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Interview: Bath-based designer and BSU alumni Claire Areskog

Article by Sandra Baczek July 31, 2018
Work from Bath-based designer and BSU alumni Claire Areskog

Claire Areskog is a Fashion Design graduate from Bath Spa University. She is currently living in Bath, and milk Showcase commissioning editor Sandra sat down with Claire to find out about her passions, inspirations and hopes for the future.

When I first met with Claire, I was surprised with how content and candid she was. There were no awkward handshakes or small talk. In fact, our conversation felt so natural and effortless, that I almost forgot we’d only just met. After talking about random girly things, sharing our love for oversized coats and admiring her haircut for way too long, it was time to unravel her love for art and design.

Sandra: Have you always known that fashion design was what you wanted to do?
Claire: No, not at all! I knew that I wanted to go into something connected to Art or Design, because they were the only subjects I would want to do at school. It was during my Art Foundation Diploma that I realised that was the route I wanted to go down. Before then, I was really into photography.

S: What does fashion mean to you? What is it all about?
C: I know how cliché this will sound, but it is art. Creating and designing clothes, although it takes over your life, it is so fulfilling at the end. It’s so subjective to everyone and I love the idea that you can physically hide away in them, but then also expose parts of yourself. I find it interesting how at the moment, we expose our lives on social media and the internet, and yet with clothing we can choose to cover up and hide ourselves.

Models wear designs by Claire

S: Your collection is incredibly unique – from the colour palettes and fabrics you’ve used, all the way through to its shapes and overall designs. What’s the ideology behind it?
C: It’s funny because it was never my intention to do a sports-luxe collection. In fact, it all happened by accident! I paid a visit to a vintage shop where I found lots of old Nike sportswear, including this one jersey top in particular. I took it to the studio and draped with it on a quarter scale dress form, and I guess everything went from there. Immediately, about a hundred ideas commenced from this one top – from construction techniques to silhouettes. I made a to-scale version, and then played with it on a model, where the ideas to have your leg step-through the garment came from. The whole collection was a series of mistakes and trying different things over and over again.

S: As a creative person, I often struggle with what everyone seems to call a ‘creative block’. How do you overcome that? What inspires you?
C: This collection was quite personal to me, at the beginning of the project I struggled to find a concept that really excited me. I got incredibly frustrated, fell behind the rest of the class, and became quite disheartened that nothing was working. My concepts were becoming too complicated and didn’t make any sense. Only once I took a step back, I realised that it didn’t have to be so eccentric at all. It didn’t need to have a huge meaning or story behind it. It just had to inspire me. When this became my focus, the ideas started flowing and a concept was born.

So, in answer to your question, I guess I’ve learnt a lesson or two about creative blocks:

  1. They are okay and happen to everyone!
  2. Ideas never have to be complicated. Keep it simple!
  3. Don’t be so hard on yourself
  4. A lot of things happen by mistake, but these mistakes don’t get the chance to happen if you’re not doing anything in the first place
  5. Most importantly: breathe – we’re not brain surgeons!

S: The fashion industry is extremely competitive and seems almost overcrowded with so much talent out there. What’s your view on the importance of having your voice heard and the continuous pressure when it comes to staying relevant? Is this the recipe for success?
C: Networking is so important, getting those contacts which may seem irrelevant at the time could become a great asset. It costs nothing to be kind. It’s an ever changing and growing industry, which is why social media acts as a great tool here. But one piece of advice that will stuck with me is to always be yourself. No one else can offer what you can as a designer, so don’t ever try and be something you’re not.

Claire designs clothes that are bold and incredibly unique

S: I guess it’s all about developing and finding yourself within everything that you create. Do you ever look back at your work and think ‘I wish I’ve done that differently’?
C: Yes, all the time! But I think anyone who is creative would agree that they would never feel quite finished with their work, it’s that drive to always improve which keeps me going.

S: Do you worry about how fast and time consuming this industry is? The pace of it all seems concerning, and I’ve never been involved in fashion from the designer’s perspective.
C: Yes, I do feel like the ‘art’ side of fashion for some brands has been taken away due to the demand, and there isn’t much experimentation or risk taking with designing anymore, particularly on the high street. Which is why looking at those bigger brands, where they still keep experimenting and pushing the boundaries still keeps the magic alive.

S: I’m going to conclude with possibly the most predictable question, but I’m eager to find out – what’s next in store for Claire Areskog? What’s the dream?
C: And the most predictable answer… to be happy. I guess the ultimate dream one day, would be to have my own business. Not necessarily within fashion, but I would love to create something that I could put my own stamp on. Firstly though, I want to gain more experience. I’m in no rush.

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