Jurgen Van Cauwenbergh is a fashion designer, photographer, teacher, triathlete and illustrator. An alumnus of the Antwerp Fashion Academy, he boasts a distinguished career in the Belgian fashion industry and has been the designer at Zilton for over 10 years. It’s high time then that we talk to Jurgen about what inspires him and his relationship with (men's) fashion and fashion photography.
We met Jurgen in his workplace at Zilton's headquarters in Eke, surrounded by mood boards with photos of rugged landscapes and contemporary architecture, and a variety of fabrics and hardware, all for the forthcoming Zilton collection.
“I derive my inspiration from things that move me. Music, for instance, can be the trigger that kick-starts my creative journey. For Zilton that includes class acts like The Velvet Underground, Nick Cave and Nina Simone. Paintings can also have the same effect. I prefer the power and dynamism of contemporary artists, whom I may or may not know personally, like Sam Dilleman, Anselm Kiefer and Nils Verkaeren.”
“I draw inspiration from people I admire for their exceptional talent, such as David Bowie, as well as from those around me and chance encounters. Architecture also has its place at Zilton. Architectural triumphs by Juliaan Lampens and Oscar Niemeyer continue to inspire.”
“The Zilton team plays an integral role in developing a new collection. We start with our existing fits. We then select the fabrics and trims for the new season and augment the collection with new designs. We also factor in sales figures from previous collections.”
“We keep our finger on the pulse of menswear and streetwear trends. We visit trade fairs, travel to the fashion capitals of the world and explore innovative new fabrics. All that information and inspiration is channelled into new styles, fits and finishes.”
“I draw inspiration from people I admire for their exceptional talent, such as David Bowie, as well as from those around me and chance encounters."
“I was fascinated by aesthetics from a young age. I’m continually searching for the balance between elegance, creativity, freedom and functionality. Fashion is the perfect medium for this. It involves creating spheres of tension, by combining innovative, high-tech materials with classic tailoring techniques and authentic colours for example. That chemistry between creativity and workshop expertise is tangible at Zilton.”
“I used to sketch out Zilton's campaign shoots in their entirety: styling, location, models ... the whole thing. To realise that vision, I surrounded myself with talented people. In order to achieve faster results on set, I needed to understand what was going on behind the camera. I bought a Canon camera and some lenses, and began building my photography portfolio. Then, one day I was working on a Zilton shoot and the photographer got held up at the airport. I was on site and able to step in. I successfully nailed the campaign and have continued to do so to this day.”
“I’m continually searching for the balance between elegance, creativity, freedom and functionality. Fashion is the perfect medium for this."
“It all starts with the season’s mood. I align each new collection to that mood throughout the design and development process. It's all about emphasising a particular characteristic, a particular personality. This is expressed in the cut, fabric and fabric combination, finish and hardware. Which in turn shapes the campaign and location choice. The whole process is closely interlinked.”
“Fashion and photography are mutually complementary. That cross-pollination is the ultimate thrill. I also make time for drawing and painting. This allows me to step back and view the collection with fresh eyes.”
“I teach aesthetics, or art history, in secondary schools. I love inspiring young people to go in search of themselves, to nurture themselves. Many students consider this an ancillary subject. However, by adopting an individual approach it becomes an enriching experience, for them as well as for myself. So when a student tells me that that they’re planning to pursue an art degree, such as fashion or architecture, then it feels like a mission accomplished.”
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