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Collection “It’s All Around You”. Photo: Rokas Darulis un Abie Lamin

Orthopaedics of Fashion 2

Interviewed by Agnese Čivle,

The promising Lithuanian fashion designer Eglė Čekanavičiūtė (1986) studied at the Academy of Arts in Vilnius and graduated from Central Saint Martin’s College in London; she started to shape her own style and created her own fashion label, Artefact, while her professional experience has been tied to such fashion houses as Burberry and Christian Dior. Currently, Čekanavičiūtė is continuing to challenge herself in Paris, working under the Belgian conceptual fashion label, Maison Martin Margiela.

At the end of March, the Vilnius fashion and art festival Mados Infekcija 2012 featured two collections by the young fashion designer. The asymmetrical silhouettes of the collection titled, “It's All Around You”, were accessorized with orthotics that had been raised to a new, aesthetic level – metal orthoses and thick, orthopaedic soles. The designer's second collection, “Seed”, surprised everyone: real, living plants – naturally and completely oblivious to their surroundings – were growing out of clothes made from organic materials and fashioned into minimalistic cuts.

In the first collection, the designer broke the stereotypes on what is considered either beautiful or ugly through the illustration of traits shared between orthotics and the process of clothes creation; in the second, she reminded us of the weakness of humans when faced the power of nature. Eglė Čekanavičiūtė transforms the body into a masterpiece and highlights the personality, ensuring comfort in terms of both the physical and the psychological.

Egle Čekanavičūte. Photo: Rokas Darulis

You are the 4th generation of a family involved in fashion.  How was it growing up in an environment full of art and fashion? Have your childhood and family roots helped you to succeed in the fashion world? Do you feel it's like a bonus, when comparing yourself to newcomers in the field?

It is true that I come from a family of tailors and musicians. It surely made a great impact on my personality, interests and development, and helped shape my career. It also served me well concerning basic skills, as I knew how to sew and make patterns for some time already before enrolling in fashion school. I think it is a big advantage to have a background, but it's not everything. One must be hard-working and open to the learning of new techniques.

You graduated from the Academy of Arts in Vilnius and from Central Saint Martin’s College in London, one of the most notable design schools in Europe. How has education helped prepare you for working in the industry?

The aim of every design school is, firstly, to teach design, and second, how to do research and how to make a garment; not necessarily how to make a business out of it. This was also my case – at these great schools, I had the chance to learn all about design, and I started to shape my own style, whereas working in the industry taught me how to apply creative knowledge to a business. It was very different from what I had imagined.

During your professional life, you have had the great opportunity to work with two striking, but completely different, well-known fashion phenomena - Christian Dior and the Belgian conceptualist, Maison Martin Margiela. What is your general impression of both?

These two houses are as different as black and white. But they both have a common purpose – to make their clients feel beautiful and special. In my opinion, this should be the main goal for all fashion designers who wish to be successful.

Artefact collection “Seed”. Photo: Egle Xiapin

How has this experience of working with such big fashion labels changed your way of thinking about fashion? Has this experience changed your way of working?

The experience at Christian Dior was very different from the one I'm having at the moment at Maison Martin Margiela, but they both were amazing challenges in my life, enriching me in different ways both as a designer and as a person. At Dior, there was a lot of shiny glamour – we were designing dreams. At Martin Margiela, we get much more into the essence of clothes, and that is what interests me the most at the moment. However, I am happy to have learned to be diverse and to apply my skills, regardless of where I work.

I read somewhere that the reclusive Martin Margiela has never made a personal appearance on the catwalk at the end of his fashion shows. Nor has he provided interviews to the press. Any attempt to obtain a photograph of him will be just as fruitless. Instead, he will send you a group photo of himself together with his entire work team. How do you describe the working environment there?

Martin never really wanted to blow a bubble out of his image, which was a very fashionable thing to do at the time of his debut. On the contrary, he always stressed the importance of his team, saying that he couldn't achieve these results on his own, and that the clothes should speak for themselves. I find it very beautiful. Even though Martin has left, the ambiance and concept of work in the house is much the same. The building containing our headquarters, which is located in a not-very-glamorous part of Paris, is old and shabby, but beautiful and cozy, and has a special mood. All the designers, as well as our creative director (who has, in fact, always been Martin's right hand) are kind, simple and down-to-earth people; we are all like a family – that happens rarely at other fashion houses.

Today, fashion has become a global industry; even designers are rotating between different fashion houses. What is your opinion about globalization’s impact on fashion? 

What sells best today is new, fresh visions. That is why all the big labels are also regularly "updating" their creative minds. It might sound cruel and inhumane, but this is the reality, and it applies to many industries, not only fashion.

Globalization serves design by giving the ability to travel easily, and to do different parts of design in different places of the world – where it can be done best. I am not defending child labor in China – I am relating more to the fact that today, designers can travel for research, enrich and refresh their minds, get inspired and bring good emotions and ideas to the company that they work for. Also, the ability to source top-quality tweed in England, having access to meticulous leather manufacturers in Italy, and getting your embroidered pieces beautifully done in India – all of these different parts of production are the traditions of these countries, and it allows them to sell their product / services as well.

Artefact collection “It’s All Around You”. Photo: Rokas Darulis and Abie Lamin

The other side of the coin, however, is that "easy" traveling leads to an increase in CO2 emissions and harming the environment, which is not cool.