It’s safe to say that most people would be content with excelling in only one vocation. But as a successful model, accomplished printmaker and visual artist and finally the creative director of menswear label Adriaan Kuiter, Jody Paulsen is clearly a cut above the most.
We sat down with him for a chat about his rise to success and the new Adriaan Kuiters SS16 collection, a sports-inspired affair incorporating grid-like graphics and motifs from the 70s.
You’re a visual artist by trade. Where did the love affair with fashion begin?
The love affair started, quite literally, in 2013 when I met Keith Henning the founder and designer of Adriaan Kuiters and we started dating! He wanted a shift in the brand in some way and was keen on introducing print. I had a degree in printmaking, was doing my masters at the time and was very interested in working in fashion.
So we came up with a thing where myself and artists Georgina Gratrix and Julia Rosa Clark each designed a print for a shirt. It went really well – at that point collaborations between artists and fashion designers was really novel, at least in Cape Town.
It worked out great and when it came time to design a summer collection, I was asked me to help start a ready-to-wear line for women, and somehow make a connection between the Adriaan Kuiters man and woman. We only ever intended to do one collection together but that collection just happened to sell really well and completely shifted the brand and now here we are four seasons later, with me as creative director!
What does your role as creative director involve?
Basically every season I put together a mood for the show. I usually come up with the prints first and then from there work on the silhouettes.
At its core, Adriaan Kuiters has always been quite minimalist, quite Scandinavian. Similarly your prints draw often on European influences. As an African brand, do you ever feel pressured to produce work more in line with what people may expect from the continent?
Well you know as a brand we really don’t want to abuse cultural heritage to sell clothes. We definitely are African – we live and design and draw inspiration from here but in a more subtle and contemporary way.
With the brand doing so well right now, it would be easy to assume that success has come easy. Which has been your most challenging collection and why?
My most challenging (and least favourite) collection would definitely have to be AW2015! It happened at a time when my gallerist decided to close the gallery and I had my first big panic after finishing school. Like shit, am I even going to be an artist?!
I also thought that nobody would be interested in signing me again and I was really depressed. And in this sort of panic, I basically just slapped my Warren Edition collages on T-shirts. My heart really wasn’t in it. I look at that collection and am so happy that it’s on sale and gone!
But it still sold! And the new SS16 is fantastic. Were you more inspired following that slump?
Totally! After making my first ‘bad’ collection I really got amped. I had a really strong vision for the summer collection which was about more than just the clothes.
We found out that Take Care, who we share retail space with on Kloof Street, were going to be pulling out of the space and made the decision to take over the whole thing entirely. So the collection was developed with that in mind. We’re also going to be relaunching next month as AKJP Collective. We are gonna be able to put our whole collection in the store along with some other designers, accessories, the works. So that’s happened this September!
The collection at MBCTFW felt like a real development of the brand, with a lot of facets of it on display.
Yeah. That show was an accumulation of a bunch of ideas I’d had for the brand for a long time since I’d joined. I’d always wanted to become confident enough with clothes and constructions so that I could start deconstructing them. So I worked with patterns from the first season (introducing lots of slits, asymmetrical lines and longer sleeves) and doing things like taking patterns for silk and using heavy wools instead –and the silhouettes were really amazing. So yeah, the show itself was divided into four parts.
The first part was monochromatic which was all about coming back to the minimalism that sits at the core of what the brand is really about. Then the second part of the show – I had always wanted to learn how to appliqué, so I went and got a fuckload of super cool gemstones and appliquéd those onto coats and shirts. The third part of the show is where I treated the clothes like my collages.
I think it’s been the most thorough collection we’ve done so far.
Taking old fabrics that had been lying in the studio for years and mixing them up and experimenting with various bonding techniques. And then of course the fourth half of the show was all prints. I think it’s been the most thorough collection we’ve done so far. From sandals to bags to everything – I was shocked we got it all done in time! The music was great too!
There was something kinda political about it, taking this high art genre and mixing it with 90s hip hop.
It was made in collaboration with James Webb. The whole inspiration for the entire collection was Lucinda Childs, this really amazing post-modern choreographer and dancer from the 70s. She did this seminal work in the 70s where she introduced the concept of minimalism into ballet. She was our muse. Google her work, it’s insane!
Basically, we took one of the scores from her ballet and mixed that in with ‘Simon says (get the fuck up)’. There was something kinda political about it, taking this high art genre and mixing it with 90s hip hop. A bit of sophistication, a bit of street – a juxtaposition that is evident in the collection, too. I really liked that contradiction!
Which other local brands are you excited about?
I would have to say PICHULIK. The brand has really progressed and is headed in such an exciting direction right now. Also the fashion designer Elaine du Plessis behind Drotsky – that girl can make a damn dress.
Check out adriaankuiters.com
You can find Jody on Instagram @jody_paulsen