Laetitia Bica and Sarah Bruylant : Two Belgian finalists at Hyères
33rd Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography, from 26 to 30 April 2018. Exhibition at the Villa Noailles, until 27 May.
Liege-born Laetitia Bica has developed an unconventional and uncompromising photographic style around encounters, exchanges and dialogue. As for Sarah Bruylant, following her studies at Francisco Ferrer, she left to continue her training at AMFI in Amsterdam, quietly hoping to someday create her own brand. This spring, they are both finalists of the prestigious festival of Hyères. A double profile.
TLmag: In fashion, Laetitia you are close to Jean-Paul Lespagnard, winner in 2008. And Pablo Henrard, finalist in 2014, is now a designer at Givenchy. Hyères is a real springboard. Is that why you decided to take part?
Sarah Bruylant: I feel a very special relationship with Hyères in the sense that I had the opportunity to attend after my first year at Francisco Ferrer. I loved the atmosphere, the show and the ultra-specific profiles of the jury members. Being able to present my work to them is an incredible opportunity. That is the first reason I am taking part in the competition. The second is the need to boost my self-confidence. When you leave school, even if you were one of the best students, you still have a lot of self-doubt. I think that the festival is a chance to gain assurance and to build your network. I was chosen from amongst 300 candidates. Today, I can dream and contemplate going even further.
Laetitia Bica: Hyères is a springboard, no doubt. Showing your work to the jury and the international press, is inevitably a unique opportunity. It was also a good way to enhance my work, to give it a place and to find my own. Beyond the aspect of recognition, and considering the nature of the project itself, which is so important to me, I want to highlight the social aspect. For CREAM, the series of images selected for Hyères and exhibited in Liege during Bip 2018, I worked with the artists from Créahm who were, just like myself, part of the project.
TLmag: Over the years, the Antwerp Academy and La Cambre have taken the laurels. However, we are seeing new talents emerge, who are partially self-taught or who are coming out of smaller schools. Do you believe learning and development require education or first-hand experience?
S.B.: My first degree enabled me to acquire a real technical expertise that has been very valuable in the rest of my education. During my studies in Amsterdam, for any design I imagined, I knew how to realise it. I think that with ambition and determination, you can break through even if you didn’t attend La Cambre or another big school. What counts is what you do with your education.
L.B.: I think you can find an education wherever you look for it. This is true for all artistic disciplines. We develop through encounters. Human, of course, but also with a colour or a motion that changes how we think and thus influences the next step along our path. In this case, it was through encounters with various institutes (Créahm, MAD Brussels, etc.) within which I had to find my place. By creating dialogue between these different institutions, their borders become more flexible. In my work, I prefer to speak more of interdependence, rather than independence. Freedom in and of itself doesn’t mean anything. What is interesting is to enjoy true autonomy while developing within existing structures.
TLmag: At Hyères, fashion and photography – two closely linked disciplines – are brought together within one festival. How do each of you perceive fashion, on the one hand, and photography, on the other?
S.B.: In my work, I am motivated by the possibility to tell stories. Photography plays a big role in this. For my graduation collection – which led to my being selected for Hyères – I worked with a young photographer. We filled a truck with dozens of sofas that we set up in a wood in the heart of Holland. This type of atmosphere inspires me much more than shooting in a studio in front of a white backdrop.
L.B.: When I collaborate with a fashion or design brand, my work is more akin to an artistic guidance. What interests the designers is my perspective of the objects. There, as well, what excites me is reflecting an intention and, ultimately, seeing a type of liberty emerge from the constraints. For a photographer, fashion is an amazing playground.
TLmag: Tell us about the work that each of you will present at the festival of Hyères?
S.B.: The seven silhouettes I will present tell the story of a girl who lives in an imaginary world that is the opposite of ours, where people tend to all dress the same, in jeans and sneakers. It’s my way of pleading for freedom in fashion. I play with the cuts – ultra voluminous – and the colours. Every piece is hand painted in a style inspired by pointillism.
L.B.: For two months, I worked at the Créahm Liège studio with Sam Cariaux and other artists. Using makeup, but also body paint, they created a dialogue and transcended my portraits. My goal was to shine a light on the link that united us all. A link that, without this work, would be completely invisible. Unique because they are bonded to a shared moment that cannot be replicated, the makeup and the lines define them. The project thus has a very strong identity aspect. The integration of the publishing workshop of Bruno Robbe – a very enriching exterior perspective that also boosted our work – also enabled me to vary the printing techniques for my photographs.
TLmag: The two 2018 juries are composed of very eclectic profiles. Which members inspire you? And more generally, which are your references?
S.B.: I am a fan of the work of Haider Ackermann, president of the jury for the 2018 edition. He is able to remain faithful to his style without ever veering away from it. From a style perspective, I feel close to Rei Kawakubo, founder of the brand Comme des Garçons. I like her work with volumes and the way she creates freely, without worrying whether a piece will be wearable and less commercial.
L.B.: I don’t really have one. I of course admire the work of Bettina Rheims, president of the jury for the 2018 edition, but I believe more in the enrichment that comes from an encounter and the quality of exchange. Very recently, I worked with Alexia de Ville, who created the Tenue de Ville wallpaper brand, on her latest collection Saudade. I like to listen to a person, understand what they want to express, then use this material to communicate using an image.
TLmag: Are you the type to have career plans? Or do you prefer to develop your career depending on your encounters?
S.B.: Before I found out that I had been selected for Hyères, I was already thinking about creating my own brand. That’s still the case, but I am also aware of the importance of leaving certain doors open. If an opportunity presents itself, I could certainly accept working for a house that would be captivated by my universe. At this point, I won’t rule out anything.
L.B.: I’m not sure I really understand the word career. I prefer to speak about lifestyle. What is important are the encounters. Those that make you think and develop. And while I am conscious of professional strategies, they are so I can do better, and to enable me to find my place. A place that is, of course, unfixed and that, as mutations occur, will always better define me.