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Hyères Winner: Alexandra Verschueren

Antwerp Academy graduate Verschueren, who interned with Proenza Schouler and Derek Lam, goes solo after winning the prestigious Hyères prize

Since her graduation in 2009 from the Antwerp Academy, Alexandra Verschueren has become one of the most talked about names in fashion. After interning for Proenza Schouler and Derek Lam in New York, Alexandra found out that she was selected for Hyeres Festival and came back to her hometown of Antwerp to remake her entire grad collection by adjusting and remeasuring patterns. All her effort have paid off since went on to pick up the Grand Prix du Jury, L’Oreal Professionnel, Hyères. Dazed Spoke to the winner...

Dazed Digital: How you describe your personal style?
Alexandra Verschueren: I don't know if I can really describe my style yet as I am still searching and trying to evolve. The main focus and starting point is definitely the concept, techniques and materials I use. For every collection I try reworking classic garments, such as blazers, parkas and jean jackets. Being able to combine more experimental techniques and textures into basic classical garments is what makes clothing truly beautiful to me, without losing the sense of authenticity.

DD: Dreams, plans for the future?
Alexandra Verschueren: I think I will definitely take a step back to re-evaluate my next steps from there. I only want to start up something on my own if I'm sure I can contribute to fashion. I hope fashion regains its initial pace, and becomes a bit slower again, showing respect for the métier, and for the garment, rather than just consuming all the time. Ideally I would like to work for an interesting brand, and on the side work on my own projects as I will be presenting my next collection year at the Hyeres festival again.

DD: What does it mean for you to win Hyeres?
Alexandra Verschueren: It really is the greatest of honours. I have dreamt of participating for a long time but being able to participate and then win is something I never would have imagined happening. It feels like I'm still dreaming in a way. The festival itself was a great experience, and something I will never forget. All the effort Jean-Pierre Blanc, and Maida Gregori-Boina, amongst others, put into the festival is unbelievable.

DD: Best compliment ever?
Alexandra Verschueren: Probably winning Hyeres, people believing in my work. It really gives a great boost. Especially as I don't tend to even introduce myself as a designer. I still think I have a lot to prove, but maybe now I can start thinking of myself as a 'real' designer?

DD: Tell us more about the fabrics and treatments you used?
Alexandra Verschueren: I actually only used fabrics, like felted wool (with polyester), cottons that I starched and strengthened with fusing and tyvek. I really tried treating the fabric, as if it would be real paper, by manually pleating, folding, cutting the fabric and drawing on it.

DD: Who and what are the artists and things that inspired you to make the collection?
Alexandra Verschueren: The collection came to life after seeing the work of German artist Thomas Demand. He recreates objects out of everyday life into paper (like kitchens, empty offices, elevators) and then photographs them. As a viewer you see the picture and realise something is off, but only after close inspection you realise it's fake. It’s not a vacuum cleaner you're looking at; it is a recreation of a vacuum cleaner. He really plays with your interpretation of reality. And I like the fact that paper is used in this case, as a strong medium to lay bare the artificiality of everyday life. Also as a designer, you're confronted with paper all the time, you use it to note down your ideas, you sketch on it, you make and cut your patterns out of it. So I started thinking about how I could translate and push the idea of paper into the garments. Obviously the treatment of the fabric played a crucial role. I applied folding techniques found in Japanese origami architecture to the garments, and paper also allowed me to do all kinds of prints, like blots of ink on blotting paper, the crude first strokes in children's drawings, and the blue lines of notebooks.