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Fashion Talk
Carmen Emanuela Popa

Carmen Emanuela Popa

Designer
Label - Carmen Emanuela Popa

Art animates clothing object, creating hybrid between reason & emotion

Carmen Emanuela Popa, a Romanian fashion designer, is known for her strong conceptual design. Her eponymous label is known to have vast philosophical influences, unique and visually challenging images, transmitting emotion and humanistic messages. In a conversation with Kiran Sahija, the designer reveals the correlation between art and fashion and shares tips for young designers who are into avant-garde.

Fibre2Fashion: Describe yourself and the city you were born in?

Carmen Emanuela Popa:

I was born in a small town in Romania, Adjud. In my childhood and adolescence, it was a chic, clean place and always had a cultural vibe. The young people had great ideals and I admired them a lot because I also saw virtue as an absolute quality. The areas that were talked about in my circle of friends were arts, theater, music. Also, there I did the first drawing and fashion design courses, in fact I flirted with styling and the love for clothes as an object of major importance, still very young. My adolescence was also marked by a lot of suffering because it seemed very heavy for me to get a higher education in the field. It was very difficult times, in many ways. But I knew that something existed in me and that it lived and made me happy. In time, I found myself as a person devoted to the whole being of art, so I made a huge effort to go in this route. I placed above all art, as a supreme entity in my personal religion. I loved it more than myself. I realised that I am a very sensitive and emotional individual, who likes to contemplate the smallest material and sometimes immaterial detail, any object, being from nature, the great creations of art, then to analyse them personally and to enjoy the metaphorical reverberations that they transmit to me. After years, at the first philosophy course, in the University of Arts and Design, the professor said that the greatest pleasure of man is the pleasure of thinking. I completely identified with that phrase and every time I finished those courses, as well as the others, I left with an infinite flight sensation and a certain bliss that encompassed my whole being. Maybe because then my love for art and knowledge was validated, I was free to believe that the pleasure and the impulse to think and create were true, they lived.

Fibre2Fashion: When did your love affair with design begin? How would you describe the emotion?

Carmen Emanuela Popa:

As I said, love has been there in my soul for a long time. While attending drawing classes at the House of Pioneers (an institution adjacent to the school in Romania in the 80s and 90s that promotes the arts and abilities in the field), I won the first prize in a fashion design contest, in which I participated with sketches / croquis. Since then, my determination in making models has amplified. Then I tried to make combinations of unexpected styles, for example to a couture dress I attached a non-removable backpack of the same material. I experienced the most intense emotions when the images appeared one by one in this whole creative process. It had become an extremely positive form of addiction that awakened some ineffable feelings in me.

Fibre2Fashion: How would you co-relate art and fashion?

Carmen Emanuela Popa:

For me, art is in the beginning. From there, all the levers for representing a concept start, from a visual and philosophical point of view. In recent years, I have got attracted to experimental fashion because it has a lot to do with conceptual art, or at least this is the trajectory on which I place my current creations. In addition, the conceptualism represents me very well because it can make ironic references to certain conservative cognitive patterns or can subtly place a dose of humour in works and, most tempting of all, can interpret standardized or archetypal concepts in various other facets of materiality, chromatic or in terms of form. Art animates the clothing object, creating a hybrid between reason and emotion / feeling.

Fibre2Fashion: What inspired you to start your own label and how was the experience while launching your first collection?

Carmen Emanuela Popa:

After I came to study in Bucharest, in 2010, I had the chance to receive support to make my own atelier. I had this courage because before this happened, a few years in a row I pioneered in several big cities in Romania and I worked for companies in the field, I did my creative services in terms of clothing, which was a great advantage. From the beginning, the intention was to concretize in real ideas that I had in mind and in the worksheet. Ideas that brought to the fore a character with a personal history, past and future. I wanted these things to come to life and share them with people. As it happened in the history of fashion with the designers who gave other connotations to the clothing, transforming them into work or artistic objects themselves. The first collection we launched on an international podium highlighted a soldier who is part of our contemporary society, anonymous and full of virtues. A collection that was crowned with success at Athens Xclusive Designers Week.

Fibre2Fashion: As each of your outfits are designed to portray a message, what are your end goals from your label and what is your niche?

Carmen Emanuela Popa:

My vision of a contemporary man is one who belongs to a total change. I would like society to have an ideal context in which it can manifest itself in a way of perpetual creativity. I strongly believe that certain patterns of thinking and dogmas limit us very much and make us stagnate from the point of view of a civilisation in aesthetics. I always have in front of my eyes a superhero who shines through his inner harmony and who is reflected on the outside through clothes with a high degree of execution and significance. Minimalism in fashion is an option like a safe classical but I think we need more, there must be an evolution, no matter in what forms and stylistic currents. We are hypercreative beings and we should use that. For now, as far as my creations are concerned, there are voices that appreciate the tendency to remove from conformity the allure of the clothing object and to propose an object that can anticipate the appearance of a future human being.

Fibre2Fashion: Being an experimental designer, who is the targeted audience and how does the retail part work?

Carmen Emanuela Popa:

Being more of a fashion artist, using interdisciplinary means to solve an incipient concept, I can say that the notion of wearable art suits me best, in terms of a description of my works. Experimenting is one of the liveliest activities in any workshop. This has a huge potential to make you discover completely new things to innovate and to find untapped aesthetic lands, which means that you are in touch with one among the top targets that any designer should have. As for the retail part, it's just a matter of budget. Because experimentation can provide infinite solutions to concepts, single ideas, associations of materials, structures, patterns. I would like to benefit from this type of financial paradise and expand my creativity in the sphere of targeted sales in order to provide people wanting a typical image in accordance to their own aspirations and place in society.

Fibre2Fashion: What are the materials you use for your collection?

Carmen Emanuela Popa:

I really like the materials with personality, taffeta type silk, translucent fabric, structurally hybrid materials, and also fabrics with a high degree of technology--waterproof, with good air transit, thermal insulation, etc. Lately I have used a lot of neoprene and other stretch derivatives from the sportswear industry. There are material resources that define very well the work I do. I am always looking for new, innovative materials and I am very happy when I come in contact with such appearances in the textile field. In fact, the material is also an indisputable source of inspiration. It often comes to the aid of the initial concept--artistic raw variants that you didn't think of before.

Fibre2Fashion: What do you find most exciting and conversely, most challenging while participating in a fashion show or fashion week?

Carmen Emanuela Popa:

A fashion show is the symbol of a universal runway in which the human being is transfigured. Starting from this premise, I cannot imagine the exposure of an object that does not imply an element of novelty, so that the image that a man projects about himself to be an evolutionary one, can have a plausible discourse in this context. The projection of a possible appearance of the present man but also of the one from other eras, enveloped by the mystery of his own feelings and attachments by this unusual world, by its beauty that flows in cascades, by all the sentimental flora and that of sensations, by the imagination of his absolute actions made in support of his peers--this would be my greatest desire when displaying a common character with finite human idealisation. On the other hand, the biggest challenge you face when participating in such events is that you may be surprised that many elements set to fit into a unitary whole, so that the message we talked about earlier, are canceled due to the technical conditions, location, climate and others that diminish from the definition of image. However, there are also cases when the challenge consists precisely in the joy of working with very good organisational teams and to be a revelation--every setting, make-up, lights, casting, post-production photos, etc, as happened for example at MBFW Russia, where all these things were at high professional level, especially since everything was set according to the designer's vision, thus reaching that whole thing about what I mention--how important it is for the conceived image to be impeccable.

Fibre2Fashion: What advice would you like to share with young designers who are into avant-garde?

Carmen Emanuela Popa:

Designers, in general, should be trained primarily to be able to unleash the type of graphic manifestation, beyond the academic style and that of previous currents in art history. They should be encouraged to protect their originality and, of course, to have mentors to help them do so, if they themselves are not clarified with these aspects of identity in terms of artistic expression. This is where it all starts. In order to create, you have to let yourself be carried away by the river of creation, without conditioning. The rest I think can be settled according to this approach. There is a prioritization of things and I believe we should put at the top of the list those that have the greatest significance. Innovation is one of them.

Fibre2Fashion: Are you passionate about something apart from fashion?

Carmen Emanuela Popa:

Painting will remain for me an insufficiently explored field and will always exist as a superior force that gives me creative vitality. For this reason, you will notice pictorial representations in some collections, but this is not all in this regard. Another great ally is poetry. It explains many of the images propelled so far in this conceptual fashion background. Metaphor is the most graceful and fresh thing imaginable of all that can descend from the soul twinned with the human mind. It carries you to the heights of an Edenic world in which infinity is premeditated. Also, another important immaterial friend is music, in the company of which any creative journey acquires the valences of new temporal and space dimensions, and the speed with which you travel is fulminating. Especially classical music and its modern and contemporary derivatives with all its complex instrumentation capable of emitting sounds that make you shiver and make you behave as if you had a range of notes in your own being. Although I only listen to music, unlike the others that are part of my creative activities, along with essays in the field of arts, I would have liked to compose neo-classical music. Also, in the sphere of basic preoccupation, namely conceptual fashion, I have a penchant for styling (which I only practice, very rarely) and for fashion photography, which for several years, has visually enhanced my works.

Are you passionate about something apart from fashion?

Published on: 19/11/2021

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