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Minna Palmqvist on dismantling fashion seasons and clothing as social commentary

By Rachel Douglass


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People |Interview

Image: Minna Palmqvist

There is a thin border connecting fashion and art, yet only few attempt to blur the line between them. Minna Palmqvist is one of those innovators, with socially aware collections and a drive to change perceptions.

These weeks see Minna approach a busy fashion season, with multiple exhibitions, installations and a physical show to present at Stockholm Fashion Week. However, the multitude of platforms will allow for her message to be spread far and wide, with a particular emphasis being on the pressure the female body feels with the eyes of the world upon it.

Palmqvist spoke with FashionUnited about her upcoming projects, her struggles in the industry and how clothing is a way to express your opinion.

You have four upcoming events in the works so you are pretty busy. How are preparations going?

Yes, that is correct. I’m finishing off four different projects, with most of them needing to be finished or delivered this week.

Is there any project that you are particularly excited about?

I’m really excited about all of them, it’s just funny how things get clustered like this. It has been so long since I have had to do so many things at once, I had to relearn how to handle that after the past year of just doing one thing at a time.

One project is the participation in Stockholm Fashion Week of course. I think it has been around eight years since I was officially part of the fashion week schedule.

Image: Kimberly Ihre x Minna Palmqvist

Can you share a sneak peek of what people can expect from your show?

It will be a snapshot of all my work from right here, right now. I have basically tried to work like this before and I really want to continue working like this moving forward - that my work is organically developed.

I’m not doing proper collections anymore, in the way that you have a full range of garments and you present them at once for a specific season. It will be a ‘here and now’ of these are the garments I am currently exploring and these are what will be available to buy.

You can also see the show as a preview of what is to come. I’m going to present myself in a way I have been yearning to do for some time. I see fashion as a phenomenon. I’m interested in everything about clothing and around it.

Why are you choosing not to fall in line with typical fashion week seasons?

I just think it’s important that you don’t put stamps on clothes like that. This is for this season, this is how you must wear it, this is why it is trendy - I don’t think you need to label it. I have always been thinking like this.

I took a break from fashion and focused on my art projects because I was feeling so lost. I tried to not work by seasons but I still pressured myself into the system to try and exist somehow. I felt back then that it was the way you needed to communicate fashion, with spring fashion or summer fashion. I never wanted to do that though.

Now I have become more confident and I started realising that almost everyone wants to get rid of the seasons. It’s nice that it is not so weird anymore, it’s more just a thing I think we need to - not labelling clothes as if they have a best before date.

Image: Minna Palmqvist Under Pressure

With your collections, you tend to develop a commentary around the pieces. Can you explain what kind of commentary you have produced in the past and why you focused on these stories?

Since I have started in this business, 12 to 13 years ago, I constantly worked with the tension between what we have and what we want to have. The core of it is how society looks at females and specifically the female body as an object, as something there to please someone else. I question what this does to how we see ourselves and each other, and how we behave.

With my recent project ‘Under Pressure’, I comment on these stressful situations in the fashion business and the world at large. I have used it as a way to process what a mess we have put ourselves in and what we can do about it. Can we become a new human being out of all this pressure and maybe turn it into something positive.

Why do you think clothing is the way to exhibit this commentary?

I have never been able to answer why I do this through clothing. I just think clothing has always been a way to express yourself for many people and especially for fashion designers. Fashion is so much part of the ‘now’. It says so much about how we consume and what we value. Clothing contains so much and is so direct. I even also see it as something that can be used as a sculpture.

How do you try to combine your clothing with art? And are you going to do that for the upcoming projects?

I am definitely doing that. In my head, I have always done that but I don’t think it has ever come across clearly to my audience. I have always presented my art and fashion separately, but this time I will be doing it in one room.

Usually, if I have made some artwork and a t-shirt they are often about the same issue but they eventually become different. I start with an idea or a message I want to express, and it will lead me towards a sculpture made of butter or a t-shirt with a print. For me, they are the same core but different ways of finding the final shape.

Image: Kimberly Ihre x Minna Palmqvist

Have you ever faced any difficulties with what could be considered political statements in the fashion industry?

I have always questioned whether I want to be in the fashion industry or not. This really goes two ways. I could feel before that I was maybe more embraced by the general art world than the fashion industry. Maybe some points I made felt too enigmatic to include in fashion, but I don’t feel like that anymore.

You also have an upcoming collaboration with the Misschiefs platform. What prompted you to get involved?

I have been a part of Misschiefs now for a little over a year. I was invited last autumn when the founder Paola Bjäringer reached out to me. She acquired a huge space in central Stockholm where she saw an opportunity of supporting women and non-binary artists with the offer of temporary studios. It boosted my energy because I was working next to performance artists, graphic designers, painters - and we all had so much in common, in our struggles and thoughts.

Have you got any future plans for the Minna Palmqvist brand?

I’m hoping that I can continue with presenting myself and work with more of a design studio. What I do is always based on certain questions and concepts, so I think that if people follow me they can learn to see what they can expect from me.

I’m hoping to have a base segment of clothing, items that you purchase after thinking about them. I don’t make so many pieces but I’m hoping to grow little by little, and maybe start selling my designs to certain retailers as well, to find my audience and continue working organically.

Image: Kimberly Ihre x Minna Palmqvist
Minna Palmqvist
Stockholm Fashion Week