Known for its reconstructed and unpolished wearable pieces, Camiel Fortgens B.V. is an Amsterdam-based label that catapulted into the menswear sphere in 2014. After graduating from the prestigious Design Academy Eindhoven, Camiel’s decision to forego fashion school allowed him to look at things from a new perspective. With a background in industrial design, Camiel works with shapes and fabrics that place garments in a new context, one that is free from the norms of the traditional fashion landscape. Expect modest, yet playful garments that are oversized in nature with heavy fabrication from the eponymous brand. In anticipation of the brands launch into Incu stores, we caught up with Camiel to discuss the latest collection and a bit about the brand’s history to date.
What is the ethos behind Camiel Fortgens?
I’m just following my intuition,
intuition that’s a reflection of my surroundings,
this time, this generation, this society.
There is no set perimeter for our ethos.
Like it’s a pre-set plan.
I guess I feel the need to represent the human with its imperfections, as I feel this is lacking. Not shown enough.
Lacking imperfection, the real, honest, normal, reason, questioning.
It feels like we have forgotten to question for ourselves,
and just follow,
build on from what we know.
I think it’s important to show other ways and question the norm.
You say that Camiel Fortgens is a hub of people “working to uncover the unpolished nature of people and their social behaviour” – can you expand on this?
I try to show an unpolished image of people, of who we are and what we make.
We try to make everything look perfect and polished, fitting the norm.
The only taboo left is being human, real / imperfect.
As an industrial designer, how do you think this informs your design process for clothing?
In every step of the process this influences me and the work.
Always being aware of function and relevance in daily use.
Not just making something pretty or fun, but thinking of the relevance.
I’m not sure if this comes from my education or if this is just me.
The underlying question of ‘why’ is ever-present in your work. How do you apply this way of thinking to the brand?
As I didn’t study how fashion should be done, it’s always an exploration based on intuition. This naturally leads to us doing things in a way that is different from the norm.
The question ‘Why?’ follows naturally.
In every part of the business this takes lead.
This is reflected in, for instance, the photography, communication, the way we do sales and of course in the collection and pieces.
I wonder why in fashion or media we try to make everything look perfect or create a utopia of perfection.
For instance, in our pictures we use friends and crew as models. We take the pictures in our studio, pushing aside our desks and sewing machines. Showing just what we made and who we are. Not making it more pretty than it is.
Things are the way they are.
But this imperfection has become sort of a taboo in recent times.
I think it’s important to have this ‘real’ human and imperfection reflected in the media landscape.
This season we put a lot of effort into working on defining new shapes and fits. Experimenting with oversized shapes in combination with cropped pants or shorts.
How does Amsterdam/The Netherlands affect Camiel Fortgens’ identity?
I was born and raised in Amsterdam and in the Dutch culture.
This Western culture is of course obvious in the collection.
I refer to what I know and reflect on what I see.
What kind of feelings are you trying to evoke with your designs?
I don’t try to evoke a feeling,
Just twisting the garments you feel related to,
I try to raise the question in people of the ‘why’.
I want to open a discussion. To place garments in a new context and examine them from a different perspective.
Lowering the facade of perfection and cool.
What’s your design process like? Can you describe your approach to building products?
It’s an ongoing stream of ideas, thoughts, reflections.
Reflecting on what I see around me. What people wear, which creative solutions people think of for the problems they face.
I gather pieces and pictures as inspiration.
Researching iconic garments over time and cultures.
The collections are not built from mood boards or concepts.
I like to work with garments or elements of garments that are archetypal or iconic to a time or culture.
In the design or during the process, elements change or are added and twisted.
Creating pieces of clothing you know, but different, just different.
In this design process, and when creating samples, I try to leave a lot of space for imperfection.
Mistakes can lead to the most amazing design elements you would never otherwise think of.
The hard thing is not to go straight to your end goal, but being able to see beauty in these mistakes or imperfections.
By continuing to reflect all the time while shaping the pieces.
I like for the process to stay present in the garment,
Keeping imperfection in the garment,
Keeping it human / alive.
Can you give us an insight into the latest collection hitting incu.com – what can people expect?
This season we put a lot of effort into working on defining new shapes and fits.
Experimenting with oversized shapes in combination with cropped pants or shorts.
We work more and more towards garments we really like to wear ourselves. Things you can wear daily. That are practical but also just different.
As I didn’t study how fashion should be done, it’s always an exploration based on intuition. This naturally leads to us doing things in a way that is different from the norm. The question ‘Why?’ follows naturally.
What’s next for the brand?
Well, loads of plans, as always…
for the brand;
we’re working on several specials and collabs.
And for the coming seasons we will be adding more iconic woman garments.
Looking forward I want to work towards fully durable/sustainable and fair collections.
With circularity as a next step of thinking / end goal.
We’re also looking into expanding to a more curated platform.
Presenting designs and people we feel are doing things that others should see.
But also found objects and curated work and books.
Finding ways to show the context of the brand.