I met Florentine almost 7 years ago on the internet. We both had a fascination for a then new artist called Katy Perry, who was about to make it big. Over the years, Flor and I have worked together and became good friends. I always saw her as the cool kid. She wore clothes I would be too afraid to wear and just had an amazing attitude that all the cool artistic kids at school have. I have always admired her for her style and fun personality. In the past few years, she has developed herself into an amazing fashion designer. Time for a chat!
Hi Flor, could you introduce yourself?
My name is Florentine aka cottoncandizzle everywhere on the internet and I’m a 23-year-old fashion designer currently based in Hamburg, I’m in my final semester at university.
Could you describe your work as a fashion designer? What makes your work unique?
I’m trying to walk the line between fashion and art, but in a fun way. I try to not take this big serious word “fashion” too seriously and make people smile. Some stuff isn’t really wearable so one would call it a costume – and other stuff is super fashion. It’s hard to put it in a box really but I always try to take visuals that everyone knows – maybe from their childhood – and give them a twist so you recognize them when you look twice and get the irony.
When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in fashion?
I’ve been drawing and painting since I was 2 or 3 and I think I started drawing costumes and clothes when I was 11. I then started to be really interested in celebrities, fashion and design and knew that this is what makes me happy. I was always ahead of all the trends in school in my small town – you know when you’re the first person to wear something and everyone makes fun of you and a year later everyone wears it but they forgot you had it first? Story of my (teenage) life.
Has it never discouraged you when people made fun of the clothes you wore?
Getting the satisfaction in seeing the trend I set or discovered take over dried my tears. JK. I didn’t really care too much when people said I’m “crazy” or something because I liked being different and “normal” was just another word for “boring” for me.
Photo by Katharina Werle
Could you describe your work process? How do you turn ideas into reality?
I like working with concepts and themes – sometimes I can draw inspiration and create a story from the simplest things. For example the inspiration for my last collection was a graffity on a wall. I was riding my bike to work in LA and saw the words “DO NOT BELIEVE THEM” – I thought: “OK, what if I was super paranoid or schizophrenic and this is a secret message to me that I shouldn’t trust nobody?”. Thinking that everyone else is crazy but you, having two faces, seeing secret signs. That really started something – and I sketched a coat inspired by a padded cell etc. After that I drape or make patterns for the pieces, sew them in muslin, look for fabrics and material and finish them. It sounds so easy but it’s actually a long process.
When your collection is done, what do you do to promote it?
As I’m still in school I haven’t really promoted it so far – I usually just share my work in instagram or facebook. This is my first try in self promotion! I am also launching my own artist website soon and might start a facebook page, too. And maybe buy a book about marketing. But I always try to make a professional photo shoot for my portfolio and then apply for fashion awards to get some attention!
Photo by Katharina Werle
Have you won any of those awards so far?
I was a finalist at the “Audio Fashion Award 2014” with my Monsters INC collection (inspired by old scandinavian monsters!) in the category “beyond today” – I got invited to show my collection at the Award finale and my mum had to organize everything because I was in LA – hashtag jetsetlife, hashtag sobusy.
In LA you have worked with Jeremy Scott. How did that influence your work?
It has definitely made me – even more – organized, clean and hard-working. It gave me hope that there is still a lot of positive energy in fashion (which I hear is quite rare when you hear about other internships). Other than that it gave me strength in the decision that this is where I belong and that you can make it if you work really hard and don’t be afraid to start something. Working for Jeremy inspired me to design my own prints and fabrics, which I LOVE!
Which other designers and artists inspire you?
Jean-charles de Castelbajac, Francis Bacon, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Andy Warhol. I like the way they use their art to express themselves and I feel like I understand them if that makes sense because I do it in a similar way. And I just love the way they use colors. I love colors and combining them – I’m could never be that kind of fashion designer that wears black all day.
Photo by Sonja Lesinski
What kind of people would you like to see wearing your clothes?
Those who have found their style or are still looking for it. I’d love to be someone’s fashion faux-pas or final fashion destination! Katy Perry (duh!), Patricia Field,… you! I like the idea of celebrities or musicians wearing my clothes on stage so I can deliver my idea of fashion to a bigger audience.
What would you like to accomplish in 5 years time?
Five years of experience and travel and hopefully a bachelor’s degree but that’s in the next 4 months already (4 months without sleep that is).
Is there anything you would like to say to young people who would like to work in the fashion industry?
Learn the techniques and try to get better every day. Try to start as early as possible and don’t be afraid of big names or companies – behind every info@ email address is just another person who probably likes to have fun and would like a fun co-worker, just write that email already. Trust your guts. You don’t have to be friends with people you don’t like. Don’t wait for opportunities but make your own. Don’t take everything too seriously – ok this sounds like empty cheesy phrases I copied and pasted from a tumblr but it’s funny how they all make sense in the end.