Letters from the sea in the latest Freak Factory collection ‘love. popeye’
Love, lust and passion are often themes in designers’ collections. But Popeye the sailorman? Let’s be honest, you don’t often see the spinach-guzzling cartoon character jigging down the catwalk very often. So why Popeye? Why in love? And with whom? We speak to Jeva Bartuseviciute: Creative Director of the emerging Lithuanian womenswear label Freak Factory, to find out the answers.
KGW: Your Spring / Summer 13 collection is called ‘love. popeye’. Who inspired you to develop a collection based on love and a pipe-toting animated sailor?
Jeva Bartuseviciute (JB): In general, pop-culture plays an important part in my work. I believe that fashion, just like pop-culture, should be accessible, not too serious and playful. It just so happened that while I was working on the current collection, everything I touched seemed to conjure up deep feminine emotions of love and Venus – so I wanted to counter it with the lightness and humour of the masculine caricature of Popeye the Sailorman.
KGW: Tell us a little bit more about the collection: the silhouettes, print techniques, colour palette and materials?
JB: The main theme of the S/S 13 collection features Popeye the Sailor, who is madly in love with Venus. Not the innocent goddess Venus we know from Botticelli paintings, but her dark, erotic side – born from the deepest depths of the ocean. This duality in the collection is embodied by carefully selected materials. Nautical, white and blue stripes symbolise the playfulness of Popeye, which contrast with the black, rough terry cloth and silicon-coated fabrics of the emotionally dark and uncontrollable Venus.
Through our signature patterns, inspired by pop culture and Japanese wood-carvings, we’ve unlocked and illustrated the essence of her femininity – cheerful and sophisticated on the outside, and emotional and often dark inside.
KGW: What type of woman do you see wearing this collection?
JB: I always design my collections for the same woman. She is just like myself and my closest girl-friends. I call them ‘my girls’. We are grown-ups with colourful personalities, but still don’t want to give up our wild lifestyles.
KGW: It’s the first time that we see handbags as part of your presented collection. Have you decided to break into the accessories fashion field?
JB: I wouldn’t say that we’ve started an accessories line just yet. Each year we tend to design a few accessories to finish the look of a collection. Sometimes we design bags and sometimes fashion jewellery or even shoes. Often these items are only used at photo shoots and sometimes they go on sale. At the moment I don’t have enough time to create a whole line dedicated to accessories, but am very pleased that this year we have created a few simple, beautiful and comfortable bags to enrich our work.
KGW: Which garments and accessories of the collection will you be wearing this season?
JB: We don’t just love designing Freak Factory clothes – we love wearing them too. The entire team that works on the label can’t wait to be the first to try them on and show them off to their friends and family! My first choice this season is a short mantle top. It’s made from soft terry cloth fabric and it’s not only comfortable, but also comes finished with an unexpected detailing – a short mantle at the back, which reminds me of a classic super hero costume. I also cannot imagine a day without our XL canvas bag. Thanks to the size, it becomes not only a part of an overall look, but a separate garment you can ‘dress-up’ with.
KGW: Tell us more about your career in fashion. Why did you decide to work in this industry?
JB: I was born in an industrial town of Siauliai, in Lithuania. Due to my multicultural background, I spent my early years both in Russia and Lithuania. When I graduated in Literature, I decided to take a student exchange program with Zürich University to study design in Zürich. After finishing the foundation course in art and design (Zürich), I was accepted into the textile design course. But after my practice year in New York, I decided that fashion interested me the most. And here I am today.
KGW: And why have you decided to call your label Freak Factory? What do you call ‘Freakish’ in your own work?
JB: It would be correct to say it’s not ‘freakish design’, but design for ‘freaks’. The idea with our label was to give a new meaning to this slightly negative word. Freak Factory is my second label, which I started as an experienced designer in 2008. The aim was to create a unique, ‘slow fashion’ category, designing clothes that are desirable, wearable and comfortable, but still bespoke.
From a design point-of-view Freak Factory’s silhouettes are special. I usually ignore fashion trends, as they don’t express my ideas. Instead I use the latest innovations of garment cutting and aim to develop clothes that one day will become a new classic. After all, to me, intelligent fashion stands for quality and timeless pieces.
KGW: Most of your collections are inspired by literature characters? What lies behind such inspirations?
JB: Literary characters in my collections play a very important role. They are our means to tell a story of each collection to the public. I tend to choose various subjects who, together with a collection itself, evolve, change and grow to become real personalities. For example Popeye. He went through the entire transformation from a drawn sailor in an old cartoon to a new, real character we have featured in our advertising campaign.
KGW: How about your Lithuanian roots? Do you feel that your background influences your work?
JB: Going back to being of Eastern European origin, I am half Lithuanian and half Russian. In both these countries emancipation didn’t play such an important role as the West. Even today, some women don’t understand why they should be equal to men and wonder why women would want to burn their bras just to prove that they have a strong personality! However, I believe in the maxim that behind every powerful man stands a powerful woman. Just like in a chess game, the most powerful figure is Queen!
I design for women in Lithuania and the world who don’t deny who they are. A Freak Factory woman uses her femininity as a strength, not a weakness. I love working with a woman’s body to highlight its complexity and perfection. To me, it’s a celebration of the power of femininity in my work.
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