Costume designer, blogger, illustrator, photographer, journalist and altogether a dreamer whose creative ambition and passion for anything unconventional quickly turned him into an achiever; Filep Motwary needs no big introductions, his work does all the work, having appeared in several leading publications such as Vogue, Dazed & Confused and Prestel’s Style Feed: The World’s Top Fashion Blogs while gaining the attention of many great individuals including Helmut Lang, Rick Owens and Maison Martin Margiela, to name a few. Chasseur caught up with the man himself in an attempt to discover more about his inspiring life and work.
During the last decade, you have managed to accomplish several great achievements in both the fashion and art industry. Taking you right back to your first day, fresh out of your studies, what were your thoughts back then regarding your future in the industry?
It is impossible to understand the fashion industry unless you work in it. Naturally in my early 20’s I had something different in mind, wanting to be a designer in a big House and at the same time I had to struggle with my own daily reality on how to pay my school, my rent and all these little details that hold one back. Life itself is a wonder. It takes you to places by nature, literally or figuratively. What really mattered was first to prove myself to me. What really helped was my passion. From a very early age, I knew “who was who” in Fashion, at least in Paris and Milan as I used to spend all my money on magazines. Photography, illustration and journalism are things I discovered along the way. I never planned any of them really. Hopefully I do not sound cliche.
From a very early stage of your career, you decided to take matters in your hands and create ‘fashion’, the way you envisioned it, through your own label, Soit L’autre. What were the challenges you had to face and what were the most important things this experience has left you with?
There was a lack of experience in both creative and financial aspects of putting a label together. Also, where I come from, people don’t know how to work in teams and later, when I moved to Paris, it was necessary for me to push this boundary away and learn new ways of creating beauty in collaboration with others. Also, the fact that I was living in Greece didn’t really help on having a solid idea about what truly this industry is made of. In Athens, where I used to live, there was a lot of talent around, though there was no way of putting it in a financial context, as there was a misunderstanding for the nature of the business, something I experienced both while working as an assistant stylist and later as a designer. Also, I had to deal with the absence of new materials, as everything was very basic and sometimes old. It was even hard to find the right people to make things for me, artisans for example. This was of course in the late 90’s until 2003 or so. I guess things have evolved since then.
Having a reason to create. Personally I moved from creating collections to creating characters for certain projects or commissioned ideas, participation in museum exhibitions and so on. It is a completely different way of expression compared to what I had to do as a designer for prêt-a-porter. Looking back, I must say the first phase of my career did not serve my need for creation. My collections were embraced by high-end boutiques, the finest press etc and I am thankful for all the people who treated my work as something special.
What has been your most favourite ‘special project’ to design for, so far?
Every costume serves the reason for which it is created. Each was made with intensive work, concentration and love. All of my costumes, along with Mastori’s jewellery have travelled around the world, have been included in great publications and placed next to other designers I admire, some of them since I was very very young.
Having travelled the globe, would you say that the fashion industry, now more than ever, is undergoing through major changes? What would these be and why, in your opinion, are the tides of fashion changing?
They are changing because it is the nature of it. Designers have a certain amount of time to create something new. Fashion as a term represents countless jobs and not all of them are fashionable. Everybody is fascinated by fashion and wants to be part this secluded place. Most people only see fashion the way it is presented in the press or blogs during the fashion weeks. Ok, this is a reality but it serves only 1% of what this business is about. Fashion works exactly like the human stomach. If you fill it too much, you are unable to digest and then you have to vomit. The procedure on how to release a new product to the consumers remains the same all these years although style changes are actually driven by the consumers themselves and not their creators. More and more members of the society we live in adapt styles that reflect the concern and interests of a new generation. And so many things are affected by what consumers want: clothes, things they see in magazines or billboards, gadgets etc. Everything is tested based on consumerism.
We live in a world of gadgets right now and more and more products are gadget-friendly; Based on this new digital era, it makes more sense to see a young breed of professionals entering the fashion scene and conquering, if not re-creating, the market. At the same time, the older are necessary to maintain the morals. It is longevity we will need to worry about in the future.
Given your fascination with illustration and photography, it’s quite obvious that art holds an equally important part in your life as does fashion. Where do you find yourself looking for inspiration and what has been your most interesting ‘find’ to date?
I am interested in visual testimonies. All my photos are about things that were/are important for me to put in a frame context.
That moment when my eyes cross with the eyes of my “subject”. That special and instant moment of mutual understanding. Recently I did a portrait of a French woman whom I was trying to photograph for two solid years and she would always refuse. During these two years, she was observing me from a distance and I could feel it. I could not offend her trust.
If you had to choose, who would make your most beloved subject to ever capture on camera?
There is certain actress whom everybody photographs since a few years now and she is solidly linked with fashion. I will not give you her name though I am sure you know whom I’m talking about.
Despite the apparent success, I can’t help but wonder, if there was ever a ‘bump’ during your career that made you even for a blind second to doubt yourself..
I doubt myself every single day.
Any hints on what’s next?
So many things! To list a few I will be a jury member for La Cambre school in Brussels next week, followed by the menswear collections and Couture… And right after, the Greek islands where I will switch off my phone and forget my laptop.