four of our favourite fashion designers quiz jeff koons

Shiny, colourful, instant, addictive, linear, surface and fun! Life in plastic... it’s FANTASTIC!!! Especially if you happen to be Jeff Koons. We invited four fashion designers influenced and inspired by Jeff’s work to ask Jeff some questions of their...

by i-D Team and Adam Fletcher
15 October 2014, 3:05pm

Isabel Asha Penzlien

If he weren't a fashion designer, Gareth Pugh reckons he'd like to have designed Blimps, such is his fascination with the inflatable. A showstopper during London Fashion Week, Gareth's most celebrated pieces include a giant inflatable poodle dress inspired by the hologram poodle necklace given to him by his mother.

You're invisible for a day, what would you do?
I would probably go to a museum. I really enjoy being in museums it demands a lot of time where you can just focus in isolation.

Where's your favourite museum?
It's in New York... I love the Metropolitan.

How often do you get to visit?
Usually when I go to New York I'm with family, so I probably only visit the Metropolitan round about twice a year. I wish I had more time to visit.

Before I started to show at London Fashion Week I seriously considered a career in Blimp design. If you weren't doing what you are doing, what would you like to do?
Philosophy. When I was younger the only thing I prepared for was to be an artist. I learned how art functioned as this hub, and through art I could dabble in philosophy, psychology, sociology, physics and everything else, all the disciplines. That's what makes art really so wonderful. 

What song do you want played at your funeral and why?
I like the energy of Led Zeppelin's Bring It On Home. It's an old blues song, but their interpretation of it is really quite wonderful. I'm a Led Zeppelin fan.

If you could choose to do one thing before it's too late, what is it and why?
It's always to make the gesture that you really want to make. What people avoid most in life... is what they want to do the most. They place the most anxiety on that, because they hold it as a cherished thing. So it's really to make the gesture that I long to make.

Where did your obsession with balloons come from?
Probably from a child and from vacuum cleaners. I remember coming across these machines that were powerful and anthropomorphic. I like balloons because they're like people. You inflate them and they're like us in breathing, but in complete reversal because there's a density inside us and in a balloon it's just emptiness and air. The density's on the outside.

What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Granola and fruit with mixed berries.

Are you healthy living?
I'm not obsessive about it, but I like to watch what I eat. 

A self-proclaimed aesthetic terrorist, Walter Van Beirendonck is knee deep in cartoon culture and colour. His latest collection is named after sexual slogans such as Fuck Face, Dick Head and Super Cum. A huge fan of Jeff's work, his references point towards the days of Cicciolina, where Jeff appointed himself as artist, model and muse.

Children and toys are an important source of inspiration for your work. Why?
Because they reference the every day, there's no good and bad, there's acceptance of everything, and everything's in play. When you're younger you enjoy things just for what they are. You enjoy the colour blue... red... orange. But then over time education comes in, then you care how high quality things are or the way things should be looked at. Children are given much more freedom than that. So it's to maintain that innocence, visually. 

Do you collect toys?
I buy my children a lot of toys. So there's source material all around. The heads in Triple Hulk 2 come from one of my children's toys. I always try to use everything around me, I try to always keep in mind that everything is in play... everything is useful.

What's been your favourite artwork by another artist?
I really enjoy the whole vocabulary of art, so if I had to choose one I would say the Venus Of Willendorf (a stone statuette dating back to 1908), because it references history, there is a sense of mystery. If you think of a string of popcorn, with each artist being part of that string, I would say the Venus Of Willendorf is like the big bang. 

Have you ever been on the moon, and could the moon be a holiday destination for you?
I like to think, I like to daydream and I always like to try to feel very relaxed, and calm. I always try to remove anxiety, but my holiday is always really in the studio. So maybe that's a No. 

Who is your current muse?
I'd have to say my wife. 

Have you ever been to Antwerp, I'd love to see your puppy in my city?
I've been to Antwerp, yeah I enjoyed Antwerp a lot. I visited the docks there. They played an important role in a new piece I've designed called Train, which involves a giant train hanging from the ceiling, facing the ground. 

Known for his witty irreverent take on fashion, German born Bernhard Willhelm has long stitched colour, food, slogans and landscapes through his collections. The most infamous was his dayglo dinosaur collection where the clothes were so pop, silly and fun, you couldn't help but smile, just like when you see one of Jeff's artworks. 

Could you give a million dollars to someone and ask for nothing back?
I really believe in generosity, art has to come from a generous position. If somebody is not being generous that's truly cynicism. So I've never felt any involvement with that. Could I give somebody a million dollars without something back? I hope that I've done that, or at least I've tried to give the best work that I can. It hasn't been about giving money, but hopefully it's been about giving something. I really give everything I have to my work. What does the term 'gentleman' mean to you? Somebody that has respect for other people. They see others as equal to themselves. 

Have you ever considered hair extensions?

Any regrets?
My only regret would be that when you're younger you don't realise what you have. I always thought I was aware of the opportunities around me. It's wonderful to take advantage of the opportunity of time. I didn't have time work in my favour. When I say work in my favour, I mean I didn't buy townhouses or do things like that when time was on my side as far as economics go. I learned later in life how important education was. As soon as I started to feel a sense of enlightenment I've always tried to participate in it. 

What are you going to do next?
New work. It's a process that I love. I never try to sit down and address it in an analytical manner. I've been creating these sculptures that go alongside this series of paintings. I've designed a lot of them, but I'll be taking that to completion and adding to the vocabulary. 

Like Jeff Koons, Jeremy Scott champions Middle America and all things trashy, garish and fabulous. Jeremy's designs include pink Cadillac and jukebox dresses, French fries and hamburger knits and like Jeff, Jeremy has his own marble bust proudly on display in his home. 

Did your parents bronze your baby shoes?
They did, but I don't know where they are. They were lost. 

Could this be where your obsession with shiny things started?
I don't think it started there, I remember my mother used to have trophies in our house from horse riding shows she'd won. They were more shiny than the bronzed shoes. But the reason I like shiny things comes from my background growing up in Pennsylvania. People out there put mercury balls in their yards, which are reflective glass balls, and they sit them on bird baths. My rabbit was always a reference to that.

What are they called?
They're yard decorations. It's a form of yard sculpture. My rabbit makes reference to that, it makes reference to many other things, but definitely that sense of place.

When is a pipe not really a pipe?
When it doesn't function. When it is made to look like something but doesn't have the ability to function. I'm making some new cannon pieces. Some of them are toys so they don't function. But then I'm making some authentic reproductions, from Civil War cannons, and they function.

What are they going to shoot?
Cannonballs. I'm making mortars that shoot cannonballs.

Duchamp or Warhol, who would win in a wrestling match?
Duchamp. We come from Duchamp and have all been involved with the development of what objective art can be.

Do you fantasize about Paris Hilton? What is your view on celebrity culture?
I don't really fantasise about Paris at all. I find celebrity culture amazing. It shows our weaknesses. If something is repeated or displayed automatically it takes on a sense of significance, whether it has any significance in our life or not. But just through that repetition it takes on significance. 

Are you tired of people asking if your work is second degree?
I generally always take for granted that my work is first degree.


Text Ben Reardon
Photography Isabel Asha Penzlien
[Originally published in i-D No. 281, The World Wide Web Issue]

New York
Led Zeppelin
Jeremy Scott
Isabel Asha Penzlien
Jeff Koons
Gareth Pugh
bernhard willhelm
Walter Van Beirendonck
ben reardon