The Artist Archive: Ida-Simone Brerup
The Paris Mirror Team sat down with our four designers to discuss the topic of fashion and identity, gaining insight into contemporary fashion design in Paris. The below interview acts as an archival document, explaining and touring the ideas and inspirations of Danish designer Ida-Simone.
My name is Ida Simone Berup. I don't use it as my 'company name', but Ida very much refers to my artistic practices and Simone is very much my personal space. Those two names are inherently the name that my parents gave to me but those names have now become my brand and my aesthetic. I grew up in Denmark, 20 minutes north of Copenhagen, in a small fisherman's town, but I went to school in Copenhagen.
After primary school, I was very much raised by my parents to travel and see things and experience things, and learn from them. I also think that's one of the best ways of learning for me especially, one of the most challenging but also exciting and mesmerizing ways of developing yourself as a more well-rounded person. So I decided to move to Los Angeles when I was 15 years old. I did a high school exchange there and after that one little year, I got hungry and realized, oh, wow, there is a whole world out there that I can learn from and that I can do a lot of different things with, and as amazing of a home that I had in Denmark and amazing friends that I still have and love, I needed to explore. I came back to Denmark for a bit, but then I left again for Italy and lived in Italy for a while. And that was when they [my friends] realized okay, she's probably not coming back for a while again. So in all this, I had a creative practice in general. I was a very creative child as well, and I visually just saw photos of everything in my head all the time, which meant that I just developed a lot of different things and was interested in different stuff in the creative world.
Textiles and fashion, especially textiles, sort of became where my main focus went and I decided to get into fashion, which is when I decided to go to Paris. As part of my education, I did a year abroad in New York, returning to the US with a very different perspective, with five years in between as well. The West Coast and East Coast are two very different things. I was actually supposed to continue living in New York and as much as I liked it, however, COVID got in the way, but I also very much felt like Paris was my home and was where I wanted to return to. It offered some experiences and perspectives, and it is a big enough city so that there's always something to discover and plenty of museums, so that every single day that I wanted to go see a museum or go to the zoo, that was what I could do. And therefore I decided to return to Paris and finish my degree here. After finishing, I then started questioning what and how does my design and how will my designs, potentially fit into the scene.
And even more so, in terms of jobs and in terms of companies, where do I actually see myself in that and very quickly came to the conclusion that it is not my favorite, because I feel for me it is not daring enough, and this was where Amsterdam came. I applied to have an internship at Iris van Herpen which is located in Amsterdam, and I respect her values and her ways of approaching design as a true art form, and I loved to be a part of that team, it was an amazing experience. I, therefore, decided to stay in Amsterdam and see where it would take me, which meant that I recently started a design position at Bonaventure camp which is also another Dutch designer in Amsterdam.
It has opened up a lot more possibilities in terms of creating and designing for another designer, but with my own input as to how textiles can be treated and manipulated and how to make a sustainable brand that only uses reclaimed materials. So it's very much about how you can bring life into something else that has already existed. And I love that idea and I have worked with that pretty much throughout my own education as well. And yeah, it's been a super good collaborative experience, and I'm very happy about being there now. In the meantime, I decided that I wanted to have some other elements outside of fashion design that could sort of pair my universe and strengthen this little universe that I am building as an artist more so. So I started going into floral art, and I now work as a florist on the side as well, which is something that I definitely see as being a part of the universe together with Morris ceramics practice, a sculptural approach. It is a whole little bubble, and fashion design is also allowed to be a part of it, but for me, it's very much a part of it as an artwork.
Why did you initially choose Paris to study fashion design?
Ida: For a lot of different reasons. So I actually applied to school here and I applied to a school in Copenhagen and I applied to school in Amsterdam. I got into all three, and I had a very difficult time choosing. Copenhagen didn't offer what was the 'outside element' and being outside of Denmark in a more international space probably granted more, although the education there is really, really good. Amsterdam was a very, very art-related practice which is, of course, a very good approach to better design now, which I definitely think I could have benefited from too. But for the majority part, it doesn't. A lot of their schools don't bring the same level of focus to technical aspects and I think as much as I want it to be a good designer, of course, I also want it to be technically advanced so that I could have a more secure future. I always reference back to painting, like if you can paint completely realistic, then you can also do the abstract and vice versa. I think that was not how I usually explain that at all [laughs]. But I think, if I can do technically complex techniques, if I can do really, really advanced things, then I can also manipulate those techniques so much that that can bring innovativeness to it. By eliminating the schools, Paris ended up being the one that was more technically oriented and also the one where I could implement a lot of other different classes. So while I was studying fashion design, I studied Japanese and I studied French, psychology, and philosophy. I had all these different inputs and was able to take a lot of classes, but was able to take enough classes that actually really influenced and strengthened my design at the end of the day, which was great.
Interviewer: Why did you choose to call your collection Fragility, although the garments seem somewhat boisterous and almost emphatic?
Ida: The whole fragility collection itself was surrounded by breaking down the taboo of fertility issues and the global north, and it was surrounded by a lot of different studies that were done on fertility and the research behind what kind of fertility issues those countries are facing. I then did quite a bit of interviews with different women. I interviewed different groups that then had different stories, ideas, and implementations of how fertility issues work for them or what kind of things they were experiencing.
Fragility sort of came and was built out of the fact that every single interview was a super intimate interview and I tried to create a very safe space for these women to talk because it is a really sensitive topic. It's also a topic that people aren't even used to or want to talk to their mothers or their systems or their friends or whatever about. So there's not a lot of information around that's shared between each other. Oftentimes, this was what I felt mostly that each woman had a sort of idea that, they were the only one facing this kind of issue. That means that there are thousands of different ways that everyone experiences everything and the different complications, but at the end of the day, it was all about how fragile they felt, in any given moment that whole experience or the journey that is motherhood and womanhood, defining what you are capable of and what your body is capable of and sometimes what you really want, is something that your body is just not capable of. Fragility was built out of that sensitivity and built as a name that kind of put the entire collection in a different perspective because the collection is a little bit more and has a little bit more force it's strong, trying to send the message. Heavier and colorful and bright to a certain extent, and fragile and bouncy.
Every single sculpture and every single garment is representative of a different emotion felt throughout these interviews, so some of them [the women] have the same or similar experiences, but some of them [the women] are also more alone. It is about women owning the power to speak, about women actually trying as much as they can, if they want to try but also having the power to say I don't want to try.
Interviewer: I love that idea of bouncing the color and having these bold shapes linked to a topic that is almost portrayed as kind of soft and delicate, lightly whispered. It is great to see this sensitive topic shown in a colorful, big, bold way.
Did your upbringing as a young Danish designer, affect the way you create?
I think in a lot of different ways, but primarily, I come from a Danish design background in the sense that the new design does take up a lot of space in Denmark, even if you're not in the design world. And that very quickly is just minimalism. And I was really strongly into minimalism but towards the last maybe seven or eight years, I looked at how minimalism can be implemented in different, other ways and with different colors and with really, really actually maximalist values, which is something that I've taken into account a little bit because I am very much a maximalist in my design, but at the end of the day, there's always this more simplistic approach or a look that ends up being something that brings it into different contexts. It is not just more, more, more, more, it's sort of, I do more, more, more, more, more and create a lot of different things and then I condense it down to one and give it a different simplicity, which is my more minimalistic background for sure.
Having been trained in Paris as a designer, I think that all of my teachers and professors would always categorize me in a heartbeat. It was because they had the connotation that I was already Danish so of course, that was already going to be something that I was ending up doing. A lot of people would always assume that it would then be black and white and gray and so on, which is not something that I have ever really been attracted to. But if I look at the really bad stuff that I did when I was very young, I did those things and was within that framework, so I also understand where they're coming from. I think I tend to bounce or push my own boundaries of what that [minimalism] would look like.
Interviewer: In your work you speak about women and women's fertility issues, are those women international or do you focus on Danish women?
Ida: I actually wanted to focus on Scandinavian women, because it is the global north, and those three regions are really also the countries that are suffering quite a bit from fertility issues and/or reproductive skills in general. But then, I did a lot of research and I realized that Sweden and Norway's relationship to it [fertility] is quite different than Danish values. Around and even just our laws and our rules, as to how long women are allowed to keep eggs and programs and stuff like that. Denmark is and has been now really progressing and there's really a lot happening in the field, which is good, but, has been a little bit more limiting than the other countries and because I'm Danish, it was obviously easier finding Danish women that I could interview, so primarily Danish and then one Norwegian woman.
And also because it [the project] was actually a longer journey than I expected it to be because I had to find women that will be available emotionally, I think in being able to share the story with a stranger, but also share the story with a perspective that it was okay that they were sharing. Yeah. And that was very difficult to get into and I even had an interview with one woman, who had gone through IVF for about six years. She had gotten one kid two years ago with a lot of complications, and then she was still in the process of trying to get another kid and it wasn't so much her egg quality but it was her husband's sperm that was not compatible with her eggs and therefore there were complications. And we did about maybe a quarter of the interview, and then she just couldn't facilitate it anymore. She broke down and she was too much in the actual state of being so vulnerable, so we also decided that I wasn't going to account for her interview and I was yeah, we left it to be there. It was an emotional journey for me in terms of learning how people perceive it, but also for a lot of girls and the women, and depending on how long their own journey had been, because I interviewed girls, anywhere between around twenty-seven to fifty-five, fifty-six and women aged 55 to 56-year-olds.
They just have such a different perspective on it and they all had gone through that. Sometimes it was something as simple as whether the kid turned, like now we scan everything, we see everything all throughout the entire pregnancy and some women weren't part of a generation where that was possible for the majority part. So they had a lot more intense births, maybe not intense but they had more unknowing, yes, less factor in things and their perspective was then just super clear because they just were a lot more distanced from what they were able to, to sort of control. I also think that there's time to, because like, the girl before, that was in IVF while I was interviewing her, that's different than when you did it 30 years ago, and you either succeeded or not, but by 30 years later, you've come to terms with whatever the outcome was.
Interviewer: You are using other people's sort of stories within your design, do you use your own identity as part of this kind of process? Do you ever put your own identity, as a designer, specifically in this collection, what aspects of your own identity did you insert into the collection?
Ida: So a lot of it was actually based on my own mother's infertility issues and her birth with me, her experience of doing IVF for about eight years after my birth. And a lot of that was something that I didn't know until a late age. I think I study my own life more so and I had a sort of realization that happened before the collection took place.
I started quietly communicating with a lot of my peers and a lot of my friends and I'm 26 turning 27 soon, so there are quite a bit of people by now that are actually, considering talking, and wanting kids. We're from the Nordic countries, which usually have kids way, way later, but because of infertility becoming more of an issue, people are also realizing that there could potentially be complications. They're also realizing that okay if you start earlier, you do have better chances and I think it was more so all of my conversations with all these different peers and friends that made me realize that it's actually not a topic that they are talking about with anybody else because no one facilitates the conversation.No one dares to have the conversation because somehow there is this slight fear in a lot of women.
And even so, society tells you, Oh, you're really not good at getting kids. And yeah, you have a lot of micro-plastics in our bodies, and micro-plastics, they can go in and adapt the estrogen levels in our hormone systems. That means that we think that we have enough estrogen but we don't, and different issues like that.
It's just not something that people necessarily know how to digest. I think, and that was really what started the interest in fertility more so, and of course my personal experience, but I think my driving force is always me starting with something that's actually super intimate and super personal and maybe even private to me, and then looking for it elsewhere. Seeing if there was a pattern that then brings us together or takes it very far away from my own personal experience at the end of the day, which is also the intention and desire I think, to become more universal in my values.
Interviewer: Do you consider your designs wearable arts? There is this unspoken fine balance between fashion and art and whether fashion is considered art. What are your opinions on it?
Ida: Yeah, definitely a fine balance. A balance that is not favored, and it really depends on which person you ask. But yeah, a big intention with a lot of the collection [fragility] was that there are a lot of things that I disagree with within the fashion industry in general and mass production is a huge major part of it, which we definitely do not need whatsoever.
So, me going about creating a collection that has a relationship to the body, of course, is more me creating art pieces and a series of pieces that then is allowed to exist within the real professional world. Even though I come from a fashion design perspective and background, I think, for me that playing between the two is really where it gets interesting because the intersections, the connection between the two, is something that both designers and artists are stubborn enough on both sides, to not want to actually consider too much.
But it also can be viewed simply as an art piece because it is art on the body and it is a sculpture that can transform into being something on the body and yet even when it's away from the body itself. The body is still the main inspiration from the get-go and the fertility issues. Personally, I don't like to define the line because what I'm really able to do with the work is to blur the line because the line is a little bit too tight already.
I think creating some pieces that can exist in both spaces, is really the interesting part, what we define as art today, and what people's versions of defining art are really. For me, I think the main difference between fashion, garments, and art is that there are garments that need to be worn every day because you want to shelter bodies and you need to wear something so as to not walk around naked, and this just becomes clothes. And of course, it's designed by someone but it's designed with the mentality of buying consumerism and if you take consumerism a little bit away from some garment pieces and some fashion pieces then it can also very quickly be viewed as art, but it's never been allowed to be worth the same. Yet, sometimes it takes the same amount of time to create and it has the same amount of complexity. It even has the same amount of story behind it. Yet the story disappears because we have a runway culture where a garment is only allowed to exist for twenty to thirty minutes and then move on to the next thing. Whereas a piece at an exhibition is allowed to exist for the rest of time and becomes a collector's item afterward and so on There are garments that do the same, but it all becomes about consumerism at the end of the day.
Interviewer: Whilst you've been creating in Paris, do you think that the Paris fashion sphere allows for multiple identities and heritage, or is it very much still about French Lineage? Does the Paris culture actually welcome this diversity?
Ida: I don't want to be rude, but I also will say for the majority of the design schools here, do want to and they do aspire to want to break the boundaries. However, there's a heritage culture in Paris that is unlike any other heritage culture anywhere else. And those top seven or eight companies, have the power. Even more, the two main groups above, have even bigger power in controlling and deciphering what fashion design is for Paris, but also for the rest of the world because it is such an epicenter, it is the actual capital of fashion because of its history mostly. I do think that as much as the schools and even also, the companies probably or some of the smaller companies at least want to try to break some boundaries and want to try to push forward in a different way.
Their heritage takes over and creates for them, they're creating something that needs to fit the framework of what a designer created in the 60s, 70s, and before that. They need to keep that aesthetic and remain within those frames. So those big houses, have a huge amount of control and limitation and you know, freedom to really design what they potentially would want to design now. It becomes about money and fame and establishing fashion in a much more business-oriented way and I think there are and I know by now a few companies that are really trying to do or make a difference here.
But at the end of the day, the majority of them end up moving to a different city or end up restructuring and going about it in a very different way. Sustainability is even a really, really big topic within that too, that most of the companies, they like the idea of being sustainable, which in the general world of course now it's a trend to be sustainable, but here they liked the idea of it but then none of them want to do so. The culture here does not allow for it yet so if you start getting a government that also is a little bit more supportive of different things like that, then maybe it can also push it a little bit. But at the end of the day, I personally believe that the major fashion houses are the ones that hold the power, because if they start restructuring the way that they do things and they start producing in a different way as well, then all of the other companies are allowed to be valued and be a part of something different.