Jeanne Salomé Rochat

JSR: How do you build structure and form into garments, when the topics you're interested in are so wide and the result is so uncertain?

SP: We usually start by having discussions about a topic we find relevant, using the garment as the catalyst to pose important questions. We take time to reflect, evaluate, and acknowledge our inspirations and ideas. Through a dialogue process within the team and with close collaborators, we then consciously try to arrange these different fragments into a functional concept, always with current circumstances in mind.

In an information-based society, where the invisible is as important as the tangible, we find it important to transcend topics into objects to give them a functional dimension.

JSR: What are these important questions in the context of your first collection?

SP: The main question to us was the essence of garments in itself.
What are we surrounding ourselves on a daily basis? What’s the difference between clothes and fashion?
To what extend can clothes become a systemised object, aligned to our individual anatomical proportions?
We were interested in all the symbolic connotations behind every shape of a garment in a contemporary context. Asking ourselves, whether or not clothes can exist and have value for themselves, without any form
of desire created by a pattern or sign.

JSR: You talk about “making sure the relevance and intention behind a physical outcome isn’t obscured by the initial concept”. Do you find this to be an issue in contemporary fashion?

SP: The process and transition from an initial idea to a substantial object should be self-reflective. It often takes a lot of observation, consideration and time to actually create a comprehensive output.
The fashion industry operates at such a fast pace, that there is definitely a lack of contemplation.
Is it paradoxical to consider that fashion can be an artistic practice and a timely structured industry simultaneously? I'm curious to understand how you navigate the systems and structures of fashion, and also, why you chose that field? It sounds like you're coming up against it in many ways.

Everyone on our planet is in some sort of way confronted to textiles and clothes on a daily basis. It’s the first material a human beings touch after being born. We are interested in the notion of this “shelter” and how it is influencing us as a society at large, and the potential of textiles and garments themselves, rather than the system itself. That being said, the fashion structures seem of course very outdated and problematic to us. Still, we aim to make the best out of a multidisciplinary and creative system which allows us to research and analyse a broad variety of social topics. It’s never only about the collection itself. Using its expressive and trans-cultural reach, fashion has the ability to question predefined notions, and to dismantle them in an intimate way.

JSR: How attracted are you to neat and tidy concepts, forms and stories?

SP: For this first collection, it was important to us to maintain a clear and neat concept, so as to build a long lasting groundwork on which we can establish further ideas and projects.

JSR: Who is "us" exactly, and how were you formed into SHADOWPLAY?

SP: We are a team of three working together as a result of similar interests and ideas.
We are also good friends.

JSR: Do you intend for people outside of "you" to understand what you are doing in terms of "dismantling predefined notions"? Do you think about "the market"?

SP: We think this intention is definitely here and we are still working on creating the full picture.
To us it’s also a very personal project, not too concerned about the market yet. All of that should gradually evolve over time. Ambiguity can become clear and vice versa, we do not want to stand still.
We see potential in using the stages and processes between idea and final product as elements to be sold. Ultimately, we want to refuse the term “consumer” per se and rather see our customers as “participants”.

JSR: What is the process of selling your patterns? Tell me more about the intention and model.

SP: Since the whole collection is only formed out of two patterns, we will be selling these full versions, out of which one can make any alternative. Anyone buying a pattern is participating in the production of the Fragment of a (W)hole collection. The design becomes an open source element which can be passed on.
What is the price of design? How autonomous and inclusive can design become? What are new formulas and economic systems actually working in the fashion system?

JSR: In general, beyond SHADOWPLAY, do you break the rules? Do you like to play and see what happens?

We are always interested to experiment, combine unusual fabrics and try out different things.
To form and execute new ideas and concepts, it is important to just start playing around, giving oneself space to instinctively arrange new thoughts. For this collection we have made numerous experiments and garments which we will never be seen. Every single step is an important part of the process: to rework a piece one more time, and have fun with styling and mixing.

JSR: I sometimes think that as soon as you can state a rule clearly, it becomes a tool of control rather than a tool of exploration.

SP: We think curiosity is a fundamental aspect to progress. I hope we are not setting rules, rather frameworks and structures which can be dismantled and reassembled and changed over time. To us, some sort of organisation seems inevitable to grasp and contextualise complex concepts passing throughout various mediums.

JSR: Are you ever stuck? How do you deal with that? Running out of ideas.

SP: Ideas are always present. Sometimes it takes a while to create the right connections. We believe fashion is too much bound to a rhythm which defines “stuck” in a wrong way. NOT presenting and releasing a new collection every few months should be normal.  We are not afraid of reconsidering the process, if something did not feel right or if we find a better way. We just start over and ask initial but also fundamental questions over and over again. It takes a time, effort and courage to not rush. You only get stuck if you look at too many other things all the time. That might make you feel like everything has been done, and that there is no reason to just become another output in this already overloaded world.

JSR: Do you feel that words are much more permanent where an image can resemble something temporary What space and use do you see in text also within your own practice?

SP: I really like reading and personally value the written word a lot. In a creative field, one is quickly overwhelmed with images, where a text can give me some organisation power, which we need to have some clarity.  Words also challenge one's own imagination, help to create a personal conception of things, and not only consume pre-existing imagery. There are always various books on our desk, currently Fashioning Value - Undressing Ornament by Femke de Vries and Another Scale of Architecture by Junya Ishigami, plus a bunch of different magazines.

JSR: Talk about the genesis and execution of the Fragment of a (W)hole collection!

SP: It's been a very organic development, initially starting from conversations about what clothing could and can be, to finding space and a place to give these ideas a shape and form. We have had many discussions and fittings until we decided to stick with the final shape of the patterns and overall aesthetic. It has been a challenge to us, creating garments which stand for themselves, dismissing any sort of storytelling nor evident reference. We are still undertaking the final steps to bring the full execution and philosophy of the project to life. It is also an ongoing educational process, which will not stop with this collection.