Fascinated by the extremes of human nature and the power of Manga, Closet Children is here to bring us her darkest fantasies. Bored by the real world at a young age, she escaped to her world of fantasies which she is now bringing back to life through her creative work. The designer wants to give her viewers a ‘Wait, what did I just watch?’ feeling by clashing innocence with horror and cute wit kink. With her black doll masks, silicon gloves, black latex and PVC thigh-high boots she definitely knows how to turn heads.
The concept of childhood is strongly visible in your collection. One thing, in particular, that stands out is the use of the black doll masks. What is the story behind this?
My collection “WE KNOW WHAT YOU ARE HIDING” is about the hiding of your deepest darkest secrets through the eyes of a porcelain doll. The doll is a medium for hiding because she sits in your room and watches everything you do, but never saying a word. I got the idea from reading Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster”. There was a scene where a serial killer recounted his childhood of being abused in a room by his mother. He would cry out to this doll in the room for help, but she would just sit there, smiling in the darkness as his mother beat him. At the same time I was doing research on smuggling garments and I found out that dolls were actually used to smuggle drugs during the American Civil War. It was a perfect link between hiding “physically” and “mentally”.
For the collection, I wanted to to turn my models into live dolls. At first I did make a clear version of the mask where it would distort the face, it was a very weird look combining doll features with semblances of human features. But I decided to go black as a statement of total dehumanization. It’s a reference to Kink aesthetics where black latex masks are used. Visually it was a contrast to the cute clothing paired with extended silicone prosthetic gloves and PVC thigh high boots. Another inspiration for the masks was taken from strange porn videos of people in anime masks (known as anigao-kigurumi). It’s like cosplay on a different level of weird because of the abnormally large anime heads but in real life. Not only that, it’s a lot like female masking where the wearer would also don a nude skin body suit to have extremely smooth unrealistic looking skin so you really look like you’ve popped out of an anime. It was pretty uncanny and I really wanted that same effect of “that’s a person in a ‘costume’... but wait what did I just watch??”
What has been the biggest influence on your work?
Anime and manga has been my biggest influence. One should never underestimate the power of something that’s seemingly “childish” or just “cute” (sometimes cringey, when you mention “weeaboo”). There’s a whole range of work out there and some very deep life lessons and epiphanies you can gain from just reading a manga. I grew up an only child so I learned to entertain myself. I would write my own stories and draw my own characters based on anime that was streaming on television. It’s also how I learned to draw. Real life was boring so I would escape to my fantasy world. I feel that the stories told through anime/manga are just on another level, that no other medium can achieve the same effect. Anime to live action is so different, the whole beauty of it is that it’s not meant to exist in our world. Yet at the same time it’s “hypothetical real life” for certain genres. I want to achieve the same level of storytelling with fashion. That level of really being immersed in another dimension.
What personal, cultural, historical or artistic references you find yourself going back to for inspiration or research?
I always seem to go back to fairytale references, especially how the original fairytales were very dark and used to teach children “life lessons”. They were unfortunately very patriarchal as well and I remember studying this in high school where we read re-written feminist versions of fairytales by Anne Sexton and Angela Carter which exposed the patriarchy. I just really loved the way it was done and has stuck with me ever since. There will always be “girlish” visuals in my work, but presented in a twisted way. It’s the sweetness and sugar coating that’ll eventually poison you.
Another source of inspiration would be the dark extremes of human nature. I once did a collection about obsession where I was fascinated by photographs of Japanese people who collected garments and merchandise of a particular luxury brand. Some of them were really hardcore, like they never cooked in their apartments so that the clothes would not latch on to any smells. Their apartments were museums. The best one was of a monk who was obsessed with Comme Des Garcons. He believed in it’s holy powers because his sister turned over a new leaf after she started wear CDG. It was hilarious and ironic that he was part of a religion that refused the material world. Yet here he was worshipping Rei Kawakubo as high priestess of fashion. I really live for stories like these especially in my research process.
Your collection has a strong voice, clashing innocent designs with a sense of darkness. How much of yourself is in this expression? What is behind this dark side?
I’ve always had this duality in me. I’ll always be fascinated by the dark extremes of human nature yet at the same time I want to be a fluffy kitten letting out squeaky mews that someone will take care of and love and feed on a daily basis. But I also believe that there’s duality in everyone. It only takes certain circumstances to trigger different sides of us that we never knew existed. Other people are just good at hiding the darker sides of themselves.
What is your vision on the current fashion system? Is there anything you would like to change with your work?
I’ve never really agreed with the idea of mass production but at the same time everyone has their broke days and we’ve been conditioned to have short attention spans such that we constantly need to lust after something shiny and new. I think everyone should support handmade/small quantity production or vintage. That’s not something I can change entirely with my own work because it’s a whole mindset that you have to impart on generations of people. But with my method and process, I like doing finishings by hand and the process of making something. I would certainly like to do some in-house production in the future. I also think that the fashion system focuses way too much on the end product. I think the process and the deep stories behind collections should also be highlighted and put into focus. With my work I want people to question or feel uncomfortable and with that, find out more about what they’re seeing and experiencing.
You are from Singapore but studied at KaBK in the Netherlands, how has this influenced your work? Are there any specific ‘dutch’ things that influenced you?
I don’t think it has influenced my work directly, but more like the process perhaps. I feel like Dutch people are very “DIY”. When I first moved to the Netherlands, I went to IKEA to get my furniture and ordered furniture assembly service. The staff were actually surprised I wanted that add on. It’s pretty normal to get people to fix your furniture in Singapore, because we are kind of lazy even though we’re asians. I think it’s not so much “DIY” but really the “figure it out on your own” sort of mentality? Even in fashion school, whatever weird sketch you do on paper you have to figure out how to get it done. Of course you can ask for some help but a lot of times it’s also about picking up a new skill and lots of trial and error. The whole school system is built in such a way. I really like the spirit though, it makes you a constant learner which is what’s important in life!
Where do you wish to see your brand in 5 years from now?
I would really love for Closet Children to be established. I don’t need to be showing in fashion week, I just want loyal followers who love and support what I do and wear Closet Children as a lifestyle!
photography VIKTOR NAUMOVSKI
interview ANIEK STROEKEN
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