, its energy and attitude. Similarly to how punk gives the middle finger to conformity and hierarchy, I wanted to create a tongue-in-cheek like gesture to the gender and sexuality-related roles, norms and conformity in society.