Yes, Versailles after the Flood.
Morta Griskeviciute would much rather see a valuable image in a book than endless amount of visual information in digital format. It has a different quality; it is slower and more focused.
Morta’s degree collection: Versailles after the Flood – one of two selected from the prestigious Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam to take part to the Lichting Show – was inspired by such images found in two books by Robert Polidori (see video at the bottom of the interview) : New Orleans after the Flood, 2006, and Parcours Muséologique Revisité, 2009. The first documents the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the second different stages of the restoration of the Palace of Versailles. Robert Polidori photographs interiors, whether lived-in, transformed or abandoned, often in a state of decay. Interviewed for ArtInfo.com in 2007, he explained: I’m interested in interiors… simply because they’re indices of individuals’ personal values. … To me interiors are both metaphors and catalysts for states of being.
Modeconnect’s Mark Atkinson met Morta in Amsterdam…….
Morta, could you explain your collection?
My collection is an experiment in material inspired by the photography of Robert Polidori. Amsterdam has a strong sense of history as well as unusual urban scenery; buildings easily show their age, decaying sofas may be found in the streets, interiors can be strangely decorated… Polidori’s aesthetic resonates with the city as well as with me.
I think there are connections between our surroundings and the way we dress. I was interested by the way that New Orleans and Paris, as depicted by Polidori, clashed, hence the name of my collection: Versailles after the Flood.
I used a broad range of unusual materials: marble, knitwear, flocked plastic and wallpaper as well as silkscreen prints inspired by wallpaper to create a singular collection. One of the threads that run through the collection is my silhouette: the waist is usually accentuated by tight pleating; I like the idea that such a design can fit almost anyone.
Your collection is assured and very individual, its aesthetic very strong. Yet you talk of an experiment?
My work evolved a lot throughout my final year; I think that I wanted to surprise myself. I became more self-aware and curious of what I could produce. My degree collection is an attempt at finding my language in the field of fashion. Now that I have designed it I would really like to have the opportunity to apply and develop these ideas towards more wearable clothes.
How did you develop your collection? How did it evolve?
As I said, at the very beginning I was open to experiment. I looked at the photographs to get textile ideas, ideas of way to combine different materials. At the same time I was working on the silhouettes in 2d, through drawing. I focused on moments and details in the photographs as well as on my own illustration aesthetics.
Then I worked with collage to be able to work on the tactility and sensitivity of the garments. I was trying to combine impressions of looseness and control. I wanted my garments to have immediacy and easiness, but with the clear lines and the definition of drawing.
A key moment was when I produced my first piece, a painted sweater. From then on I knew how to achieve contrast and harmony between different materials and textiles.
Drawing seems to have been an important element of your development process?
I trained in my home country, Lithuania, as an illustrator. I also worked as an illustrator in Lithuania but also in Berlin and Oslo. Drawing is important to me and to my process. I create ideas on paper. Working out silhouettes and colours in small scale drawings is what work best for me. With collages I can render the materials, textures, colours and silhouette that create the look.
What aspect of creating your collection did you find the most challenging?
Because I experimented so much I did not have a linear approach to the collection. I put a lot effort ensuring that all my garments belonged and produced a harmonious collection. Also some of the materials I used such as wallpaper and plastic were a challenge to work with.
Was it difficult for you to move from illustration to fashion?
When started studying fashion, almost 3 years ago, I had never even sewn before. This was a massive challenge in itself but also a rewarding experience. As I progressed I was increasingly excited and eager. I remember diving into my studies with interest and enthusiasm, totalling ignoring my lack of technical knowledge. It has been the most rewarding time.
What interests you in fashion?
I like the social dimension of clothing. I am forever analysing and questioning how people I see in the street dress. I am especially interested by subcultures and their natural attitude towards clothing. They merge practicality with excess and produce outfits which could easily compete with more classically designed ones.
I am inspired by people who are not aware of fashion codes but who have a strong personality and dress in a way that reflects who they are and how they think.
‘Entrevue avec Robert Polidori’: a short film recorded during the retrospective exhibition of the photographer’s work at Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art in 2009. This is great viewing even if you do not speak French!