bless enjoy 20 years as darlings of the avant garde
Design house BLESS have always gone their own way: they don't believe in having wardrobes full of clothes, and claim to not really be very interested in fashion anymore.
Bless' original ad in i-D
BLESS has always existed somewhere beyond explanation. They make clothes but feel it's not hip to dress up, they produce pieces that are basic but also totally confusing, and declare they're uninterested in fashion while being the darling of the avant-garde scene. Over the years they've never been swayed by trends or economic pressures, but despite their indifference to the fashion world they continue to be two of the most exciting artists working today.
Matthew Linde from Melbourne's Centre for Style caught up with Ines Kaag and Desiree Heiss in Berlin, and spoke to Ines about their past and their feelings towards being reluctant cult figures.
You, of course, started by taking out an advert in i-D for your Bless N°00 hats which caught Margiela's attention and they were used in the Autumn/Winter 1997/98 collection. How closely you were involved with the Margiela team?
We had an extra room without any windows and manufactured there the 30 wigs that they commissioned. We met Lutz, who was back then Martin's first assistant and with whom we are still good friends. Also it was very interesting to work with Margiela himself. Already knowing how he looked felt privileged, but also hearing his points on many things and seeing his way of working was very interesting.
You're doing something quite different in producing your next body of work. Can you explain your next strategy in relation to selling and dealing with personal clients and stockist orders?
Wholesale and private clients are welcome to submit wishes and we are trying to fulfil them. At the same time we are keeping up with producing our egoistically driven clothing line, mainly containing basic styles for a basic life for ourselves, our clients, family, friends, and all who do not try to avoid getting older with us.
I personally often find myself discussing your N° 32 Frustverderber work and its football presentation. Can you talk a little about this particular collection?
We have nothing to say of the collection in particular, apart from the fact that we still very much like the title. The intention of the football game was to make all our model friends somehow move, each one according to their own sportive or unsportiveness. Therefore we had comfortable seats in one goal for those who would like to take a rest and would then occupy with joint forces of the goalkeeper. That goal was also filled with things that could break easily like a vase with flower. While in the other goal was a very sportive goalkeeper by herself. Also some players were high heeled.
Can you reflect on the narrative between BLESS and Purple and how your relationship began?
In fact there was never a close relationship as compared to the makers of Self-Service magazine. Suzanne Koller and Ezra Petronio were Desiree's first friends and mentors here in Paris. Over time both the magazine and BLESS developed in different directions and nowadays we feel quite close to the idea of Elein Fleiss to quit the system and looking for another way to stay connected at the same time.
Early this year I met up with Susan Cianciolo in her studio in New York and we talked about her history as a designer and the experimental scenes she was involved with. Do you see this vein of experimentation with fashion existing prominently today or is it still marginalised within the industry?
It´s difficult for us to say as we are not so much interested any more in fashion as such or lets put it in other words: we find it currently rather out-dated and unhip to dress up as hell and show off clothes. Instead we prefer a very masculine, comfortable, rather formal style that is characterized mainly through a high standard of quality and a sporty comfortableness at the same time. And this kind of basic all day life wardrobe mixed-up with the surprising accessories that are still able to cheer up the all day routine and the "seen before" factor.
In Melbourne (and now grown to Australia at large) there is currently a wave of Facebook groups where peers resell, recycle, and request designer clothes from each other. It has created frenzy for particular designers like Jacquemus who are otherwise difficult to get. Bless are also frequently featured. How do you feel about your work functioning in this extremely desired territory?
We feel flattered and touched that our own taste seems to be valuable also for other people. But in general sharing clothes makes only sense for people who desire a large wardrobe and change a lot their clothes. We and the usual BLESS customer that grows up with us is rather the type of having only few, but very valuable items that meet precisely their personal needs and that are worn until they unfortunately fall apart. Our very dear friend and collector of BLESS items, the artist Mark Brandenburg, once replied in an interview on the question how his ideal look would be like: my perfect look would be if I had to run to escape a fire in my house that I could just throw over myself whatever piece, knowing that any piece would look "top".
You have always expressed gender fluidity with your garments and presentations. How do you feel about gendered labels in fashion?
We don't care actually, as long as we simply can do what we want with our own clothes.
Text by Matthew Linde