ARTIST INTERVIEW: Odile Jacobs
Company: Odile Jacobs
Artist: Odile Jacobs
Joining us from Bruges, Belgium, Odile Jacobs brings her stunningly colorful, geometric pieces to our Fair this season. With styles that are simultaneously unique and timeless with a deep intention of empowering women through garments, we feel Odile’s ethos align strongly with the Echo Park Craft Fair’s, and we couldn’t be more honored to have her.
Odile Jacobs delivers an eclectic approach to women’s apparel with a fusion of African tradition and European Style. The ready-to-wear brand based in Bruges, Belgium uses colourful and stylish waxed fabrics sourced in Africa, with sculptural silhouettes to create a fresh look which prides itself on individuality. Odile’s mission is to give an international dimension to the African wax patterns and to value the true traditional connection, while creating a sober yet dynamic cut to empower women to discover their own true essence.
The spark for her creative passion was re-ignited in March 2016 by some designers who had included ethnic fabrics in their creations. With the memory of her mother’s experience with the wax fabrics driving her ambition, she decided to design some dresses that she might like to wear. A close friend in Ghana suggested that she go scope out some fabrics and she returned with a dozen dresses in February 2017. She was invited to present her growing collection in a shop in Brussels, which was the start of success for Odile, in her dream to produce a constant, creative world of colours and transformation without losing her authentic character.
The Echo Park Craft Fair is celebrating our 10 year anniversary this Holiday, 2019. Can you speak to how long you’ve been doing the Fair and how the EPCF community has contributed to the evolution of your work and business?
We’re very happy to participate and join the 10 year anniversary of the EPCF.
Since we’ve started our project, we’re glad to see that it matches a lot of people’s expectations, and we realize we contribute to a value of well-being by supporting a very authentic lifestyle, as promoted by EPCF.
Please tell us about the current work you will featuring this Holiday and speak a bit to how you/your work as evolved over the last decade?
The inspiration or the start of our collection was the fact that fashion was trapped in uniform colours and styles. The return of the need to wear colours and comfortable apparel called to me and was my drive force from the start. As a result, and spontaneously, it felt natural to marry the authentic fabrics of my roots and the sobriety of the styles inspired by our Flemish cultural background. The mix of both is what gives the label its special and valuable identity.
The ethics of production are on our minds a lot recently – questions of sustainability, fair labor, location, and artistic integrity. How do these concepts come into play in your craft and your business? What choices do you make that take into account these ideas?
As my intention from the start was to search for fellow crafts (wo-)men in Africa, our way of manufacturing in small quantities just adds to the exclusivity of the items. We don’t aim to produce high quantities, but rather to provide unique pieces to women who value this approach. The powerful fabrics speak for themselves and very often bear valuable (hidden) messages. I love to select the fabrics on my intuition and, from there, decide in which style it would best be worn.
Thanks to these powerful motives, the items are timeless, and are therefore not sold at a discount, as their value increases due to their scarcity.
Finally, I discovered that many women needed assistance in the process of discovering this brand and how to wear the items in various circumstances. This conversation contributes a lot in sharing each others’ experiences. And believe it or not, this provides a lot of happiness and friendship.
Can you speak a bit to your process? What inspires your work? What techniques do you use to produce your designs? What is the history behind those techniques, and does that inform how you utilize them in your process?
What drives me the most is elegance. But without emphasis, without too much fuss. Less is more.
The late Lee Radziwill is certainly one of my muses, as are Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. All were driven by elegance and simplicity.
The wax is a dying technique used on a pressed cotton fabric, inspired by the Batik, and brought to Ghana 150 years ago by the Dutch on their journey back from the West Indies. They modified that technique using the traditional coloured cloths worn by the local African communities. The big variety of patterns are the result of constant and scrupulous scouting through various African tribes. My passion lies in making the selection of these fabrics.
As I choose the fabrics, I love to feel how to match the expression I’m looking for. The efficient cut of the fabric is never a motivation to use it one way or another. But the possible combination with other garments is much more paramount. Thrilling.
The positive feedback of a lot of my customers also inspires me to continue.
What is your underlying philosophy/core vision for your work? And what impact do you hope your creative work will have on your community?
I would be very happy if I could contribute to the uplifting of the traditional African fabric to another standard.
At the same time, I love to contribute to empowering women as I did when I was a midwife for so many years, but now, giving birth to their own newborn inner life.