“Space” 2020. “The New Unreal”

The appeal of digitally crafted clothing had entered my mind in the eighties, along with the fantastical worlds of video games. In the winter of 2019, the stars aligned to support us in this interest. Below our reader may find the English translation of interview highlights that I gave to Croatian print magazines Gloria and Novi List, in the summer of 2020, describing Atelier Mendrilla’s digital and IRL couture collection called “Space”.

Page 1 of the Gloria article: “The New Unreal”

“Space” is a part of the “Time and Space” art installation premiered in 2019, at Helsinki Fashion Week in Helsinki’s House of Nobility with the runway show “Time” and continued with the digital show movie “Space” created in collaboration with Digital Village as well as an upcoming exhibit of sculptural garments featured in the digital show.

The full “Space” 3D collection movie:

Excerpts from interviews published in Novi List and Gloria, Croatia, August, 2020:

With the “Space” Collection Mandali Mendrilla appeared in the world’s first completely digital 3D fashion week, Helsinki Fashion Week, with its first digital blockchain showroom digitalvillage.io

The eponymous label, founded by Mandali Mendrilla, the award-winning multi disciplinary artist and designer based in Belgium, is one of the first completely vegetarian luxury labels in the world, famous for its one-of-a-kind Yantra Couture sculptural garments created in harmony with nature. This was the label’s second appearance at Helsinki Fashion Week, the only and the first 100 percent sustainable fashion week in the world which was shown in digital form this year. 

MM: Creating the digital 3D collection “Space” was our first attempt at crafting purely digital clothing, digital sculptures and digital dressing experience. In 2018, HFW organizers wrote to us that they were thrilled with the cretivity, quality and the mood in our atelier and invited us to show our next collection on the HFW schedule. The show was staged in the city of Helsinki, in the House of Nobility. Our first show during HFW was the first part of a performance art piece called “Time and Space”, called “Time”. We were pleased with the experience and accepted to take part in 2020 as well. HFW 2020 was planned as a digital event even before the current pandemic. 

Mendrilla’s original sketch for Look 3, “The Luminary”

Q: What did the “Space” collection consist of?

MM: The “Space” collection consisted of eight sculptural looks. Seven of the looks were crafted both in reality and digitally, tailored by 3D atelier Scotomalab, and the closing look, called “Om”, was created in collaboration with 3D atelier 3mbassy and it exists only as a digital garment. We were introduced to Scotomalab and 3mbassy by the organizers of Helsinki Fashion Week. 

Mendrilla’s original sketch for co-created Look 8, “Om”

Working together with Scotomalab and 3mbassy, we explored the possibilities of replicating complex couture techniques such as moulage etc., the qualities of high quality fabrics that we work with in Atelier Mendrilla and applying the Yantra Couture design method unique to our Atelier in the realm of digital 3D design. 

A detail of “Om”, Look 8, co-created with 3D Atelier 3mbassy

3D clothing creation software is upgraded every day and we provided Scotomalab with important information on how to best use the tools they were using at the time of crafting “Space” looks to produce the effects which were closest to the couture techniques we practice at Atelier Mendrilla. For example, 3D software did not allow using wire or boning, nor did it permit a detailed crafting of peacock feathers, which were part of the collection in real life. (I must emphasize that at Atelier Mendrilla we only use feathers that free birds placed on the ground for us in nature, during a kind exchange. Non-violence is a very important aspect of our work.) The solutions we found were just as beautiful, if not even more appealing than those in real life. 

During our collaboration we focused on production quality as well as achieving the poetic expression of the collection. We are pleased to have achieved the desired effect.

Q: What inspired the Space collection?

The “Space” collection was inspired by my thoughts on borders between life and death as well as the philosophical perception of existence. In that spirit I wrote several poems which are the mood board of the collection. Each sculptural look is inspired by one of the poems in the mood board, as well as images, concepts, people who inspire the feeling I wanted to emphasize with the look. 

I started writing poetry inspired by my late fathers book of dadaistic poetry written in Croatian called “ In the Corner With Normalcy”. There exists only one copy of the book and is kept in the family. 

Digital rendering of Look 3, “The Luminary”

The digital show expressed well the feelings I cultivated during the crafting of the collection. Many of us that witnessed the digital show premiere wrote to each other that we were moved to tears of happiness. Last year, after the “Time” show, Evelyn Mora, HFW director, came backstage moved to tears and all of us who participated embraced and cried together. This year, since we could not be together due to the pandemic, inspired by the mood board we sent her, she conceptualized a runway under the sea, so that while watching we would feel submerged in an ocean of tears of happiness. 

So the “Space” collection was shown under the sea, and the poetry of the performance was further complemented by a special musical composition “Chill Space” created for the show by Madhu Van Paare, the excellent direction by NDA Paris produced by Soldats TV and exquisite styling by London based stylist Reena Lakhani.  

Look 1, “The Sculptor”

It might be interesting to note that “Look 1”, called “The Sculptor”, was dedicated to my dear art tutor, Croatian sculptor Tatjana Kostanjevic from Lovran. One of the items in the Look is a repurposed couture silk scarf that belonged to another sculptor, Rajka Mercep, who was based in Paris, created in the La Ruche artist’s residence in the 1930s, and whose work inspired me. Ms. Mercep’s scarf was a gift from a dear friend of mine. I kept it in my armoire and never dared to wear it, knowing its other special appearance was yet to come. “Look 1” appeared on the cover of the digital edition of VOGUE Italia, as well as in several other digital editions of Vogue (UK, Espana, Taiwan and India), as the look announcing Digital Village events. 

Look 1, “The Sculptor”

This year’s collection is dedicated to my lifelong friend and mentor in fashion, the late Goran Lelas, who is, among his other achievements, famous for his work in VOGUE Italia. I experienced the digital cover of the edition as a message from him. 

The entire digital collection will soon be available to be discovered in the upcoming Mandali Mendrilla Digital Village showroom. 

Love, Mandali

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