PETER SCHAMAUN INTERVIEW WITH /-
A Brief bio/background/who are you?I did my BA and MA at the Fashion Academy in Antwerp in Belgium. Before this I did the foundation course at CSM and at an art school in Oslo. During my years in Antwerp I formed a collective with three friends and we showed our collection over two summers as ‘Incipit’ in Oslo, Stockholm, Milan and Paris.
Describe what you do?I ‘work’ in the fashion industry; I’ve just finished my education and I don’t get any money from what I do yet, so I guess you could call it work. I will have my first solo show at Copenhagen Fashion Week A/W16.
How did you arrive at this?It’s a mystery for me; I have no idea. I remember very well the day I decided, I just told my parents while having dinner that I would get a fashion education and I did it. I’m satisfied that it was such a light and easy decision for me.
How easy or hard is it?(Laughs) I don’t know, a bit of both but much more hard. It might even get harder… We’ll see after this show. I hope people will like it.
What would you change about your industry, your work, you?Discussing what to change about me or my work could become a very ‘stare in the mirror with dramatic music playing in the background’ conversation (laughs). ‘The industry’ is a reflection of a certain situation. As it is now, it exists as something with the potential for new discoveries or new ways of operating. Calling the industry an ‘it’ is perhaps oversimplification, as people make it exist. It is a fictional construct, as with all other ‘conscious’ human production.The people in the industry can change and hopefully new people would have different perspectives than before. This would make it more exciting than just having the same thing all over again. The people running it should be more open to developing themselves, not going around with the fixed philosophy of ‘this is how the world is’ or ‘this is how the industry is’. For me this is, to be honest, the saddest thing I could hear. I guess it’s not only fashion or Higher Education that have failed, but also a lack of basic understanding at basic primary school level.
I have to admit it feels like few people are willing to change or willing to make the extra effort in this industry. So far, of the little I have seen, there is too much respect for banal rules, or too much misinterpretation of these rules. We are luckier than other generations or other parts of the world nowadays in that there is no other person that will take your life for asking to, or trying to, redefine a common situation. So can you do something about this, or is this just how the world is? Of course this is not how the world is, that would be a tragedy.
Is there a plan?A little one, of course: not to be completely lost but very open towards unplanned things; so a very normal plan. Not trying to think so much about it. But I definitely have some goals I would like to reach.
Is the process from idea to product or output a changing one, or a routine one?I haven’t arrived at a full routine yet but I have started seeing more clearly how I need my mind to be for each different step of the process. Also, somehow knowing the mind-set in which I don’t manage to work or produce. This doesn’t mean that it’s a full routine, I like that is sometimes uncontrollable; it makes the tension a bit higher which I think is good with regards to the stage I am at now.
Is there always an audience/ character/ market in mind, an external audience?I can only say from the position I am in now, so I guess the audience is the people that work in fashion. I work as a human, for humans, with humans in mind. The audience takes what they need. For my part, I don’t choose them nor is this of any interest to me, as it wouldn’t benefit or differentiate my work. All the marketing of human behavior is, for me, very banal as I don’t see how or why so much importance is placed on different labels.The situation is that I make garments for all humans not just humans who are ‘x’ or ‘y’; it just happens to be the case that certain people are more willing to see the work. Just to say that I don’t want to have a specific audience or market in mind, it’s not necessary, I’m thankful to anyone who is interested.Fashion needs references, so everybody understands ‘what is what’ i.e. It is for this kind of person: a fisherman, a worker, a sassy girl walking down the street. We need to understand that ‘it is this kind of garment’, so you think of everything that is needed for a bomber jacket and you automatically make it the ‘bomber story’ in your head. It’s as if the ‘judges of fashion’, those who are important in the industry, are dependent on this kids’ puzzle, where you have to fit the shape of the object in the right shaped hole.It doesn’t make sense that a garment is for something or for someone, an audience or a market, even as vital protection. Fashion confuses matters and represents a hypothetical existence, as well as offering a common methodology, a kind of ‘synchronised omnipresence’.
Explain the relationship between art/creativity and establishment/industry, can the two co-exist? Is successful work diffused work?I am not sure that I care so much about this industry when I make. No, absolutely not, I just have a different audience. You have also the problem with academia, the whole creative school. There is a fear in education; they tremble and shake more than ever. I think students also feel it, they are afraid, both individually and collectively, of losing their position and it’s way too complex for them to manage on their own. They are dependent on the ‘fictiveness’ of what is around us in the industry. It is very difficult to handle as there is nothing more than ‘this is how the world is’ to grasp. So what happens is there is massive confusion and that starts a long chain of confusion. There is nothing in this sense ‘correct’ in an establishment, since it doesn’t really exist. Who do we think we are that we owe ourselves something or that our surroundings do?
Students wants to fit in, in the same way that the schools want to fit in, but none of them know what they want to fit into, they just feel that fitting in is the key to achieving ‘something’. Apparently, I need to fit into ‘something’ so someone recognises it within their own frame of reference, so they have the chance to understand it, so they can tell me if its good or bad. This is the kind of thing I have been told in both fashion schools I have attended: ‘One of the pockets went on a trip to another place on the jacket, and everybody wondered what it was doing there?’ or ‘Half a leg of velour, half a leg of suiting fabric isn’t telling us what you want to say’. Well no, because it can’t speak.
Is there a defining line between you the individual/ designer/creative and the audience/market/output.Supposedly I am the person that creates the possibility for others to find something in what I do. That is what I am educated to do; I work for fictive humans, about fictive humans with fictive humans. You may say my audience could be interpreted as everyone that enjoys what I have done so far, and I’m grateful for that. I also work for me, trying to not think about the others, just for one human. You as yourself is complex enough. In fact, biologically speaking, there is enough mystery and unsolved problems in one human being.
Is there an emotional, physical, mental backdrop to your work, what gets you motivated work wise?I get motivated by a fair few different things, but I often feel the motivation comes in waves, or in between hits of other emotions. Just like everyone else, I get motivated when I have something to work towards or just in those few strikes of ‘joy’ through working.
Tell me about the current collection/project you are working on; what is your current source of inspiration?For my current collection I looked into the view on normality, how ‘we’ in society embrace it i.e. the simplicity of real absurdity and the fear of normality, as well as the ironic result it leads to. I took, as a starting point, the idea of the typical existence of the life of a ‘businessman’. Taking a reactive stance on the fear of normality and mediocrity, the fear of ‘not become someone’. I took inspiration from the mood of, and the ideas around, ‘Waiting for Godot’ by Samuel Beckett and the Russian absurdist Daniil Kharms.Looking at everyday routine- the walk to and from the office, and looking at the ‘realistic absurdity’ you face on a daily basis. For many it can be what they see as normal, but re-looking at the same situation, from another point of view, it can become an ironic and absurd scene, such as waiting to buy or waiting to drink a coffee, waiting for the elevator. The illusion of waiting recreates the uncertainty in our acts. This is where I lust for a silence in the garment, as well as the idea that we could let the garment make some sort of decision for us. Saying it communicates who we are and how we feel.
Who or what are your influences, heroes, idols, muses, irritants?Several artist/musicians/writers that have inspired me for a longer time and over and over again: Philip Glass, Arvo Part, John Baldessari, Thomas Houseago, Samuel Beckett, Daniil Kharms, Christian Khrog, Svein Strand, just to name a few.Also, of course, you sometimes get more motivation from negative subjects but this never lasts long and is not really the same as ‘inspiration’. I’m surprised that nothing more has happened around H&M; I guess they are buying students’ hope, appealing to their aspiration to win lots of money. People are in the streets of Paris shouting about climate change wearing H&M from head to toe. This is paradoxical and ironic. I suppose it is the less charming actions of the heads of H&M that irritates me the most. I really hope people stop applying for their competition.
If money wasn’t an issue what would you do/produce/create or not do?Go to the moon, or at least in space. That is something I would very much like to do. Perhaps make much more sculptures.
If you were to study a subject which is related to your practice but could inform your work what would it be?To become a conductor, if I had the talent to become a composer. This is a little dream of mine… or at least to work with a composer.
If you could do something else what would it be?
Sculptor, composer, doctor, physicist or astronaut. A fair few other things.
All clothes by Peter Schamaun
Photography by @davidpooleprojects
Styling by @philipclarkestylist
Model: Elie at Rebel Model management – Brussels