YKK is continuing its tradition supporting emerging artists and designers by showcasing Turkish contemporary artist Deniz Sağdıç and her love of denim in its latest exhibition and window display at its London Showroom on Commercial Street.
In recent months, YKK has displayed sculptural footwear designs by Japanese shoe designer Wataru Sato, the innovative sport shoe designs of YKK Accessories Award Graduate Fashion Week winner Dimitri Gabellier, as well as an interactive zip display by British Asian artist and activist, Pins, and now the window highlights denim in an ingenious and creative way
Deniz’s expressive art uses denim not only as a material to create unique and breathtaking artwork, but also as a language for highlighting human emotions in the faces she creates. Her designs also showcases the importance of upcycling and recycling.
YKK’s showroom will be displaying Deniz’s contemporary art made using off-cuts of denim, YKK zips and buttons until January 18, 2020.
“We were introduced to Deniz’s work by our Turkish colleagues who have one of her pieces on display in their office,” said Stefania Liberti, YKK London Showroom manager. “Her work is absolutely stunning and combines recycled denim fabric, beautiful skill in design, and creativity with our products. This we felt was the perfect work to showcase in parallel with our special displays during the time of Denim Premier Vision and our denim focus month at the Showroom.”
Stefania, added: “In the short time that Deniz’s work has been on display in the showroom, many passers-by have stopped to look and take photos of this exhibition. The public are very interested as they can see the image of a face from afar but it is only as you approach our showroom window that you can see the amazing way that these portraits are put together using small pieces of fabric and fastenings.”
To celebrate Deniz’s impressive art, we sat down with the Turkish artist to gain insight into her inspiration, why she has a love of denim, the processes she goes through into creating her artworks, and what it was like to work with YKK.
Tell us a bit about who you are, where you’re from and want made you want to become an artist?
Deniz Sağdıç: “I was born in the city of Mersin, Turkey. I’m a member of a family almost all of which are craftsmen. My father is a glazier, who has compelling stained-glass works, and all of my relatives are tailors, carpenters or designers. I spent most of my time in these craft workshops when I was just a young child and then in my elementary school years, I was able to glaze most pieces of the stained glass ordered from my father and during summer holidays in secondary school, I was able to earn my allowance by sewing old denim trousers as women’s bags in my aunt’s garment making workshop and selling them.
“I guess it was almost inevitable that I would earn my living by doing something creative in the future. I graduated first in my faculty’s painting department, which I entered through an aptitude test. During my university years, I set up a workshop and started to sell paintings and to teach design courses for a small amount of money. The university insisted that I stay as a lecturer because of my graduation performance; I recognised that if I wanted to be a real artist, I had to go to my country’s art capital, Istanbul. As soon as I graduated, I moved to Istanbul throwing everything to the wind. My early times in Istanbul were quite difficult both economically and psychologically, but from then, I have been living and producing in Istanbul.”
How did you come to work with denim?
“Using denim in my art is actually a living phase of the project I named as ‘Ready-ReMade’. The project started with me bringing objects of daily use into existence as works of art. My reason for doing this arose from the conceptual art debate that was frequently debated in the world of art at that time. As you know, the exhibition of ordinary objects as they are, instead of following the use of classical methods of art, such as oil painting or sculpture, is called conceptual art. Conceptual art can be accepted as a technique, but it is wrong to think that a concept in art is only possible with the conceptual art technique. On the other hand, until recently, almost all art institutions began presenting conceptual art to their audiences as if it were perhaps the best way or the only way of art.
“I started the Ready-ReMade project in reaction to this approach. I was using classical methods of art such as painting objects with oil paint, hewing them as sculptures or reorganising them in a certain order. By doing so, I was aiming to express that a concept in art is not limited to conceptual art; that the concept in art has existed since before now, and even that, without concept, in the end art can’t exist. One day while I was engrossed in these works, I thought why could this ordinary object not be one of my denim pieces from my wardrobe. After all, in my daily life, as everyone else does, I was already cutting, scratching or tearing my denim. This time around, I made a portrait of denim clothes from my wardrobe, this first trial was an experience in which I explored the infinite and profound possibilities of denim and at the same time allowed me to enter from the door of a whole new world.”
How do you go about transforming jeans into art?
“Denim is quite a breathtaking material for an artist with the technical possibilities it offers. After my early experiences, I have been discovering a new feature of denim in every work. You can scratch the denim up like dressing a marble and can sculpt it into different shapes, without the fear of it being broken like a marble. You can transform it into three-dimensional forms like a sculpture by stretching, bending, and folding. By scratching and ageing it, you can discover the infinite number of different shades of the same colour. I’m benefitting from all of these opportunities in my works. Sometimes, I’m cutting and pasting and creating the patterns I want by weaving it like a carpet. For example, I’m using all the pieces of a pair of denim trousers – its pockets, tags, buttons, and even zips can become the basic material for a different work of art.”
You said “denim represents values that are more ‘human’ than the human skin” can you elaborate on what that means?
“Denim is not only a tool or a material for me, denim is a communication platform for me. This comes from the place of denim in people’s minds. As people all over the world know denim, seeing a denim garment on people living in the most developed metropolises or virgin geographies of the world wouldn’t surprise anyone. If you are not a textile professional, you may not know the types of fabric, but anyone who sees denim recognises it, at least once in her/his lifetime, she/he has touched it. Denim does not only belong to a certain culture or a country.
“Therefore, denim is native in every culture and for every geography of the world. Denim has been approved by everybody without discrimination of religion, language, race or economic class. When you see a denim garment on a head of state or a homeless person, you don’t find it odd. This equality, this democratic platform, this universality points to the universal principle, which people in good faith have been aspiring to create for hundreds of years, and which numerous philosophers have put their thinking cap on feeling around for. Despite the fact that denim finds such a global acceptance, unfortunately, I’m sad to witness that some people even today see skin colour as a reason for discrimination. This privileged position of the denim, which surpasses the skin, makes it the most unique product of our civilisation. For these reasons, I use denim not only as a material but also a language. I constantly create human faces by using denim to remind us of the basic principle that our civilisation has forgotten or has difficulty in remembering, that is to say, a remembrance of being human.”
How did the collaboration with YKK come about?
“In my first works with denim, I took advantage of using my own clothes in the cabinet and then the clothes I bought from a second hand dealer. But later on, when I reached the limit of my affordability, I got in contact with some clothing brands and asked for their help. Early on, even if these brands did not understand how to make art with them, but they sent me their products. I was using any and every piece of these products. Not only the fabric parts of the clothes but each piece, pockets, tags, buttons, and zips, were becoming part of the handiworks I created. Since the buttons and zippers were a small part of the clothing, of course, I needed broader support in this issue. I remember when I was thinking about which brand I could talk to, I came across the YKK logo when I looked at the clothes I was wearing.
“When I checked a few more of my other clothes, I realised almost all of them had the same mark, the same brand. At that moment I realised that YKK is a leading brand in this field and the most appropriate brand to ask for support. When I got in contact with the Istanbul office of YKK, they were very interested and helpful, I was very impressed. Within a few days, we had a pleasant meeting where we met face-to-face and they provided me with lots of material support. Since then, I have had a very pleasant and warm relationship with the YKK brand and every member of this extended family.”
What’s the inspiration behind your window display for YKK?
“Even though the button or zipper is the smallest part of a garment, it is quite determinative in the character of that garment. These functional and supplementary parts can sometimes easily become the main elements of the design. Unlike the fabric, the materials used in their production allow the forming of elegant views like off the hands of a sculptor. ‘YKK. Little Parts. Big Difference’ is not only a nice promotional slogan but also the truth itself. Therefore, creating work of arts by using YKK buttons and zips, each of which is actually a work of art, was an extremely exciting experience for me.
“Art professionals, art institutions and museums have been stating for a long time that their aim is to spread art to larger segments of the society. But art events are always behind stupendous, frightfully cold walls of art institutions, and usually, are for the same people and limited to them. Since the beginning, I have tried to extend my art to the larger masses, not only in words but also in different methods I can implement. This is the reason why I organised my workshops, under the title of ‘Art; for Everyone’ in textile events besides art events.
“For me, there is no discrimination between art-lovers and others. As a matter of fact, I find it much more effective and sincere for people to encounter works of art in events, where the main theme is not art. The display window of the YKK London Showroom is more precious and exciting for me than being on the walls of the most famous museum. To touch the soul of a single person who has not found the opportunity to deal with art and has never encountered a work of art before will make my whole life meaningful.”
Your work highlights the importance of upcycling and recycling – why is that important to you?
“No matter how sensitive an organisation is on the issue of productivity and sustainability, unfortunately, remnants are going spare during the production, or people and machines may go wrong during production and make products absolutely unusable. When I ask for support from textile brands for my works, I specifically demand that they send me only remnants, or those that were manufactured defectively during production and can no longer be used. Parts that can’t be reevaluated in any way can be re-existed, at least in the world of art, by recycling or upcycling using the methods I apply.
“Sustainability is a concept that is nowadays uttered frequently, but as with any popular concept, it can easily fall into an emptiness most of the time. You can sometimes witness when this concept is expressed only as if it is a fashion, but not much has been done for it. Perhaps most organisations don’t know what to do for this issue, even if they want to spring into action. I hope that the methods I use in my works will inspire the recycling and upcycling ideas that everyone can apply for sustainability in their field. For sustainability, there are attitudes that everyone can have and adopt as a principle. If anyone thinks that nothing can be done, they can face what they left behind while the things they consume are being produced, when they look at the works that I produce by the recycling method. Or by upcycling ideas, people can rearrange consumption habits.
Would your love to design your own denim fashion collection?
“Fashion design and visual arts are nurtured from similar sources but their methods are different from each other. Designing something based on a function is a completely different method of art. I’m getting a lot of collaboration offers from fashion designers, but this is not easy. Adapting a work of art to a garment is time-consuming and demanding work like composing a work of art, even if it’s small in size. Therefore, it is possible to apply this to a very limited number of collections. We have collaborated with a newly founded denim design brand of a frenetic young couple, who answer to the description of this definition. I have also been customising my own clothes, occasionally. But fashion design is a matter of a totally different concentration.”
The YKK x Deniz Sağdıç exhibition will run until 17 January 2020, at the YKK London Showroom on 154 Commercial Street.
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Images: courtesy of YKK