15 December 2015

Interview with Wintervacht:
Wrapped Up in a Warm Blanket

Text: Marie-Kathrin Zettl

Every day throughout the world, large quantities of rubbish are produced. Materials such as paper, plastic, glass, and electronic scrap fill dustbins and waste containers on a weekly basis. In addition to this, items and objects that no longer work are not repaired first as a rule, but immediately thrown away. Additionally, unused furniture, defective devices, and worn clothing cannot only be recycled but can be remodelled into new items. The principle of upcycling upgrades products aesthetically and ecologically and assigns them new functions. In contrast to the widely accepted cliché that upcycling is something to do with handicrafts, designers also work with these apparently useless materials.

The Dutch designers Yoni van Oorsouw and Manon van Hoeckel from Wintervacht deal with a common problem in winter, particularly when it is cold outside and it becomes much more difficult to get out of bed in the morning. Yoni and Manon make clothes out of old textiles to give the feeling of being wrapped up in a warm blanket all day long. In fact, they allow textiles, which have lost their original purpose, to get a new meaning. We spoke to Yoni about the concept and working process behind their clothes. 


How did you come up with the idea to use old blankets as a basis for clothes?


Manon and I met in art school about eight years ago. Every Tuesday evening we were taking sewing courses, given by my mom. At that time Manon lived in a house without central heating, so she had three old woolen blankets covering her bed. When my mom suggested making a coat for her she thought to make one out of the woolen blankets, as she’s always cold. After the compliments started pouring in, Manon called me with plans to turn this into a brand. Together with my mom I made a different model and started wearing it to school. We started selling to friends and classmates, and then the word got spread. 



What did you study?


After we graduated from the art school where we met, Manon moved to Eindhoven to study at the Design Academy. I moved to Arnhem to study product design at Artez. During the weekend we worked on Wintervacht. We transformed the houses of our parents into working spaces and everyone was helping, especially our mothers. Now we have our own studio in Amsterdam, where my mother still comes every once a week to work for us. Manon’s mother does all the finishing of the coats. We wouldn’t know what to do without them. It’s a real family business. 



What materials do you use? Where do you get them?


We are always looking for high quality materials. That’s why we sort out all the blankets and curtains by hand. We’re always looking for nice prints, but luckily there are so many different blankets that it isn’t hard to find them. Back in the days the industry of blanket making was big in the Netherlands, and all households had a few. Nowadays not many people use these blankets anymore, so they end up in thrift shops. Furthermore we are collaborating with some sorting factories and are researching what other materials we could use in the future. We want to continue making garments, but are also working on accessories like headbands and mittens. A new material we are using is vintage sleeping bags, which we will turn into limited edition bomber jackets in the future. 



How would you describe the making process? What kind of problems did you have?


Manon always comes up with a great idea. Like a coat out of old vintage blankets or a bomber jacket out of sleeping bags. When she suggests an idea I’m getting started with the model. What kind of model do we want? Where do we want the pockets, how should the fitting of the coat be? All the samples are made in our studio. Together we decide what the end result should look like. We still cut every piece by hand before it goes to our sewing atelier in Amsterdam. After it comes back, we do the finishing and the cleaning and steaming of the garment. Then it’s time to make some nice pictures and put the product on our website.

We had some problems with the bomber jacket out of sleeping bags. It’s a very difficult material to use and the atelier which we work with had some trouble making it. We decided to put it on hold so we can work on the bomber jacket out of blankets. If this coat is finished and out on the market we will work on the sleeping bag bomber jacket again. Sometimes you are very excited to work on something new but you have to decide what needs to be done first. Time is not always on our side.



Where do you get your inspiration?


We are inspired by different labels like Dent de Man or Afriek that use prints in a great way. We also get a lot of inspiration by looking at pattern making books of the 1940s and 1960s.



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