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Barbara I Gongini


You often search for inspiration back in your roots, the Faroe Islands. How is it projected in your collections and how does it influence your perception of sustainability?

I think that sustainability is a way of living and of course a way of being. Whilst living in one of the cleanest environments on earth, I have always been very close to all the elements that somehow influence one´s core being. There is therefore no other alternative way, than thinking in these terms. The approach of creating a sustainable company definitely comes from the tradition, the closeness to the forces of nature and the responsibility for our surrounding, which is deeply rooted in myself. 


Though your collections may seem to be downright Avant - Garde, they are full of stunning yet highly wearable pieces. How would you describe your aesthetics?

Being the designer of a fashion brand it is not only about creative expression but also about being relevant to the end consumer. We are therefore always trying to find a balance, holding a very clean canvas against the more expressive pieces that we contain in the collections. For the upcoming season we want to emphasize this even more. We will have toned-down, more simplistic pieces in the new Diffusion Line, which will eventually give us more space for more playful and expressive pieces in our main line.

 Barbaraigongini Avantgarde1

 Image: Nicky de Silva


Denmark is pretty strict when it comes to aesthetics, though you are moving away from such aesthetical rules and trends. How do you see design evolving here in Denmark? Do you think that people are more open to find their own expression of style nowadays?

Danish Fashion is very nice when it comes to minialistic design and toned down colors. But I sadly think, that there is very little individualism seen on the Danish fashion scene. It’s in a way, an army of doppelganger. 


For the Spring Summer 2017 season, you implemented an in-house-produced limited edition line to the classical collection. What stands behind this decision?

This idea initiated as a CSR strategy, where we found new takes on archive styles, which we embraced and breathed a new life into them. It’s a common care and a very nice exercise for our creativity. 


AW17 is the first season you are not taking part in the official schedule of Copenhagen Fashion Week. What led you to this decision?

We have been very active every season, mostly doing the conventional shows, which led us to the decision to make a pause, to collect new strength to make space for a more conceptual event during Paris Fashion Week. We therefore gathered strong forces within the Fashion industry of the Nordic Hemisphere, to create a local collaboration, which sharpened our senses. We have been doing similar projects for many years, but this season there was a specific need to do something exciting. 


You are working interdisciplinary in close collaboration with various artists. Are you still considering yourself as a fashion designer?

Absolutely. I think, now more than ever. There is a need and an urge to have a voice in the fashion segment. The key is to create a room for playfulness and to point some new directions or at least to make an effort to do so. Fashion, in my opinion, is very static at the moment. I absolutely see myself as a fashion designer. Fashion can be pure art. Fashion can also be the complete opposite. We consider ourselves to have a little bit of both, having a clean canvas and then designs which are a little bit upscale in aspect of form within the collection.


What is one of your career highlights and favorite things you’ve done?

This is always hard to say. As a designer you always think critical about the past. But I believe, that the exhibition connected to the Nordic Fashion Biennale in Frankfurt was a big success. Some showpieces from the Modular Human Project are now travelling the world. It has been already showcased in Beijing, Seattle, Reykjavik and is currently displayed in Minneapolis.


What has been your biggest creative influences and inspiration over the years?

I was very fascinated by Yoko Ono’s piece ‘YES’, which I saw prior to when I entered the Danish Design School in Copenhagen. For me this was some kind of introduction to the Avant-Garde art scene for me. I have always been fascinated by a conceptual approach to design and in my search of finding that particular platform this was a big eye-opener. When the group of Japanese Designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake in the beginning of the 80ies, were set into the limelight during the Paris Fashion Week, I immediately felt a strong bond with them. 

 Adam Katz Sinding

 Image: Adam Katz Sinding


Recently, you moved to a new studio in the industrial area of northern Copenhagen. Does the environment influence your work? What was the most important thing in choosing this space?

I think it’s a beautiful environment and one of the few underground places left in Copenhagen, that has still a raw feel and a lot of history behind. It’s a place where big corporations haven’t claimed the land yet and it feels like our mini Berlin. The former shipyard gives it a very industrial feel and works in some sort of breeding ground for initiatives, small businesses, music, food, drinks and dance. There is everything from high culture to low culture. One can find Michelin star restaurants or just little cafes by the bay. All of it together is spicing up the daily life here and it somehow also function as the source of inspiration.


Rooting back to your relationship with nature. What is your opinion about todays fashion industry, trend based youth cultures and their aesthetics used to convey?

For me youth is fast and furious and I like that they are spontaneous. Unfortunately, there is a strong strive for perfection, exemplified by Social Media idols. Teens are very concerned about looks, weight and failure is not seen as a source of creativity anymore. This surrounding puts an enormous pressure on them. 

Nevertheless, there is something really strong and positive deep down, if you dig below the perfect surface. When you take all the noise away, there is a hard-core nerve, which cares about equality and uniqueness.  There is an element of gender freedom, which gives a lot of prospect and positive anticipation for the future. Throughout the years they developed an incredible consciousness about food, a great awareness of CSR, holistic thinking and spirituality.  


You have been advocating sustainability for many years. What do you envision for the future of sustainable fashion design and where do you want to develop your brand in that sense?

Of course, we have a lot of work ahead of us that concerns sustainability. An event that is of major importance concerning CSR is the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, it broadens the consciousness about this relevant topic and puts the talk on a international scale. 

First and foremost, it is of importance to inform people how difficult it is to turn all the fashion industry around, culturally swap the tradition of ‘To use and throw away’ and inspire the supply chains all around the world producing large quantities for very low prices to follow this new wave of sustainable philosophy and thinking because this is the only way forth. It takes time to do so and we need to support it 100% in order to make it happen. In our case, the goal is to inspire the supply chain to provide every little component 100% sustainable and respectful toward human rights and animal welfare, a careful selection of materials and a thoughtful design process.


WORDSJulie Siegemund