Last Thursday, we launched an exciting new collaboration between award winning textile designer Mae Engelgeer and playful interior brand FEST Amsterdam. We visited Mae in her beautiful studio in Amsterdam and sat down to talk about the new collection, her approach to design and what developments to expect from the textile industry.
Hi Mae! What are you working on at the moment?
Hi! I am currently working on Transitions III, a project initiated by Baars & Bloemhoff. They have an amazing showroom full of sheet material that architects can go to for inspiration. They asked me, together with six other designers, to take the sheet material completely out of the box. This project is very interesting, because it challenges me to work with materials other than textile.
You graduated with a fashion collection back in 2004. What made you shift from fashion to textile?
I always noticed that the shape of a garment was never as important to me. In my graduation collection, I experimented with screenprinting on leather, made knitted pants and did a lot of handcrafting. So, you can imagine that the tactile aspect of the collection was very interesting!
We can still very much recognize your fashion background in the way you present projects through, for example, photography.
I try to, yes! I do find the conceptual and visual presentation of my work very important. My background in fashion made me very aware of how to look at images and how to keep the aesthetic of my designs relevant.
How important is research when working with textile?
The technical aspect is important, but I do not necessarily approach my designs from a technical point of view. Instead, I tend to start with a creative idea or concept and work from there onwards. I believe that if you focus too much on technique, you tend to make creative decisions based on what is possible and what is not. I would hate to limit myself in that way, because there are so many different possibilities to create.
What are the challenges?
I think it is important to always aim for a product that is refreshing, but still practical to use. I’d love to make a knit that is very loosely woven, but I do not use this technique often because people might get stuck in the material. I think it is extremely important to not fixate yourself on one idea too much. There is so much beauty in letting an idea evolve through experimentation and process.
How did the ‘CRUSH collection’ with FEST Amsterdam came to be?
I think both Femke (founder of FEST Amsterdam) and me recognized ourselves in each other. She is working very hard to create a conceptual world with playful and lighthearted designs. I think I try to do the same. I find it super exciting to design for a brand that is accessible, without needing to compromise in my aesthetic.
Why the name CRUSH? What does it represent?
I usually start a conceptual idea with a word or name. I like CRUSH, because it communicates a certain playfulness that I feel Femke and I both share in our designs. Furthermore, CRUSH also represents our instant click and the ‘crush’ we have on each others style!
What inspires you?
When I was studying, my style used to be a lot more girly and almost baroque like. Looking back on it now, this was actually very much what was going at that moment. As time passed, I developed a natural sense for more graphic, clean and zoomed-in images. I get my inspiration from what I see around me, so I tend to get inspired by architecture. I think it is important to stay in touch with what is going on around you and to draw inspiration from that.
Are there any interesting developments we need to keep an eye on when thinking about the textile industry?
I feel that textile is on a rise again. We see wall carpets coming back into style and we are becoming more open to the softness of textile. Of course, craftsmanship is continuing to be very important and there are a lot of innovating techniques used to create refreshing textiles. On the other hand, there are massive technological developments that are influencing the way we design textiles such as 3D printing and knitting. I would love to do a collaboration where these innovative techniques are used. However, I do feel that my role in such a collaboration should be on the creative side.
Knowing your strengths in any creative field is one of the most important things, isn’t it?
Exactly. Collaboration is very important, but knowing what you are good at and what you love to do is quite essential. I am soon going to collaborate with a weaving mill in Kyoto, where they are combining pioneering 3D effects with very traditional techniques. For me, working on these projects is super valuable, because I learn a lot from it. In return, I provide them with my creative vision. Collaboration is definitely one of the most fun aspects of being a textile designer.