The dynamic design team better known as Vilsbøl de Arce take on proportion, seemingly inflated swimwear and performance art costuming.

Styling by Anna Trevelyan Text by Kat George

After graduating from the Copenhagen Fashion & Design School, Prisca Vilsbøl and Pia de Arce joined forces to create the twice eponymous label
Vilsbøl de Arce. Using micro weaving techniques the pair have faced proportion with renewed vigour, casting of the shakles of trends and even gravity to create ballooning shapes in their collections. Conjouring associations to early armour with their bulging breastplates and exaggerated shoulders, Vilsbøl de Arce’s work is based on sturdy construction with an eye to flexibility and movement. Using natural textiles and leathers, the designers braid and intertwine to create garments like a second skin, re-structuring the body’s silhouette by combining their signature proportions with tight, serpentine body con shapes. Vilsbøl de Arce take some time to talk to Kat about setting their own parameters, the intersection between art, performance and fashion, and the faceless dancer...

How did you two meet?
Vilsbøl de Arce: We were in class together at design school… During the preparations for our final collections we kept company while working, and we quickly found that we complemented each other in many ways. We are both very curious, and willing to follow our fascinations. And then we have a kind of catalyst effect on each other.

When and why did you start designing?
Vilsbøl de Arce: After getting to know each other better, and realizing that we shared both many ground principles and the desire to start out on our own, it seemed obvious to start up together. When we graduated in 2002, we directly started on our first project, and have been working together ever since.

What is the Vilsbøl de Arce philosophy?
Vilsbøl de Arce: Our philosophy is to maintain a certain exploration and adventure in our working process… Keeping to the belief that anything is possible, and not stopping at obstacles.

What kinds of materials do you use?
Vilsbøl de Arce: The materials are often chosen to enhance a given shape, so they have more of a function than an actual aestetic. Classic weaves that give the necessary stifness, stretch or drape, without taking focus away from the design. We love rummiging for the best qualities in naturel fibres or leather.Yum...

How do you achieve the extreme proportions you create in your garments?
Vilsbøl de Arce: We always start a project or a collection by defining the parameters within which we can play. The idea is that you can make a collection out of anything, if you get fascinated enough to make it a consistent concept. Once the rules are there, we can start exploring, twisting, pulling and cutting, to see what this particular concept is capable of. The first sketches are often made in paper, followed by fabric draped directly on either of us. And then padding and interlining at the right places helps a lot.

How do you deal with issues of wearability of your creations?
Vilsbøl de Arce: Although our approach is more artistic than fashion normally allows, we also chose clothing as our means of expression, and we want it to be worn, so the rules of fashion will always apply to a certain extent. Each piece of the final collection, no matter how complex or artistic it is at the beginning of it’s creation, is then worked on and adjusted until it fulfills the criteria of aesthetics, wearability and comfort.

What inspires your work?
Vilsbøl de Arce: Anything worth studying...

How do you fuse your design work with performance?
Vilsbøl de Arce: As mentioned earlier, we try not to stop at the borders of fashion. We enjoy alternating between art projects and fashion collections, and the overlapping inspiration is often very obvious between the two. For example, for the A/W collection 08 we started a collaborative art project combining fashion, music and modern dance in a performance called “The Egg, The Monk and The Warrior”, in which pieces of clothing acted as central characters in a suspended interaction with a single ‘faceless’ dancer. These first 5 pieces, created through a strict concept of using a single strip of fabric, turned out to be the beginning of a much longer adventure, and our S/S 09 collection became a fashion continuation of this concept.

What’s next for Vilsbøl de Arce?
Vilsbøl de Arce: The focus is entirely on our next show on the 7th of august for the Copenhagen Fashion Week, followed by Design Week in the end of August, where we are a part of a pilot project revolving around sustainability in fashion. We decided to do a film project to accompany the new collection, so we have our hands pretty full right now, but hopefully we can take a break before presenting at the Paris fashion week in October.

CREDITS for main image

Photography Saga Sigurdardottir
Styling Anna Trevelyan
Hair Hiroshi Matsushita using Bumble and Bumble
Make up Thomas de Kluyver using MAC
Models Tess @ Models 1, Regina @ FM

Images from a collaborative art, costume and music performance "THE EGG, THE MONK AND THE WARRIOR"

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