Minna Palmqvist: Before Fashion Week

Minna Palmqvist launched her first own fashion label in 2009 which was a follow-up from her Masters project “Intimately social” at Konstfack in Stockholm. Her main focus is exploring the fixation around the female body and about how today’s ideals affect us. She ties together the ideas and inspirations in her own way by creating fashion and art with total soul and passion. In short, Minna actually means that the female body is not yours to judge.

When Jade and I meet up Minna in Stockholm we both get warmly welcomed into her atelier with walls covered of beautiful pictures. Minna is so incredibly down to earth and although she’s concerned about working completely alone plus all the financial problems, she fills the room with energy and power. Maybe it’s because of her impressive passion. But It’s not easy to be ambivalent about fashion when you’re a designer. On Wednesday Minna is having her own show at Stockholm fashion week and according to her it will be “one of a kind”. We talk about financial struggles, how to fight for what you love and expectations for her show at fashion week on Wednesday.

I want people to walk around in my thoughts and ideas

As many others, I was completely touched by your exhibition Intimately social on Bon Gallery earlier this spring, with show pieces you’ve been working on since 2007. In that project you researched about the female body and today’s body ideals. Why did you choose to work with this?

I’ve always been interested and frustrated about the questions of equality and gender perspectives, about how women are expected to be and behave from today’s “external demands”. When I did my masters project I started reading a lot about sociology and social anthropology. I had a strong feeling what I wanted to do but I couldn’t formulate it right. So I found the sociologist Mary Douglas who described that all human got two bodies; one intimately real and private body that we hide and one social body which we show through clothes, diets and training for example. The idea of how the reality always collides with the social expectations. That really got me inspired and I finally got my formulation for the project and the name for it; “Intimately social”. I just couldn’t stop working on it!

You’ve just finished your first costume assignment with Magnus-Maria – An opera about the right gender. How was the difference between working with that apart from your earlier projects?

Well, you get quite easily tired of yourself after a while, she laughs. So the biggest and the most positive difference was that I got to work in a group. It was especially fantastic to be in a group that was led by Suzanne Osten, she is very determined with letting everyone speak their voice and ideas whether which title they have in the project. We got inspired by each other and created everything together with such solidarity. The similarity from that with working alone is that we worked in this process I do that all the time. I never have a distinct idea of what I want to do, only fragments. I’m never finished with anything; it’s an ongoing process all the time. So I felt very at home with this project because it just spun on and I’m very familiar with that style of work. To be alone is almost impossible actually, both with time and economically. But I just can’t help to do what I do.

You started a campaign to raise funds so that you could have your show at fashion week, which went incredibly good! But how is it to fight alone with your own label?

It’s definitely a struggle because it gets so personal in a way. The campaign helps me to not get into a total smash, so you can say it really helps me a bit along the way. It’s fantastic that it’s so many who has contributed, it will make a whole lot of difference. Also I sort of started everything only with doing the art part, but now I really want to be able to work with this full time and with a team. Well, maybe it’s high time to pull myself together now and go to the bank, she says and bursts out into a nervous laugh.

Well I think that you are so strong working with this alone.

Yeah but sometimes I think; Come on, how stupid am I? There are times when I’m totally euphoric and times when I just want to bury myself because I’m so stressed out. It’s quite naive to build a business idea on something that isn’t a business idea, only some sort of huge passion. But as long as it works I will still be doing it.

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“I feel a bit like Dolly Parton in these shoes” Photography by Jade D’econzac Mbay

You also won the ”Stockholm award” for Nöjesguiden, how did that feel?

Awesome! I don’t think it was many people that knew who I was on that time actually. But I remember that I got this totally “spot-on” justification, I got so incredibly happy about being so understood, she laughs. I mean it’s so gratifying to sometimes just – Oh well, OK I’ve actually succeed to mediate my idea! That’s exactly why I keep on going, of people’s understanding and caring. It’s so important!

How is your relation to the fashion industry?

Well I think it’s pretty good. I fight everyday with my conscience with going in an industry that I think is pretty shady, it’s sick how much we consume and the stress and baiting about always being “right”. I can’t reconcile with that at all, but I also work with a label I need to sell. So my relation to it is quite complex but I sort of justify it with trying to phrase what I do. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself and I always phrase myself and what I create. I sometimes get the question – how can you handle to be so critical when you’re working in the fashion industry? But I don’t see a problem in that, I think that people from big fashion houses and brands are positive and great. It’s not like I’m standing, screaming and hating, it’s just; we actually need to talk about these things.

 I never have a distinct idea of what I want to do, only fragments

What can we expect from the show on Wednesday?

You can expect; MAGIC! This will be my most wearable collection, because I want people to walk around in my thoughts and ideas. I want to reach out without always doing show pieces, of course I love it and it’s a part of my identity but it’s what takes most time to do. I’ve reached a part where I feel that I want people to see that I’m also a clothing brand, I want to see if I can mediate the feeling and what I stand for without a bunch of show pieces. I work with my friend and stylist Nicole Walker and together we bring out that last extra touch. I want to call my show for a presentation, because I wasn’t sure how everything would come down. Hopefully people will think that my show is something a little different.

You choose a lot of different models to your projects and shows, in all kinds of ages. What is your idea behind that?

It’s so easy to just choose what’s most available, I think you need to stop for a second and think about why you choose it and what you really want to choose. I chose to go outside the frame a bit and avoid the expectations; of course this is getting more and more popular to do which is so nice to see. This year we have mixed half models from an agency and the other half is people we’ve caught on the street. I still want to mix body sizes but it’s difficult to make more fabric patterns in different sizes right now with this time limit.

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Photography by Jade D’econzac Mbay

How far have you come with the Ready-To-Wear collection?

I almost had a total breakdown last year when I did my latest show, I had too much pressure on myself and I worked too hard. So sadly I didn’t manage to do an autumn collection, which feels a bit annoying. Depending on the time and economical question I may be able to drop out some autumn garments anyway, which will be on my web shop in that case. The interest is increasing and I notice that more and more are visiting my web shop, so it’s frustrating to not update it. I hope that people got patient to wait a bit longer. The garments are also supposed to be timeless and I don’t see them as old even if it’s fun with some updates now and then of course. A small change of a detail is sometimes enough, like new colors or new materials.

What are you planning to do this autumn?

It happens a lot actually! I’m so excited. Through the autumn I will be working on a new art project, “Intimately social – no body” with great support by arts grants. I’m making my second costume project for the dance set “Before I change my mind” by choreographer Helena Franzén at Dansens hus in a couple of weeks. I’m going to Rotterdam to build my pink balloon installation from 2009 on Museum Boijmans which is a part of the amazing exhibition “The future of fashion is now”, among other participants; Margiela, Rei Kawakubo, Viktor & Rolf, Hussein Chalayan and more. So that feels pretty damn good! Also I’m going to participate in a talk with Fashion play, which will be like a seminar about fashion, performance and art that will be held at Kulturhuset.

What is your dream?

Oh god! The dream may be to make a business plan which really isn’t my thing at all. It would be great to have an assistant and make it work economically so I can grow. Because this will not always work, no matter how many great words and pep talks I get it will not last forever, it’s only naïve to think something else. I will absolutely need to find a suiting assistant and I really want to collaborate with someone. We can see this as a little ad for that, she laughs.


Photography by Emilia Bergmark-Jiménez & Jade D’econzac Mbay

Minna Palmqvist is having her show on Wednesday 27/8 at Stockholm Fashion Week 12:00. For more info go to www.minnapalmqvist.com