Cat On The Wall is a cultural webzine and as such we try to feature artists we feel are bringing valuable contribution to culture. Fashion is a cultural field we’ve always wanted to exhibit in our pages and we are lucky to have Verena from Coco Career talking to Jo Whitby about her Coco Career Boutique, her design work and getting her inspiration from art and life…
COTW: First of all, a very Happy New Year to you! How did 2008 treat you?
Thank you, Jo, Happy New Year to you, too! 2008 was an exciting year for me – I had the opportunity to travel much, develop and show my artwork internationally, see Coco Career’s Boutique grow rapidly and receive a lot of positive feedback in fashion blogs, press and from customers, and I met inspiring people and made new friends through my journeys.
COTW: It’s a pretty standard question but it must be asked… how did Coco Career come about?
CC: I have always had a keen interest in and appreciation of aesthetics, having had the privilege of growing up in beautiful houses with incredibly stylish interiors, art and furniture – I was surrounded by beautiful design and clothes, my mother’s dressing room had hundreds of pairs of designer shoes and we were always travelling around the world! I attended Boarding School in the South of England, I then studied Fine Art at Chelsea College Of Art in London and University Of The Arts in Berlin. I always looked for unique designs to wear, the idea of a boutique as hybrid interdisciplinary platform for fashion, music, art and design originated then. After my graduation I worked for an online vintage boutique for a while, whose brand-image I developed and realised. I also brought the idea of selling vintage in combination with new independent designers to the shop – after a year of hard work however, I felt it would be more rewarding to start my own online boutique. Coco Career’s Boutique was born!
COTW: The Coco Career website features lots of very interesting and unique designers. What do you look for when deciding to work with a designer?
CC: I will often get drawn into someone’s work and the little parallel universe they create by their presentation and photography firstly, it creates a context and opens up a world of references- I look for interesting designers who convince with their fresh ideas and innovative take on fashion. I am interested in the designers’ backgrounds also, their influences and history besides their aesthetics. I like to represent designers who are not yet considered established but not too unknown either – it is very exciting to see each designer grow and evolve in their creations with each new collection, and participate in their experience of being discovered by press and gaining critical acclaim. It almost makes you feel as if you discovered a new talent. It’s great! The whole process is also quite intuitive – I think all the designers I choose have a bright future ahead.
COTW: How important is it for you to remain independent? Would you ever consider working with high street brands?
Yes, I would like Coco Career to remain independent. I am not that interested in having a huge range of goods available, I would rather like to be regarded as a curator of fashion than a buyer. Coco Career is about making a difference for a niche market of people who would like to wear something a little more edgy and fun, who support independent fashion and look beyond the high-street to express aspects of their personality and style with fashion. I like to think of Coco Career’s Boutique as a gallery almost, with curated pieces and shows. Fashion has to do with concepts and ideas, the way we look at the world, shape our surroundings to match our internal worlds and notions of what is important, with a sense of Zeitgeist. I consider the value of our items to be in their originality. Most of our designer-items are hand-made, in some cases it is possible to commission custom-made clothes. I am careful to insure the fabrics are of superior quality and that the clothes are equally well tailored – a lot of research and care is going into all the designers’ creations, some of which are one-offs/unica. If you purchase a garment from a high-street shop you might be able to get a designer look by-proxy for a relatively low price, but you will always find other people wearing the same clothes and there seems to be a notion of a careless throwaway culture- often the clothes are of inferior quality, degrade and look dated quickly, not to mention the issue of ethical aspects with regards to how and where the clothes were produced… I tend to think you treasure designer pieces more and you can wear them longer. I consider some pieces we have in Coco Career’s Boutique as wearable art rather than just fashion!
COTW: You’ve created designs for Robots In Disguise! How did you get involved with the RiD girls?
They have been friends of mine for a long time. I started working with Sue Denim when I prepared my graduation exhibition. Sue has modelled for my photography and collages since and can be seen in a lot of my artwork and in my books. One afternoon after I shot a video of her on the Peacock Island in Berlin to show in an art exhibition we were on a train and started to have many other ideas how to combine my art and skills with Robots in Disguise’s work and ideology. The first T-shirt design was created shortly after that and it is still being sold at their gigs today.
COTW: What advice could you offer to a young person wishing to enter into the fashion design world?
CC: I think it is a tough business with a lot of competition if you want to have your own label. Try to create something special and different to everybody else, take risks, and don’t ever give up, work hard, stay positive and believe in your work and yourself!
COTW: You seem to be very passionate about artist creation in it’s many forms! Where does your inspiration come from? Do you have a medium that you prefer?
CC: Whilst studying at Chelsea College of Art I researched genetic engineering and cloning as part of my practice. I began creating virtual landscapes in a vivid palette imagining alternate environments set in a dystopian future, which led me to producing collages depicting surreal landscapes and animal hybrids evoking sci-fi fairy tales in the form of digitally manipulated photographs, video, animation and drawings. Besides finding inspiration in various media such as Eastern European fairy tales, art-house and avant-garde film, fashion photography, literature, kitsch-aesthetics, children’s books and animals, I am inspired by contemporary artists such as Pipilotti Rist, Georgina Starr and Miranda July – and music of course! I love videos, animation and installation art as they allow you to express ideas by working in an interdisciplinary artistic activity.
COTW: Finally, what are your hopes and aspirations for 2009?
2009 has already started as an exciting and creative year for myself and hopefully it will continue to be that way. It’s only January, I have two art exhibitions to prepare for until May – one in Rome, the second in London’s Tatty Divine- as well as managing and promoting Coco Career’s Boutique. I wish all the best to everyone I represent in Coco Career’s Boutique and hope the economical crisis won’t effect any of us too much (yes, we can!) – thank you so much for your interest! Now don’t forget to peep into Coco Career’s Boutique, and have a look at my art-website and youtube-channel! And myspace of course! 😉
Interview by Jo Whitby