THE SNAKES WOMAN’S CLOSET

“I like to present [the collection] as a retrospective of the belongings of a woman who doesn’t exist.” Fashion designer Gabrielle Huguenot, based in Switzerland, talked to SWARM Mag about her designing processes, childhood influences, and, first and foremost, the mysterious Snake Woman, Gabrielle's long-time imaginary Femme Fatale, for whom she created the newest Artificial Flowers Also Need Water collection.

WHAT LED YOU TO BEGIN YOUR STUDIES OF FASHION & ACCESSORY DESIGN? 

Fashion & accessory design pulled me in due its complexity. We can’t summarize fashion from the perspective of the necessity of “being dressed”. Fashion compels art, sociology, anthropology and, of course, design. In general, everything that touches on the topic of the body is complex and inextricable. Throughout my studies, I was continuously researching around the idea I like to call “the shadows of our bodies”. That physical part of us we’re uncomfortable with and don’t usually show, let alone assume or embrace. I also deep-dived into topics such as death, occultism and fetishism. My goal is to put my creations on the table and engage in exchanges about them with others. It’s not a matter of finding answers but to ask ourselves questions, to be curious and generate a constructive dialogue.

WHAT USUALLY INSPIRES YOU WHEN DESIGNING A COLLECTION AND HOW DO YOU SEARCH FOR YOUR THEMES? 

My inspirations stem from my childhood where boredom led to dreaming up imaginary worlds and creatures. My process today is somehow still the same, I begin by picturing a character and its context. I then tend to bring them to life through the designing process. I usually work directly with the final materials to preserve the honesty of the first creation gesture intact. More like a sculptor, I mould, I add, I take something off… The final aesthetic remains somewhat of a mystery even to myself until the end. I hate to lock things down too early and confine them to an overly specific vision, I want my creations to challenge me until the end. Cinema also takes a huge place in my research process. When a movie character touches me, I tend to distill the essence of why I love them, and it helps me get unconsciously in the creation mood. Some of the go-to movies for my last collection were Rosemary’s Baby, Juliet of the Spirits, The Bridges of Madison County, Death Becomes Her, Stepford Wives, and others.

CAN YOU INTRODUCE THE STORYLINE OF YOUR LATEST PROJECT?

ARTIFICIAL FLOWERS ALSO NEED WATER found its roots in a deep boredom I spiralled into during my fashion design practice. I was desperately thinking about what could be left of me when I die. The original title was “Don’t wait for my demise to gift me flowers” and it became the title of my master Mémoire. In this essay, I expressed my concerns about my practice through poetry and with a big pinch of cynicism. Through that text, I found glimpses of solutions by being spontaneous and allowing myself to just think and let my mind wonder without truly searching for answers (a self-determination in a way). But at a certain point, my fear that no one would gift me flowers took over. As I couldn’t get them in real life, I decided to gift artificial ones to the woman that has inspired me since my childhood, I affectionately call her The Snake Woman. I created the collection as her wardrobe. There are jewels, dresses, shoes and a perfume. I unchained myself from the traditional ways of designing a collection in order to focus on quality over quantity. I like to present it as a retrospective of the belongings of a woman who doesn’t exist.

WHO IS YOUR FEMME FATALE AND WHY? 

My Femme Fatale is called The Snake Woman. She is a woman who doesn’t exist but she represents to me the essence of all the feminine characters I grew up with and aspired to become one day. Femmes Fatales have mainly been brought to life by the mind of a man, be it cis-het or queer, and they have been used and abused as a playground for fantasies and games of power. My position has been to figure out what happens next, when she is no longer needed and forgotten, abandoned in the void. My approach was to keep her undefined until the end to avoid making her an object and fetishize her. During the process, I decided to make the radical choice to design the collection on myself. I was uncomfortable with the idea of risking to objectify another person’s body. It definitely brought a new dimension to my work as I became a designer who dreams to be her own muse. I had to face and overcome my own insecurities and see how I would bring this project to fruition. I tried to find balance between the confidence of this woman and my own vulnerability. When I look at the pictures of the collection, it’s not me I see, even if it’s my body. I am the one who is in the picture but it’s The Snake Woman we see.

OUR LAST QUESTION PERTAINS TO OUR CURRENT THEME, FULL OF DESIRE. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE YOUNG GENERATION DESIRES FROM FASHION NOWADAYS? 

Being less afraid to experiment and take more risks? Today, fashion is (too) often driven purely by the economic growth perspective and being more consensual. It makes fashion design a matter of numbers and the result of a retail algorithm. Big companies seldomly take risks and don’t often experiment with something more unstable, which, on their scale, could actually change things up. I am by far not only talking of the aesthetic aspect, but also the way things are made as well as shown. Can we really talk about a fashion revolution when, in the end, the chain of consumption is still unchanged? The mould is pretty tight and even if we pour something else in it, it will always produce its same old shape. My aspiration is to see fashion become more of a laboratory. Being able to use it as a medium to research around our bodies and thoughts without being imprisoned by this necessity of selling. Fashion has an infinite potential but with time, it becomes smooth and without real asperities. In the end, we are complex and contradictory creatures. Why should the way of dressing and expressing fashion be one dimensional?

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Bio

Freshly graduated with a master’s degree in fashion & accessory design from HEAD-Geneva, Gabrielle’s designs tend to open the mind to the excitement of the unexpected.

Credits

AD, Designer & Model /@gabriellehuguenot

DOP & Photography /@steven_michelsen

Assistant Photography / @clemensjezler

Hair & Make-Up Artist / @nicolanikitafischer

Producers / @alexandraaberli @jeremy_weingart

Location / @fotohalle

Interview / Kateřina Hynková

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