Sportswear for misfits: a graduation project
At school I was quite an outsider and was regularly bullied. The day I showed up at school with purple hair, a girl suddenly came up to me to say how cool she thought my hair was. It wasn’t long before she had blue hair. This was the first time I inspired someone not to think about what others will think, but to do what they like.
Even today I am often stared at or get commented on my appearance. I am now proud to say: I no longer care what others think or say about me. I only do what I like.
Just like Mathilde Willink, my source of inspiration and muse for the ‘fictional’ collection for the brand Australian. This collection is part of my graduation project for Academie Artemis and is called Matildelicious sports couture.
Living artwork Mathilde Willink
Mathilde Willink, a living work of art. Colorful make-up, unusual hairstyles and larger than life creations from Fong-Leng. Mathilde knew better than anyone what a living work of art should look like. In the early 1970s, this woman is the phenomenon of Amsterdam’s beau monde. And thanks to her early and mysterious death, her striking life takes on mythical forms.
Mathilde was born in Zeeland. Later she moved to Amsterdam and became the muse of the magical realist painter Carel Willink, who was 40 years older than her. Mathilde wanted nothing more than to be a mobile work of art and that did not always go down well with everyone. Mathilde and her husband Carel Willink transformed the Zeeland girl Mathilde into a phenomenon.
Mathilde’s appearance was very important to her, but it was more than just vanity. It was all about being completely herself. Mathilde once said: ‘I see it as a duty to make myself as beautiful as possible in order to be able to handle that beauty mentally and physically.’ What others thought of her did not bother her: ‘I live for beauty, but everyone can think I’m ugly. Mathilde didn’t really belong anywhere. She was misunderstood by many, a true outsider. She was a conscious creation. A true muse. A piece of art. Classic and futuristic. Timeless. She has inspired countless artists, just by being herself.
The brand Australian
The roots of the Australian brand lie in 1945 when the clothing company L’Alpina was founded by Lina Anna Maria Gabrielli. She quickly saw opportunities in the tennis world, which at the time was dominated by brands such as Fred Perry and Lacoste. Looking for a strong name, she chose Australian because the Australian tennis players were leading the rankings at the time. In the Netherlands, the brand that was originally intended for tennis quickly became popular with the gabber culture in the 90s. Especially when this youth culture was just emerging in the Netherlands, the gabbers were outsiders in the Dutch street scene. With their shaved heads, Nike Air Max and flashy Australian tracksuits, they really stood out among the Dutch uniformity.
Left: Illustration: Stephanie Willems. Right: Styling and clothingdesign: Stephanie Willems. Muah: Ineke Landman – van Braam. Photography: Renata Dutrée. Model: Ruben van Renen.
The collection I designed exists out of 9 different outfits. Each outfit represents an aspect of Mathilde’s life and thus tells an inspiring story for me about the art of being yourself.
Before I start designing a collection, I always do research. For this collection I have read, among other things, Mathilde’s biography, Mathilde. Muse, myth, mystery (2015) written by Lisette de Zoete. This book gave me a vivid picture of what Mathilde’s life must have been like.
I also read the (auto)biography of Fong-Leng Door Fong-Leng, because: who’s talking about Mathilde, is also talking about Fong-Leng. Mathilde was fond of Fong-Leng’s wearable works of art. Also interesting is the documentary Mathilde Willink – Superpoes (2002) that I watched (and on which I made notes). I contacted one of the makers of the documentary, Bastiaan van der Velden. Bastiaan told me about Mathilde with enthusiasm and passion and inspired me even more. I regularly presented my design process to him and we talked about Mathilde for hours.
For the collection concept it was also important to delve into the Australian brand. For this I visited The Australian Shop in Amsterdam and contacted Bobby Jacques (Australian collector). They could tell me a lot about the brand.
Pages with research on Mathilde. Combination of text from Lisette de Zoete’s book and images from various sources.
Sports and Mathilde?
The choice to design a sports collection inspired by Mathilde may sound a bit crazy. The choice was quickly made for me. I wanted to design something that would be wearable, but with a distinct look. Sports Couture therefore seemed an appropriate title for my collection. The collection is not for the gray mice among us. Whoever wears the pieces from the collection will certainly stand out and will also be able to sprint to catch the last train after going out. The collection is designed to be worn on multiple occasions.
The young individualist
I designed this collection for the mentality group ‘The Young Individualist’, who are part of The Millennials. This mentality group believes that every individual has the right to shape his own life, without others getting involved. Your own identity is important and this group wants to distinguish itself from the crowd. The Young Individualist proudly stands up for his views and beliefs and wears brands that share the same views. He or she is often seen as an outsider because he or she does not seem to fit anywhere due to their individuality.
A collection for Australian inspired by Mathilde Willink will appeal to this mentality group because Mathilde shared the same points of view and is the example of a unique individual. The brand Australian has always been worn by ‘misfits’, which means that the brand stays close to itself with this collection. The brand will once again put itself on the map through this collection with The Young Individualist as the mentality group.
Styling and clothingdesign: Stephanie Willems. Muah: Ineke Landman – van Braam. Photography: Renata Dutrée. Models: Tamara Vlajic, Viv Puype, Davy Jongkind en Dizencio Hung Tung Cheung.
Dare to be yourself
Many people thought Mathilde was playing an act. After my research, I think the opposite is true. Mathilde was just herself in all her crazy ways. Mathilde always only did what she liked. I think this is a wise lesson for everyone. Dare (just like Mathilde) to be yourself, relentlessly, because there are already so many others.
Dear misfits, this collection is for you!