The history of hand-woven carpet can be dated back to thousands of years ago. It began with nomads who used natural dye to give their woven carpets colors that got more and more beautiful after being used. The patterns and intricate designs on the carpets are all records of the history and anecdotes of the time they were made. The textile designer Christoph Hefti was utterly enchanted by the beauty of carpet, therefore, since a couple of years ago, he has worked less on fashion-related jobs to spend more time learning the traditional skill of weaving rugs. That brought him to Nepal, where he began the journey of weaving his playfully bizarre ideas into colorful and free form patterns that tell fascinating and magical stories.
“Some would interpret my work as an art project; to me, they are simply part of the interior design. Some would appreciate my rugs. So they would bring them home to make the space more interesting.” Collaborating with the renowned interior designer Gert Voodans, Hefti transformed the fashion store JOYCE into a distanced realm. Right next to this season’s fashion items are carpets and fabrics depicting volcanic eruption, exotic animals and plants, as well as masks from around the world. The stories they are telling are mysterious and imaginative. At first glance, they may not be related to fashion, but the grotesque setup is in a way in harmony with the clothes on display.
Q：可以分享今次在JOYCE舉行《The Paint We Wear》展覽的內容嗎？
Q: Can you tell us something about your The Paint We Wear exhibition at JOYCE?
A: This time, I will showcase the carpet I made in Nepal and Colombia, as well as the printed fabrics I made in France, Italy and other places. In this collection, there are mask-themed rugs I made in collaboration with Nepalese artisans. We collected patterns of mask and totem from traditions and tribes around the world including Mexico and Africa, we recreated these patterns with silk, wool, and other materials. The texture of the rugs is at the same time smooth, rough and fluffy. The irregular shape and collage simply give the work a playful look.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
A: Nature is my greatest inspiration; sometimes I also get inspired by the experience I have when traveling, for instance, I am showing a rug inspired by my trip to Colombia I had a few years ago. When visiting the Gold Museum in Bogota, I didn’t bring my phone for photography considering the high crime rate in the country. Instead, I made sketches in my notebook to memorize the exhibits that I found interesting. I placed my sketch of a sculpture on top of the sneakers I was wearing, alongside the infamous plant that can give you hallucinations when cooked. The two jaguars on it were the hallucinations I’ve got after eating the plant. You can faintly see a skull on the top left corner of the carpet that appears like a ghost attached to it. This is also a cipher I’ve written on my design. On the back of the carpet is a geometric pattern I made based on an ancient rug from thousands of years ago. Having patterns on both sides gives this work some kind of “a rug inside of a rug” playfulness.
Q: What do you want to express through your work?
A: I want to tell a story through my work. Since ancient time, carpet has always been a medium to narrate a story or an idea, like how the dragon and phoenix on an old Chinese carpet tell mythology. Interior designers tend to pick carpets of certain materials and colors that match the space. But, to me, as long as you like the rug, it can turn your room into a merry place that has a story to tell. The carpets and fabrics I make have symbolic meanings, they are all spiritual.
Q: How did you decide to go to Nepal to learn to weave?
A: My trip to Nepal was an adventure where I learned the traditional technique of hand-woven carpet. As a designer, the foremost task is to communicate with the artisans so they can visualize my ideas with their skills. Their unique sense of aesthetics absolutely struck me, but at the same time, I did encounter disappointment and frustration. When I had those moments, I would sit in my hotel bed and think about what to do next, or ask myself whether I should work with some people. The experience I had there was a test that brought me to understand where my real passion lies.
Q：曾於Jean Paul Gaultier和Dries Van Noten等時裝品牌工作，怎樣影響你現在的創作？
A：Jean Paul Gaultier是我第一份工作，能夠在巴黎的高級時裝品牌工作對年輕的我來說，是十分難得的機會，也讓我大開眼界。後來在Dries Van Noten工作了十三年，他們給了我很大的自由度，相比在巴黎和倫敦工作，比利時的工作模式更簡單自在，更適合我。幾年前我開始想減少時裝的工作，轉而發展毛氈等家品設計。有趣的是，我創作的毛氈和布料又回到了時裝店作展覽。我好像沒有離開過時裝界一樣。
Q: You had experience working with fashion brands like Jean Paul Gaultier and Dries Van Noten. How did that influence your creative direction?
A: Jean Paul Gaultier was my first job. To a young person like I was, it was a valuable chance working with an haute couture brand in Paris. I have learned a lot from them. During my 13 years in Dries Van Noten, I was given a lot of freedom. Compared to working in Paris or London, the work pattern in Belgium is more relaxed and casual. This fits me better. A few years ago, I decided to spend less time on the fashion-related job and develop my career in carpet and other homeware design. It is so fascinating that the carpets and fabrics I designed brought me back to having an installation in a fashion store. It is as if I have never departed from the fashion world.
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