Originally published in the January, 2014 issue of Juxtapoz, availabe here.
Matija Cop’s designs inspire instant intrigue. What are they made of? Who is the mastermind behind these unbelievable shapes? We tracked down the young Croatian designer, who is not only inspired by throwback futuristic films, but also by literature and architecture. Reminiscent of exoskeletons mixed with futuristic Elizabethan regalia, there is no line between art and fashion in his designs. They are one and the same.
Kristin Farr: How did you get into fashion design?
Matija Cop: Quite spontaneously. I studied at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb, but realized that I couldn’t express myself completely, so I decided to enroll in fashion design. I see now that it was a good move for me, but I’m glad I got to experience a different approach to humanity. I now use theory as a starting point for my concepts, and then I translate it into the visual language of fashion design.
Tell me about life in Croatia.
It’s interesting because we are a country in transition. Until 1990, we were part of Yugoslavia and socialism. People who are living in socialism are still alive, and they are a little bit stuck in their own confused thoughts that are then implemented in society. As we are a young, independent country, I think younger people have the opportunity to create and express themselves in a more subversive way. That’s why we have a lot of subversive, queer and contemporary performance artists and designers who are somehow fighting against that socialistic state of mind. Political structure and economy is also in transition, trying to develop in a more profitable, capitalistic way.
The best part of Croatia is probably the coastline and islands, which are incredible and possibly some of the best spots in the Mediterranean—really authentic and wild, in a way. You’ve maybe heard about Dubrovnik or Hvar as some of most beautiful parts of our coastline. The whole coast and islands are antique, as we were part of the Greek and Roman empires. My piece, Object 12-1, is actually inspired by the cathedral of St. James in Sibenik.
What are some other non-fashion objects or interests that inspire you?
I often draw from texts—literary texts or works on fashion theory. However, it’s pictures that influence me most—motion pictures, at that, whether contemporary or classic, Blade Runner or Satyricon. Of course there is also photography and painting, depending on the project I’m working on. Lately I’ve been drawing from performance art, which treats the body quite similarly to fashion. It places the form in different contexts and actually communicates with the audience through the body itself.
What type of person do you envision wearing your designs?
I don’t dwell on that at this stage of creating. I think my pieces are quite open and can interpret various identities, accommodating someone who wants to draw attention to themselves, or someone who wants to hide behind the structure of the garment. It’s important for me that the wearer of the garment really does want to wear it—and by wanting it, expresses themselves within the piece.
What kind of unusual materials do you work with?
So far, in my collections, I’ve worked with various high-tech materials, mostly because of the experimental nature. I experiment with the form and the very idea of the fashion garment. Among the materials I’ve used is the polyester 3D air mesh fabric, which is used in the car and sports industry as the base material, as well as a fabric softener. For the project Object 12-1, I used ethylene-vinyl acetate, a completely technical material widely used in various fields like medicine, pharmaceutics and the food industry. I reshaped the material by cutting it with a laser to make it accommodate the needs of fashion design.
How do you search for materials?
I don’t have a unique method. It depends on the requirements of the project I’m working on. I visit shops that don’t usually carry textile materials, and I always find something interesting. More often than not, I do additional work on the material I find using various techniques, from laser cutting to traditional weaving.
How has your work evolved since you’ve been in grad school?
The work has evolved on all levels, from the materials to the techniques I use. But the biggest change is certainly in the way I think about fashion; what it is and how I see it. That’s the first phase in the working process, pinning the concept, which varies greatly from my first collection to my latest collections.
What are your biggest influences?
The biggest influence in my work is my humanities education. It’s made me approach subjects in an interdisciplinary manner, so I don’t concern myself with categories and boundaries. That affects my choice of the subject, material, and the very manner of presenting a project wherein I don’t limit myself to fashion categories.
Is your goal to create designs that have never been seen before?
That is not my primary goal, no. My intent is to create something visually powerful that can communicate with people, something that can instigate in people the need to communicate solely with just that—the object. I also come across a lot of problems with the subject itself, which I approach quite specifically—I make the subject subordinate to the concept. It is because of this that it’s possible to find solutions that look like they had never been made before. But I think this mostly happens because I revolve exclusively around my own opinions.
Who are some creative people whose work inspires you?
For each project, there are new people, works and disciplines. At each moment of involvement in a new project, I’m immersed in the works of performance artists and abstract art, as well as the works of Virginia Woolf. At first glance, it’s probably difficult to connect that to some of my previous projects, but that’s one of my goals as well—to be a completely different person in each of my projects.
What music would best accompany a show of your work?
It would probably be some piece of classical music interpreted in a new way, a complex mix that conveys something completely new. I love to juxtapose seemingly opposing sensibilities and expressions.
What’s your favorite outfit?
I actually feel the most comfortable with the least clothes on me as possible when I’m at home, unconcerned about what I’m wearing. Perhaps it is because fashion occupies my mind completely, and to keep a balance, I sometimes need to get rid of it completely.
For more information about Matija Cop, visit notjustalabel.com