When it comes to fashion, I don’t really care about what’s in or out, what’s hot and or not. I like the beauty, the passion and the craftsmanship. Fair is fair, I like a hint of controversy too, but I don’t like controversy for the sake of controversy.
The Netherlands has it’s fair share of interesting fashion designers like Viktor & Rolf, Jan Taminiau and Iris van Herpen, but none of them are as colorful and quirky as Bas Kosters. Bas Kosters was born in 1977 in Zutphen in the East of The Netherlands. He studied Fashion at the middle school Rijn IJssel College in Arnhem (the fashion capital of The Netherlands) and then went to study at the AKI Academy of Fine Arts in Enschede where he graduated with his collection ‘Dumpster Queens’. Then he went back to Arnhem to do his master at the Fashion Institute, where he graduated with the collection ‘Two Teacups and a Frying Pan’ this was also the collection that earned him the ‘Robijn Fashion Award’ in 2003. In 2004 he created a limited-edition stroller for Bugaboo. For the Herman Miller Setu Chair he made ‘The Herman’. He has also collaborated with Mattel, and created an outfit for Barbie and a Barbie life-size dress with images of his favorite Barbies. What stands out in his work is the use of prints, illustrations and colors. His collections mainly focus on the things that interest and move him, like ‘Love, Fuck Yeah!’ an introspective collection and ode to love that he created after the break-up with his long term partner. His current collection ‘The Munchies’ is inspired by the function and soul of food. GrungeCake’s Amsterdam Editor Marjolein Keijser visited the unconventional fashion designer in his studio.
Your work and your fashion shows are very flamboyant and remind me of the Italian theatre form ‘commedia dell’arte’, is it in any way inspired by it?
No, but it I am inspired by carnival, clowns, puppets and dolls. I have loved dolls since the day I was born and I’m an avid doll collector. My mother used to make dolls and I also make them myself. I would like to call myself anthropomorphic; I love everything that has a face on it, even baloney. I’m also a big fan of puppets and Jim Henson’s work, like Fraggle Rock and The Muppet Show.
So what do you like about clowns? Your current Autumn/Winter collection [Clowns Are People Too] is even dedicated to them.
I don’t particularly like clowns, but I like what they can represent. Just like dolls, they can be confronting, banal and endearing. I’m also interested in the human being behind the clown. Similarly, I’m also fascinated by celebrities, and the human being behind the celebrity.
Prints are an important part of your designs, why?
I like to sketch and illustrate. I also use images from old magazines, I like the authenticity of it, I’m a ‘nostalgist’.
You don’t shy away from sexual and pornographic images.
I find pornography very interesting. At one point, I started to make dolls with penises. It’s intriguing, how far can you go? Is it funny, or shocking?
How about your penis legging [a legging covered with images of penises, official product name: ‘Is that a cock or your legs’]?
The penis legging was part of my Ugly Collection. The Ugly Collection wanted to address questions like: What is beauty, what is ugliness? A survey had shown that the penis was considered to be ugly, so we created a print of it. I didn’t simply copy-paste images of penises from the internet; they came from old porn magazines and were selected and edited with care. The penis legging was not intended to shock people, I’m just very visual. Images are my words, my language, and images of nudity are part of my vocabulary.
Could you tell something about your childhood?
There’s not much to tell. We had a good family life. The person I was, I still am today, and the things I used to do, I still do today. I always liked to dress up, transform, and I still love to do that. I never found that odd.
In 2005, you founded Bas Kosters Studio for your fashion-related activities, but you’re not just a fashion designer but also a painter, an illustrator, a doll maker, an Editor-In-Chief and a DJ.
Fashion, textile, clothes are the core of my business. Most of the other activities are not that significant. Everything I do, I do for the brand Bas Kosters, they are brand extensions. Even I, am my own creation. Of course I am more than just a brand, but everything I do is a reflection of my world, and I am the main character in it, the puppet master.
Being a DJ, what kind of music do you like?
I like many different music genres. For example: Disco, Electro, Club and Dance. My record collection contains Nina Hagen, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder, The B52’s and The Supremes, to name just a few. Artists like Dee-Lite and Army of Lovers are also an important source of inspiration for my designs.
And what kind of books do you read?
Detectives, erotic novels, crime and suspense, like the books by Haruki Murakami, Lilian Jackson Braun and the books about The Saint.
I love cult movies, and movies with dance and costumes like The Wiz and Grease. It’s not uncommon for me to watch a movie 30 times. I also like television shows like Murder She Wrote, Poirot, Miss Marple and Midsomer Murders.
Looking at your work, it is obvious that art is important to you, which artists do you like?
Cindy Sherman is amazing, and I also like Jeff Koons, especially his work with Cicciolina. The illustrative work by Warhol is tender, sweet, bizarre and elegant. I like to discover hidden gems, like the costumes by Jean Tinguely and Joan Miró, the latter also made beautiful tapestries. It’s best to see art in real life, only then can you truly appreciate the craftsmanship, Roy Lichtenstein’s work is a great example.
Which fashion designers have inspired you?
I want to be original so if another fashion designer inspires me, it’s mainly because of his/her vision and attitude. Vivienne Westwood, Zandra Rhodes, Fong Leng and People of the Labyrinth [inspire me]. I think craftsmanship is very important. Yves Saint Laurent was a real craftsman. Unfortunately now that he’s dead, and the label’s name has changed to Saint Laurent, it’s more about marketing than creation.
You organize an Anti Fashion Party twice a year, what is it exactly?
Actually, the Anti Fashion Party is a pro-fashion party but it’s against the empty-headed epiphenomena of fashion. Fashion is not about Rihanna on front row and goodie bags, it’s about the joy of dressing up and celebrating the individual.
You also have your own magazine: Extra Kak
I love print magazines. Now that so many things are online, the world has become so fictive. Extra Kak enables me to express myself in a different way. It is the platform for my illustrations, sketches and puns. I can put all my energy into it.
What are your goals?
I want to matter to people. I want to entice them, inspire them, [and] start a dialogue. I never used to have a goal, but at some point it is important that you have [one]. Although I still find it hard to define one, I think you should take a stand, and be committed to something.
And your plans for the future?
Currently, I’m working on a couture collection. I would also like to do some more collaborations, something with ceramics, shoes, jewelry, stationery, tapestries or furniture. I have so much creativity, it’s a shame I can not always put it to good use.
For more Bas Kosters, just click here.