Manon Kundig

...read along as NJAL tries to understand why this designer is fascinated with pop culture, and turning the ugly into the beautiful.

This 29 year old, recent graduate from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Art is taking fashion on a genuine flight of fancy - but with a practical twist. Selected for Wallpaper* Magazine and NJAL's Graduate Directory 2012, and known for her signature style that is both calculated and eclectic, designer Manon Kundig creates eerie visual mashups that seem to belong on the outer edges of cyberspace with space-cat gifs and fashion gore. Her most recent collection ‘Bowerbird’ draws from a uncanny natural ability to visually take bits and bobs to create something new – which explains her addiction to Google images. Her strict technical training coupled with a voracious appetite for all things on the fringes makes Manon’s transformation and interpretation of fashion something to look out for.

How did you get into fashion?
I got to study fashion by elimination. I never considered it as my calling, I just knew other things weren’t.

Where are you from?
I was born in Switzerland where I grew up in a small village, somewhere between cows and loving parents. There I studied tailoring for four years. It was a city where they trim the trees along the main road to reach exactly the one thousand meter altitude mark - clearly this is where I must have picked up some of my neuroticism. I moved from the snowy mountains to the most flat, grey and rainy country ever, Belgium. Antwerp is where I completed my Masters degree in fashion and where I live right now with the man of my dreams and the house of my nightmares.

How did you define your particular style or approach to fashion?
I guess I could define my approach as a light hearted one with a manic side. I like to do things that enrich me as I do them. This could be learning new techniques, trying to push my limits, or getting an epileptic seizure from staring at Eve’s fruit. I don’t think my approach to fashion is any different than how I approach my daily life.

What has influenced your approach?
I have always tried to look past the boundaries of mere fashion. My influences could be anything, from an evening with friends to a night in a garden shed. I consider it equally interesting to go to a Caravaggio exhibition as standing in line at the local grocery store. I am not a big adherent of hierarchy.

What is the problem with fashion today?
The problem is mainly its crowd and the industry. But this isn’t a unique problem. The fashion world sees the same corruption as in practically every other artistic field, and sometimes beyond that. It is a capitalistic threat. I am not a businesswoman and wish it to remain this way.

What problems have you faced as an up & coming designer?
Mainly hunger and up-and-comingness. One day you’re in, and the next…

Do you think it would be easier being a designer in another country?
No. Belgium is like the land of milk and honey.

What does the future of fashion look like?
Wearing aluminium foil under fallout rain.

Do you have any other creative pursuits?
I cook pigs feet, I make concrete furniture, and I’m part of an all girl collective called LVMM. In it I mainly contribute to happenings, focussing on making the audience happy - whatever the cost.

What is the style of the city you live in?
The general clothing style here is peculiar. I guess because of the climate, girls tend to wear boots under skirts the whole year round. Antwerp is a right wing stuck up town, but if you know the right places, it can give you a lot of fulfilment. I’ve always liked harbours, and this one has a lot to offer. We used to have a tandem bike, and if you ride for about half an hour, you end up in the middle of an apocalypse type industrial area surrounded by giant cranes spitting fire. That always makes me feel very small.

How does fashion affect your view of the world?
Being aware of appearances and knowing about garments gives you quite a head start when observing people from afar. I am able to guess people’s occupations and characteristics without meeting them, and quite often I’m right. Maybe I would be good at human resources, although I would deliberately hire the wrong people.

What do you value more, process or outcome, concept or quality of craftsmanship?
All of them! I think it is silly to put one ahead of another. The outcome can be crappy, but the process very interesting. Or vice versa. I value authenticity.