BIBI CHEMNITZ talks fashion in Greenland, USA as a superpower, and designing with seal fur.
A GREENLANDIC FASHION LABEL
If you visit Greenland tomorrow, don’t expect everyone to wear traditional sealskin and animal furs. Instead, you might see some youth and adults also dressed in the latest trends fresh off the Paris fashion runway. Enter Greenland’s very own BIBI CHEMNITZ.
Call the style ‘functional Scandinavian with a Greenlandic soul’ if you will; the brand offers a full range of clothing including hoodies, caps and dresses.
“The mood and colour palettes are often inspired by raw Greenland, whereas the designs and silhouettes are clearly influenced by our Copenhagen city base,” explains David from BIBI CHEMNITZ. “For example, the jumper that Bibi is wearing today (pic above) is inspired by seal fur patterns but is otherwise minimalist in design.”
The brand is a partnership between Bibi and David, her partner-in-life and in business. A soft-spoken woman with bleached white-blond hair and intricate tattooed fingers, Bibi lets David do most of the talking when it comes to English interviews. They both have a role to play in the brand, but the lines are blurred.
“We work together across all areas of the business,” David says.
The jet-setting pair are 110 per cent busy with the growing brand, which is popular in countries as far and wide as Denmark, Italy, and Japan. I caught them during a brief visit to Nuuk; and they had just come back from showcasing the brand at a hectic Paris Fashion Week.
GREENLAND AND THE USA
BIBI CHEMNITZ clothing clearly conveys a story – although the story might have many interpretations.
“Our designs are influenced by many things – from different cultures, to sports like basketball and music like hip hop, to cities and movies.”
When pushed a little more, David explains with a cheeky glint in his eye, “For example, Twin Peaks is a raw and melancholy movie, but I try to limit myself when it comes to that.”
Perhaps the most controversial design by BIBI CHEMNITZ to date was featured in last season’s Spring/Summer 2013 line. It was a flag of the USA imprinted over a map of Greenland.
“Mining was all they talked about both in Greenland and Denmark back then. The rest of the world was really interested in Greenland, and that was because of the natural resources.
“We put the flag of a superpower over the map of Greenland to say that the power was in our hands. It was also a reminder not to accept the first offer.”
This was interesting because many others interpreted the print to mean that Greenland wanted to be like the USA. David explained that they chose the American flag to represent superpowers, because they thought the flag’s design worked well with the print.
“It didn’t necessarily have to be the American flag.”
PLAYING WITH SEALSKIN AND FURS
Traditional Greenlandic design is very strict in its look and feel. There aren’t so many designers bending the rules, but BIBI CHEMNITZ hope to redefine the limits of Greenlandic design.
“As long as it is done with respect it’s ok, but you might end up having to defend yourself”, the pair admit.
For example Danish designer Peter Jensen was criticised by some for reinterpreting the traditional Greenlandic kamik with heels. Others loved it.
BIBI CHEMNITZ has worked in collaboration with Great Greenland and Copenhagen Fur to design modern clothing using sealskin.
“We support Inuit-caught seal. It’s a beautiful material to work with and to the smaller Inuit hunting communities it is important to the economy.” David says.
They also fully support the #sealfie trend, which is bringing focus to the ethical consumption of seal in the Arctic. The #sealfie trend was sparked in reaction to celebrity Ellen DeGenres making a statement on her website describing the seal hunt as “one of the most atrocious and inhumane acts against animals allowed by any government.”
Tweets mainly showcase Inuit people wearing sealskin designs, pictures from a seal hunt or eating a seal meal. It was inspired by Ms DeGenres’ Oscar #selfie, which broke the record for the most retweeted post in history with over two millions tweets.
“The whole debate has been taken out of proportion. It’s also difficult to accept when someone from Los Angeles makes broad statements like that,” says David, with Bibi nodding in agreement.
“We hope to work more with seal fur in the future to give it a more urban context and sporty feel.
It would be a shame not to use the fur, when the rest of the seal is eaten and used.”
- Seal hunting: a young Inuit’s perspective (thefourthcontinent.com)
- So you think Greenlandic food is exotic? (thefourthcontinent.com)
- Dancing on prom night: Årsfest (thefourthcontinent.com)