The Second Sex – Vol II
Congratulations Danial on winning the 2016 Lichting award. Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Danial Aitouganov?
Thank you!! Well, I’m born and raised in Tartastan, Russia and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I grew up in a multicultural environment and enjoyed the eclectic culture clash. I studied to become a graphic designer before I chose fashion. The graphic Influence however still plays a big role in my work, developing prints. Other than that I am just a very dedicated young man that is surrounded by good friends and plenty talent which constantly pushes me further.
What defines and shapes you firstly as an individual and then as a designer?
It is very important to me that everything I do comes from the heart and is sincere. I am a passionate person and I hope that is reflected in my designs. I use fashion design as a storytelling medium. I want to have an open conversation with my followers about subjects that matter to me. I am a very intuitive person who wants his conversations to be based on feelings rather then over-intellectual or cerebral concepts. Eventually I hope that in this way my work evokes emotions in people. And then there is of course the playful side of me. That’s just as much a part of my personality as it is a part of my design signature.
How and why did you get into fashion?
To be honest, sneakers and street wear was one of the main reasons why I got into fashion. I was a typical street boy. I was really into rap and hip- hop. Back in the days I was obsessed with sneakers and that had evoked an interest. I spent my youth working in several stores such as Gorilli in Rotterdam and that showed me how much more there was to discover. We were among the first to have Comme Des Garcons play and other Japanese brands. Once I was done with my education as a graphic designer I knew I had to follow my passion for clothing to express myself personally and professionally. I got curious and decided the summer before my school year at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute started to give it a try...
Why did you choose fashion as a medium or channel of expression?
I am intrigued by clothing as a storytelling medium and strongly attached to the idea of evoking emotions through fashion design. I also love to paint and I still somehow do so with my prints. However, fashion is a medium that everyone can relate to and that somehow lets your story come alive. Its tangible and you can see it on the streets. I think in that way fashion is very unique. It’s the ultimate indicator for a certain point in time. Even more so than music I believe ...
How do you define your style and what are some of the things you would say has influenced that approach?
Well I think my style is quite bold and fun but at the same time very poetic and sensitive. That juxtaposition is something that is really important to me. I don't find it interesting to be the obviously rebellious. I think design becomes more intriguing if there are different layers to discover. I think the friction between the different elements is crucial in order to evoke emotions from the audience or the wearer and that’s ultimately what I am doing it for. In terms of my inspiration I am very influenced by art such as Henri Matisse or Alexander Calder. It mostly happens really intuitively.
Tell us about your collection ‘The Second Sex – Vol II. Where did the inspiration for this stunning collection come for your graduate collection?
This collection was about restoring the power of women. This is a subject that I have been inspired by for quite some time now. To make it short I realized that even in well developed, wealthy societies like the US or Western Europe, woman are not as free as they should be. They might not be killed or physically abused to an extent but it is still very much a reality in large parts of this world, but instead they are being over-sexualized and constantly categorized. I believe that women should stand for their ideals, interests and values rather than obeying to the stereotypes and conventions that society has created for them. Instead of rebelling in an aggressive or even anarchistic way I tried to put out a collection that is just very positive and even a bit humorist.
Tell us about your time at AMFI? How has your time as a student there shaped or molded you?
Fashion schools really mold you and push you to your limits. Sometimes it gets very personal. The first year of AMFI I didn’t really devote myself to the school nor my own passions. With that attitude you can better stop and study something else. But in the second year I decided for myself to really go for it and to see what was in it for me. In the second year I got selected to be part of the so-called “Honors” program, which gives the opportunity to the 10 most talented students of the academic year to receive special coaching for developing their own identity and signature as an individual designer. My highlights were the minor “Hypercraft” and the graduation project I did together with a friend of mine. In general I think that you change and develop a lot as a person at a fashion school. I think that is one of AMFI’s biggest qualities that they constantly force you to reflect on yourself and your work. They show you what it means to work together with different individuals which I think is very relevant for furthering careers. I certainly became a more disciplined person. I became braver but also more vulnerable at the same time.
What has been some of the challenges and struggles faced while studying and how did you get through them?
Before AMFI, I had never touched a sewing machine so that was very hard for me and that made me also want to give up in the first year.
Pattern making was also not a strong skill. But I realized quickly that I needed to give myself time to learn. I strongly believe that you need to give yourself time and you shouldn't be afraid of failure. I know it is easier said than done but I started the self practice early, practicing the ability to try and to learn every single day instead of just saying, ‘oh I can’t do this, or I can’t do that pattern and just give up on it.
Being a perfectionist is also very tough, as I tend to want things done perfect and we all know that perfection though great can be tough on the mind. But that tendency gave me the added push I needed to learn how to sew and pattern cut even though there are struggles sometimes. Also, constantly practicing self-reflection makes you braver in opening up to ourselves but also more sensible because you become so aware of your flaws and have the advantage of working on those flaws.
Now after graduation and the shows are done, what are some of the fears you had if any about coping with life after University?
Well, once everything is over you feel kind of empty. You have worked on something so intently for a long period of time and all of a sudden it is done. But I believe that is very normal in life and orientation phases always gives you the opportunity to refine your vision and who you want to become as a person. So I don't really see it as something bad but rather necessary and healthy.
What sort of help would you like to see made available for emerging talents within the creative industry?
I think events such as Lichting are very very important for young designers. It gives us the opportunity to present our work to a big audience, which gives us a lot of exposure. Other than that I believe the HTNK here in Amsterdam is a great initiative and they are also working really hard to nurture Dutch based talents.
I think a lot of designers come from school with such little knowledge about the industry and how things work within the industry that every initiative that is bridging that gap of knowledge is very relevant and important.
Do you feel that the voice of your art and craft is being understood within the industry?
I got a good response back from the parts of the industry that saw my work. Of course not everybody likes my style nor gets it, but that’s not important to me. It’s far more important that the woman that does like and understands my aesthetic will keep genuine interest and will be intrigued by my vision. I know that I still have a lot to learn to get that “industry stamp of approval”. It is just a different ball game.
Who would you say your designs are for? Can you describe your customer?
She believes in clothing as a tool to express her individuality. Her wardrobe is a jovial collection of vibrant textures and tints that blend in with exquisite basics. In between you will be surprised to find worn down jeans and washed out sweaters. She doesn’t like to color code her outfits but she assembles hues intuitively according to how she feels. The house might get messy but that’s okay, she is just living a little.
In company she speaks her mind but she never judges. However, she strongly disagrees when women are put into boxes and is determined to challenge female stereotypes. She believes that individuals need freedom in order to shape their character. She is mindful but doesn’t feel the need to control. Being informed and aware is her nature and not a deliberate effort.
Where do you see your brand in the next 5 years?
To be honest with you I believe that my brand will grow organically and slow. Especially in the first beginnings as it is important to let it grow organically because I strongly believe that only what is authentic can become timeless.
Do you think there is a problem with the fashion industry? How would you propose change?
Well, I am not sure if problem is the right word. There are certainly a lot of challenges. Trends come and go very fast nowadays but the industry is still operating in the same old system. I believe that there is a discrepancy in the case the world developed and how the fashion industry developed and evolves.
I think there should be a deliberate effort made in making people aware of the value of honest clothing and good design.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in Fashion design?
I think most importantly is to dare to express who you are or who you want to become. Furthermore I think it is important to let go of the ego in order to be open to learn and develop. Be passionate about what you do and you shall be rewarded.
What makes you Fearless?
Well ultimate self-expression is fearless because you have to open up completely and that again makes you really vulnerable. I also think its important to have a strong sense of self-belief in yourself even when others don't see it or agree. I managed to let go of a few fears but there are still a few to go and that’s also exciting because you never know what you'll have to learn next.
Interview by Thomasina R. Legend
Photography: Carlijn Jacobs
Styling: Imruh Asha
Hair and make-up: Anita Jolles
Model: Ovo Drenth @ Max Models
Published in Volume 3, Fearless