Photographer: Fionn O’Toole
Production:Tuomas Laitinen [stylist]
by Oihana Lasa
Born in the northern region of Spain, fashion designer Oihana Lasa sources her inspiration from photographic archives of her Basque heritage.
The young female designer uses her Spanish lineage and fascination with the culture of the Basque country in her creative process, fabricating androgynous garments that embody the elegance of Basque tradition and Catholicism. Whilst vising the very place she began her life, San Sebastian, Oihana unearthed a photographic archive of family history.
She used these objects and photographs, found in her great-grandmother’s farmhouse, to create the collection, Urruti. The title of her project, meaning "distant, far away" in Basque, examines her heritage from a distanced perspective.
Although Oihana was born in Spain, she moved to Venezuela at a young age and continued to relocate throughout her life. This movement allowed her to form a distanced perspective on the culture she grew up knowing. The designer performed as a modern archeologist, creating a material archive of her heritage. The collection is a physical manifestation of images, objects, and stories passed on through generations.
In the photographic archive, Oihana discovered photographs of her father at church, dressed as a choir boy. This generational link to the catholic church can be seen throughout the Urruti collection, which draws largely on traditional priest-wear. The femineity of the long, elegant silhouette of priest-wear is highlighted in the androgenous facet of her designs. The designer uses the catholic tradition to situate her non-gendered designs within contemporary society.
The whole collection is designed in fabrics of the city, blue-dyed cotton called Mahon. The designer wanted to use a distinctively Basque fabric; a fabric traditionally used for work clothes. Oihana used the fabric as admiration for the elegance of traditional Basque workwear, where residents would always dress smartly for work, adorning a crisp white cotton shirt hidden under the weathered work garments.
The blue monochromatic palette of the collection was prompted by the Spanish designer, Cristobal Balenciaga. The various hues of blue are sourced from the colors of the ocean and remind the viewer of the San Sebastian scenery. The shapes and colors of the collection were inspired by Balenciaga’s own lineage, as his father work at sea as a sailor.
Balenciaga’s cultural history is not far from that of Oihana’s, both are Spanish, and both look at their rich Spanish heritage to draw inspiration. The designer once again looked at archives, this time the archives of the Balenciaga house, observing the voluminous forms of the 1950s and 1960s. The airy volume, elegance, and curvaceous shaping of Balenciaga’s garments highly influenced this collection.
The Urruti collection reveals the designer’s unexpected discovery of her cultural past and the influence that historical Spanish fashion has on her design practice. Each piece is influenced by the local culture of the Basque Country and becomes a modern segment in the uncovered historical archive.
When Oihana moved into the Parisian landscape, she felt freedom in both her personal expression and her creative practice. The multiplicity of the creative individuals around her, and their cultural backgrounds, renewed her own fashion design.