One year after being selected for the accessories contest at ITS, Thomasine Barnekow launched her luxury accessories brand challenging traditional craftsmanship by creating a new style of gloves. The concept of “gloves like soft jewellery” has had many features in the international fashion press: Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Interview, Numéro, L’Officiel, Elle and the brand’s sketches have been exhibited in prestigious museums all around the world: Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris, MoMu Antwerp, LACMA Los Angeles, Dallas Contemporary Texas, MoCA Shanghai, Platform-L Seoul. Couture collaborations are just as important as their ready-to-wear collection with major French fashion houses, the Paris National Opera, cinema productions and contemporary artists. The brand has been sold to international luxury clients, from the very beginning.
Thomasine is now making a big step in her career, opening her first flagship store in Paris. It deserved sitting down with her for a chat about her journey, what the shop will be like and plans for the future.
ITS: Glove making, a very specific field in fashion design. At the same time, a craftmanship from the past – from the era of emperors, princesses and royal balls – that many would believe lost along the way. You are proof of the opposite even though your uniqueness is in the creativity you manage to infuse in your creation, which led to amazing projects with amazing brands, designers and institutions throughout your entire career. Can you tell us what got you into gloves, your best memories & collaborations and how glove making still gets your passion going on a daily basis?
TB: I never knew my future would be in Paris, neither with craftsmanship, with art and with fashion – somewhere along the studies in the Netherlands, I had an idea about hands, I thought of a concept of gloves like soft jewellery – and it became my future. Following the same path, since I was in ITS 2007, is one of the strengths of my brand. It has made me able to develop and mature within one concept over a longer period of time. I have learnt the craftsmanship along with my ideas I wanted to develop, I have been able to push boundaries by meeting glove makers that dare my designs. The excitement really lies in taking a step further with a forgotten craftmanship and by expressing emotions with different design shapes, I am able to fascinate people that have never worn gloves – to start to dream of adorning their hands! The challenge from the beginning has really been to create a new platform on the international luxury market, for designed gloves. My most exciting fashion designer collaboration is with Walter Van Beirendonck, because his designs have no limits – they are full of colours, symbols and construction challenges. And he is a wonderful professional to work with, organized, direct and kind. He dares to credit his collaborators, which is one of the faults in my opinion many of the Parisian fashion houses don’t do. The result is that I will push my limits in making the best work, excellence proven as many of the couture works for his collections are being exhibited worldwide in the most prestigious museums. My personal pride, is my first solo exhibition that was made for two Swedish museums in 2016. A contemporary curated exhibition of my 10 years of glove design, inspired by a winter garden – where gloves became like tropical plants, flowers and fruits in a reflective winter forest. An exhibition that has begun to travel, already shown partly at Le Grand Musée du Parfum in Paris and in full at Platform-L Contemporary Art Center in Seoul South Korea.
ITS: Responsible creativity means triggering an entirely different approach not just in product making, but in our lives as a whole from the moment we wake up to when we fall asleep. It’s the only way to conceive & develop ideas that have little if no impact on our planet. The fashion system is all about “sustainability” lately, the fear is that there’s a lot of communication going on but very slow actual changes in the processes. As a craftswoman what is your opinion has it changed your approach?
TB: From the beginning I have always been aware that working with lambskin, I am working with a very precious natural material – and as a designer it is my responsibility to not waste, to not over produce and to know where my leathers come from. It is important to make designs that are beautiful and timeless with a material that can last a life time. But in the whole debate overruling the media and the fashion world at the moment – I have of course created a special couture collection for the opening of my shop. It is a collection called SECONDE MAIN (= second hand in French), rediscovering, reloving, recycling iconic fashion jackets. I reworked Levi’s, Burberry and Vivienne Westwood. Cutting them in two and transforming the end of the sleeve into a glove, only with the material itself of the jacket. The series of jackets have been interpreted by my French photographer Benjamin Taguemount that I have been working close with for many years. My hope with the project is that I could work with many more important brands in the future, and that with donation of iconic jackets that I can transform – with time I am able to build a large couture series worth an exhibition.
ITS: We’re so excited about your first flagship store in Paris, we’ve known you since ITS in 2007 and witnessing such an important step in your life is quite a privilege. What will the space look like? What kind of services will you provide to your customers, what kind of activities will happen and what do you expect from this new adventure?
TB: I had imagined that opening a shop would only be possible in another 10 years’ time, but when suddenly by chance I came across the free space in Galerie Véro-Dodat, I knew this was the only way forward in my life. The hidden passage is next to Louvre and Palais Royale. It is around the corner of Bourse de Commerce – the new contemporary art museum of the Pinault Collection. It is the passage where Christian Louboutin opened his first flagship store. A Parisian historical heritage from 1826, where accessories always have been part of the commerce. The passages in Paris were also an important part of the surrealist art movement in the 1920’s and I can’t see a better way to begin the 2020’s by being able to express my imagination with my own window, to make a new dream of gloves come true! 23 Galerie Véro-Dodat, is a boutique, a couture atelier, a showroom, a creative meeting place. The space is very personal, it is my identity. As my gloves are like jewellery for the hands, I have designed tables that are like jewellery for the room – using oak wood from my father’s forest and having my brother sculpturing the legs by my drawings. My Swedish touch is a Svensk Tenn armchair, where I have reinterpreted the sides in a mosaic of lambskin that communicates with the Josef Frank textile Anakreon. My personal heritage with a 19th century banquette dressed in a handmade textile by my grandmother’s grandmother. And of course, my contemporary vision, with a space imagined like a theatre space – with the possibility of a background stage, the depth of mirror walls, with a projector fond giving the boutique a movement and endless possibilities to show visual collaborations with photographers and artists.
ITS: We cannot wait to provide you with a space at the ITS Arcademy to share your knowledge with a workshop in glove making and inspire 5-year old children as well as up-and-coming talents in accessories design. What would be the first thing you would want to tell your audience there?
TB: The hand is actually the only part of your own body that you have in front of you, and that you can see all sides of without a mirror – I believe this is the beginning of all. I would love to inspire children to grown-ups in paying attention to details, in finding solutions of construction and to show how to build a glove. By teaching the basic knowledge, I hope that many more will grow an interest for developing, designing and wearing gloves, so that this beautiful accessory won’t be forgotten – and the knowledge of glove makers will be able to survive for future generations!