For her graduate presentation at the Fashion department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, designer Manon Kündig looked to the peculiar Bowerbird for inspiration. This animal, found in the tropical areas of New Guinea and Northern Australia, amasses colorful scraps in large quantities, building a “bower” structure to attract female prospects. Probing ideas of masculinity and sex appeal, Kündig mashed up visual inspirations from across the world for an eerily poetic collection that draws from subcultures, Google and the Moroccan immigrants in her neighborhood. Layers of intricately printed silk contrast with sequined pants, beaded faux fur, synthetic fringes, lace mittens and socks and silk scarves covering the models’ faces entirely. The shock of bright colors, textures and prints create a wild cacophony. The collection was born from Kündig’s everlasting fascination with transforming ugliness into pure beauty.
Manon Kündig | BOWERBIRD | AFD Fashion Show 2012
A protégée of Walter Van Beirendonck, a professor at the academy who relentlessly provokes with his whimsical and politically charged fashion, Manon Kündig won prizes from the Mode Museum, Dries Van Noten and the Ra concept store for this graduate collection. Just like Antwerp alumni Ann Demeulemeester, Raf Simons and Haider Ackermann, she combines a powerfully personal aesthetic with sharp technical mastership for her imaginative menswear. “I’m not interested in fashion,” says Kündig in her timid voice.
“I like to look at the human body and work around it but I’m not interested in trends. The body has a lot of difficulties around it, and when you have so many rules it’s a challenge to be creative. It’s not like free art — there are restrictions.”
Kündig says she grew up unaware of fashion but learned to sew at a very strict Swiss school and decided to further her technical know-how in Antwerp. There, she focused on creating prints, inventing a technique that allows her to create marbling on silk using the steps usually taken for books. She also built sculptural shapes in synthetic materials such as the latex balloons transforming the male models’ bodies for her “Blow Job” collection. For the Teddy Beard collection, she covered the models with layers of knits, creating furry catsuits for men. And for Bowerbird, she crafted an endless number of printed silk scarves, reinventing the Hermes classics with images of anuses, potatoes shaped like bent penises or low-definition digital images of flowers or fruits, tinted in violent tones.
The grotesque, subcultures and fetishism, Kündig’s main obsessions, are also at the center of Walter Van Beirendonck’s work. Looking at S&M, athletic, raver and military uniforms, among others, the legendary designer transforms the male body into a potent and eroticized channel that constantly reflected the changing currents in society. But while Kündig says she is Van Beirendock’s “baby,” her approach is much less political, rather informed by the rapid waves of information emanating from cyber cultures. Ultimately, her voracious processing of digital images and perversion of the body allows her to threaten the fashion system from within, combining technical prowess with a striking vision.
MANON KÜNDIG – BOWERBIRD COLLECTION
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