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INTERVIEW WITH FASHION DESIGNER TSOLMANDAKH MUNKHUU: URBAN NOMADS, BUDDHIST STYLES

Fashion designer Tsolmandakh Munkhuu talks to Zoot Magazine about the Mongolian and Buddhist inspirations in her collections.

Text by Anna Battista

Contemporary designers have accustomed us to transnational contaminations through styles that mix garments and accessories from different countries. Yet there are also a few designers who, moving from their own origins, have been trying to reinterpret and reinvent traditional costumes from their countries. Among them, there is also Tsolmandakh Munkhuu.

Born in Mongolia, Tsolmandakh “Tsolo” Munkhuu moved to France in 2005. She attended the Paris-based fashion design school Atelier Chardon Savard for three years and, in 2010, won the Public Award at the Hyères Festival, launching shortly afterwards her own label.

Paris may be far away from the Mongolian steppe, but Tsolo’s main inspirations move from Mongolian and Buddhist traditional elements and from dichotomic contrasts between country/city and rural/urbanscapes. The all-black collection she showcased at last year’s Hyères Festival included robe-like coats and garments in which embroidered elements and pleated motifs created ample or sculptural volumes. Tsolo’s Autumn/Winter 2010-11 collection emphasises instead the urban nomad aspect, mixing together Mongolian moods and modern atmospheres and blurring gender boundaries.

Zoot Magazine: Was becoming a fashion designer what you always wanted to do in your life?

Tsolmandakh Munkhuu: Since my childhood, I always dreamt of following the same path as my father, who is an artist. I used to love looking at him while he painted his canvases. After I arrived in France, this ambition turned into the desire of creating clothes and work with the volumes of different materials. I developed my skills studying at the Atelier Chardon-Savard in Paris where I trained for three years.

Zoot Magazine: Does your background inspire your designs?

Tsolmandakh Munkhuu: I’m very much inspired by my native Mongolia, by the moods of its rural areas and by the local people who are at times very poor and wear garments that often look torn down. I am attracted by this idea of “lived in” clothes. It is mainly this reason that prompts me to rework the fabrics I find, giving them a sort of double life. I inspire myself a lot to traditional Buddhist elements and motifs such as icons and gods. There is something that intrigues me a lot in certain faces of Buddhist icons. Yet I also think that creators never get tired since they are caught up by a sort of madness and want to insatiably create in an endless quest. This is essentially the main reason why I sometimes find ideas in unlikely places, such as garbage cans: for example I inspired myself to the air filter of a car for the pleated sculptural motifs of my first collection.

Zoot Magazine: Who has been the greatest influence on your career?

Tsolmandakh Munkhuu: Not a person, but an event: the moment key of my career was indeed when I took part in the Hyères Festival.

Zoot Magazine: Can you talk us through your creative process?

Tsolmandakh Munkhuu: I first draw all the pieces of the collection, but the idea starts after months of pondering. Sometimes, I prefer to keep certain ideas for future collections and then present them at the desired moment. Fabric is very important for me: as I said, I rework all the textiles since I like transforming them into something unique. I create volumes with Mongolian rugs, I love playing with such materials that feature a lot of embroideries that make the fabric rigid and leave almost a gap between the fabric and the body.

Zoot Magazine: Do you design with a particular type of person in mind?

Tsolmandakh Munkhuu: You never know who will wear what. Nevertheless, there is one muse who haunts me when I draw, a totally fictional woman, an untouchable Amazon and goddess.

Zoot Magazine: Which was the most difficult garment to make out of your collection and why?

Tsolmandakh Munkhuu: Several pieces among the ones created for the Hyères Festival such as the pleated sculptural ones as I had to “synchronise” in a way the materials with the volumes. It was a work in progress: the technical research pushed me sometimes to modify the design best online casino and move it towards another story.

Zoot Magazine: What impact did winning the public prize at last year’s Hyères Festival have on your career?

Tsolmandakh Munkhuu: It put me under the spotlight almost in no time and I was able to meet influential people from the fashion industry such as Kuki de Salvertes, Totem founder, who spotted me and immediately sustained me in the project of starting my own maison, he is indeed one of the key characters in the history of Tsolo Munkh. Through him I met Magalie Charruyer of Showroom Mc2, who allowed me to showcase my first collection to the buyers of the biggest shops, such as the Eclaireur rue Hérold or Joyce in Hong Kong.

Zoot Magazine: Do you think these awards can help young designers to develop their technique and style?

Tsolmandakh Munkhuu: Yes, the level is higher every year and the jury is very prestigious; these reasons push the candidates to the maximum of their capacities.

Zoot Magazine: What inspired the collection you presented at the Hyères Festival and what inspires your next collection?

Tsolmandakh Munkhuu: I developed my first collection over three years, while training at Atelier Chardon-Savard. I created hybrid pieces, inspired by 19th century Buddhist religious Mongolians in the cuttings, the sleeves, the embroideries, and to Black Magic for what regarded the main colour palette, the mood and make-up.

Zoot Magazine: In February you did an installation during Milano Unica using linen, would you like to do further installations? What would you like to create?

Tsolmandakh Munkhuu: I would love to create sculptures or a cartoon, design monstrous sofas and fantastic fluffy toys or even make a chocolate sculpture!

Zoot Magazine: If you could launch a collaboration with an artist, director, writer or musician/band, who would you choose?

Tsolmandakh Munkhuu: I would love to dress an artist who mesmerises his or her public with a power that goes beyond music, through clothes, performance and sets. In my opinion, Björk is a genuine artist and it would be an honour to create a piece for her.

Zoot Magazine: What are your future plans and ambitions?

Tsolmandakh Munkhuu: To keep on making the people who support me dream and, hopefully, to keep on being surprised by life!

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