Facial expressions, like Fashion, are a form of non-verbal communication

For her final collection, Jolka Wiens now a graduate from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, presented 7 strong minimalist looks. The beauty of her designs is immediately apparent but hides a complexity and depth of thought.

Neoprene, in white and gold, is combined with more fragile fabrics skin coloured and translucent. Soft and luxurious knitted pieces in a grey palette add textural and colour contrast. The 11 pieces of Jolka’s collection are T-shaped; 2 dimensional they lie totally flat. Their construction echoes the idea flatness explored by Japenese fashion in the late XXth century. Using a laser cutting machine Jolka created repetitive, systematic slashes into the neoprene used for of her garments. Variations in the patterns of the cuts give each piece its own character.

These garments really come to live when worn as they react to the stance and movement of the body underneath. Contrasts in patterns, colours and textures combine with the effect of movements which hide or reveal, creating each time a different visual outcome.


Mark Atkinson met Jolka in Amsterdam


Jolka, what is you approach to design?
The way I design is very instinctive; I always start from a concept, usually a topic that fascinates me. After that even if I draw a plan I rarely stick to it, I am always tempted to explore different avenues.  I believe designing is about process; as in life, many factors, from environment, experience, past projects, all influence the outcome. I guess this is how designer develop an handwriting.

Are you saying that your collection is the product of personal experiences rather than a response to a market demand?
I have no idea if my collection is market led or not; time will tell. I design however with intent and my collections always include staple garments such as leggings or jumpsuits which can be worn separately but still communicate the essence of the collection.

I also have a clear idea of the woman who would wear my garments; in the case of my degree collection, she is modern, edgy maybe from Berlin where I am from originally, a city that inspires me. This is the reason why I chose to present my collection styled in a rough but chic fashion.

I find it difficult to characterize people. They are individuals, how can you generalize?  Each has different features; this is in fact the subject of my collection. The look of my garments is greatly affected by the person who wears them, by their stance and movement. This leads on to the difficult issue of control. My collection is more about an experience than a product.

However do you consider trends in your approach?
I do my best to be informed not only about current trends but also past fashion, mainly to avoid producing something that has already been done.


You may have a great idea until you realise it has already been done. You must be careful to produce something fresh.

Could you explain the inspiration behind your collection?
Psychology, the study of behaviour and perception interests me. I do not believe that rationality can fully explain human actions. My degree collection in particular, is inspired by facial expressions. Like fashion, the visage contributes to nonverbal communication; it hides and reveals. Its expressions, often produced unconsciously, are difficult to control.

How did you explore all these complex notions?
In a practical way, first I researched facial expressions from a broad range of perspectives. I tried to go deeper and I considered the connections, similarities and differences in the way fashion and facial expression are used to communicate or manipulate. This led me to investigate Trompe L’oeil, optical illusion, and how it has been used in fashion.

During my research I worked both 2 and 3D. The first step was to draw faces I had found, simplifying them to the point of abstract. I also considered the mechanics of facial expressions, the interaction between skull, flesh and skin, the inner and the surface. Movements change the appearance of the structure; I tried to revert from abstract shapes back to the organi.

I decided to use a simple T-shape, giving the impression of different shapes by cutting into the material in various places. I created a system: one shape, one technique and subtle variations to produce different looks.


Through-out this process was there something you found particularly difficult?
I had and tried out so many ideas and designs, condensing them in 7 looks meant that I had to reject many. This is hard, you feel as if you have to kill your darlings! Working with the laser cutter was also difficult. I had never used it before, it requires precision. Unfortunately I had to cut my material, the neoprene, by hand before being able to use the laser cutter, this meant minute but significant variations. I wasted so much material!

What advice would you give to someone working on a final collection?
For me the key is to keep your message clear. I feel this enabled me to go further and deeper. It is important not to get lost in the process, in your ideas and creativity.
Making decisions at the right time is also very important. I learned to give myself earlier deadlines so I had some times left in case I was not fully satisfied. Once in a while, take some distance. What worked well for me was producing mood-boards every 2-3 weeks, to see where I was at. Be ambitious but stay real.

Fashion design is a strange process; it is about creating a dream, an illusion but also making it become real, significant in the public eye. This is why it is important to see where you stand with your work, outside of your university. I was so used to having to answer criticism at the Academy that I was surprised by the positive reaction my show got!

Credits & References


For further information visit: www.jolkawiens.com

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Written by Pierre Delarue