Images c/o Freak Factory
Just as its name implies, the Lithuanian brand Freak Factory is anything but ordinary. Freak Factory recently launched their A/W 2012 collection "Rusty Heart" which "visualizes an interaction between two opposing elements to create a collection like no other." I was immediately drawn to this collection, not only for its visual appeal but because the concept behind it is so intriguing.
"Rusty Heart" was inspired by Linus Reichlin's novel "The Yearning of Atoms". Both the novel and collection are full of beautiful paradoxes. I had the pleasure of interviewing the designer behind the label, Jeva Bartuseviciute.
The connection is simple. Science was born out of nature. Nature, on the other hand, has survived without science for as long as it has existed.
I come from Eastern Europe. In my experience, a lot of people in the west believe that nature's soul exists here. This is particularly true in Lithuania, which was the last standing pagan country in Europe (until the 15th Century) and where its influence can be traced even today. Powerful women, strongly connected to nature (wise women or high priestesses) have been always respected and listened to. On the other hand, in the Soviet Union science had a big influence on everyday life, to the point where it nearly replaced religion. Here we saw a surge in famous and globally recognized scientists. Everyone was crazy about logic, facts and the latest inventions.
The opposing spheres of science and nature have always intrigued me and I am constantly looking to find a balance between the two in my personal and professional life.
I have never read Reichlin’s novel (I’m not sure that it is translated into English?), but I admire how you drew such strong inspiration from a work of literature. Do you think the characters in the story would appreciate their representation in the collection?
I don’t think that any of the novel’s characters would be seriously interested in fashion. Well, I hope not! Otherwise, that would be disappointing.
The fact that not everything in this world circles around fashion makes me happier. Fashion is an important way to express your personality, but so many things here are exaggerated, shallow and it would be sad if these adjectives would describe who we are today.
On a more personal level, do you find that you are attracted to these types of opposing forces, whether it is other people, experiences, or even possessions?
Absolutely. I admire contrasts and opposites, constantly looking for areas where they interact. Including my work. I also enjoy all aspects of life: from happiness to sorrow. Being eccentric, I am interested in the extremes and opposites. They are the objects of my admiration and research.
Freak Factory is a Lithuanian womenswear brand. Is there anything unique to the collection that has a predominantly Lithuanian influence?
Going back to the Eastern European subject, I am half Lithuanian and half Russian. In both these countries emancipation didn’t play such an important role as the West. Even today, some women don’t understand why they should be equal to men and why women would want to burn their bras just to prove that they have a strong personality! There is a saying that behind every powerful man stands a powerful woman. Just like in a chess game, the most powerful figure is Queen.
Sayings and jokes aside, women in Lithuania don’t deny who they are. Just like Freak Factory’s woman, who uses her femininity and beauty as her strengths, not weaknesses. I love working with a woman’s body to highlight its complexity and perfection. To me it’s a celebration of femininity.
Suddenly it seems very cool to be a freak. “Slightly off. In a very enviable way.” What makes you and the women you design for so “freaky”?
It would be correct to say it's not “freak design”, but design for freaks. The idea with our label was to give a new meaning to this slightly negative word. Freak Factory is my second label, which I’ve started as a matured and experienced designer. The aim was to create a unique, ‘slow fashion’ category, designing clothes that are desirable, wearable, comfortable, but still bespoke. My garments are for me and ‘my girls’, who are grown-up and have colourful personalities, but still don’t want to give up their wild lifestyles.
From a design point of view Freak Factory’s silhouettes are special. I usually ignore fashion trends, as they don’t express my ideas. Instead I use the latest innovations of garment cutting and aim to develop clothes that one day will become the new classic. After all, to me intelligent fashion stands for quality and timeless pieces.
Illustrations also play an important role in my work. For each collection I develop unique patterns and prints. They are mixed and matched with variation of colours. But even the most colourful personalities sometimes need a less provocative style. Therefore, we also offer all our garments in a black palette, so that our clients can choose the best fit to express their needs and mood.
As a budding fashion designer and blogger, I realize how difficult it can be to stay true to your design aesthetic in this industry. Do you struggle with this and if so how do you manage to keep your voice?
I think that at this stage it’s not a difficulty anymore. I started my career in 2001 with the first label Laundryclub. I had ten amazing years for experiments and discoveries. And it wasn’t only fashion. I also worked with my colleagues on various print, short film and illustration projects. It was a time when I tried to find myself in art and was not interested in the commercial side of things. A realization how I can turn my biggest passion and hobby into a source of living came with an offer to create a collection with the team I am currently working with.
This was the start of Freak Factory as we know it. The period of experiments ended with Laundryclub and Freak Factory signalled the beginning of the new stage of my life – as a grown-up, experienced designer with a signature style.
I still remember receiving my first sewing machine from my grandmother when I was about 10 years old. Have you had a similar experience where it was evident you were destined to become a fashion designer?
To be honest, I don’t have a sewing machine at home. I don’t even know how to sew properly (by the way I see it as a plus not a minus). I have always seen myself as a universal designer. After the Foundation year at the Zurich Art and Design University, I applied for three different courses and enrolled to the Textile Design studies. This was followed by a year of practice at three different offices in New York in 2000, when I decided that I was interested in fashion and working with the body. I have an absolutely different understanding of fashion, which makes Freak Factory a slightly “off” label. I am an illustrator, textile designer with a great understanding of form and anatomy. Fashion in our label is only one part of the whole, and I hope that Freak Factory will soon grow into a bigger project.
What were your goals and visions for Freak Factory when it was first started and your plans for the futures?
As mentioned before, everything started in 2001 with the Laundryclub. At the time the goal was to experiment and get as much satisfaction from my hobby as possible. Only when my collections found their places in Swiss women's hearts, I realized that I achieved more than I wished for.
Today these goals are more defined, since I have a business partner who is looking after our label’s strategy. I am given all technical capabilities to lose myself and the team in the creative process, while she is looking for opportunities to sell the result. Of course, not everything is as easy as I have just described.
Our clothes are not mass produced. Each garment is cut, dyed, printed and made in limited quantities at our atelier. We are looking for new clients and audiences in different markets and it is not easy. We constantly joke that only 5% of women seriously interested in fashion are our potential clients. Or maybe even less, but this doesn’t stop us from trying to reach them.
Talking about the future, I hope that one day Freak Factory will be associated not only with garments, but also with other products and objects.
A big thank you to my new friends at Caption London and Freak Factory! You can shop the collection and learn more about the label at http://www.freakfactory.eu/.