Sources of inspiration at maison Ullens
Kim Laursen, artistic director for Maison Ullens, tells of the influences that inform his luxury pieces.
In 2012, the Belgian philanthropist and contemporary art collector, Myriam Ullens, launched her own line in luxury basics, Maison Ullens. Kim Laursen, currently leading the brand’s artistic direction, takes Numéro through their sources of inspiration.
Numéro: Maison Ullen’s bears the name of its founder. What are the brand intentions?
Kim Laursen: Myriam Ullens spends a lot of time travelling. It’s of particular importance therefore that her luggage remains reasonably sized and weighted, and intelligently packed. Which is where her idea for transformable and reversible pieces came from. For example, last winter’s collection featured a coat that could be transformed into four different garments, in reversible knit-finish woolskin with a detachable lower section. The work involved approaches architecture. We spend a lot of time working with leather. And our fabrics, the poplin we use in our shirts for instance, are all non-crease.
What brought you to your current post?
Kim Laursen: I’ve been working in fashion for twenty-five years. I arrived in Paris in 1991, spending fifteen years at Christian Lacroix. Starting out as assistant, I worked my way up to style director. I then moved to Kenzo before assisting the Clements-Ribeiro duo at Cacharel, and then I free-lanced for Paule Ka and Elie Saab, among others. I’ve experience of both luxury ready-to-wear and more mainstream brands. I suppose my speciality is my wide knowledge of different techniques and configurations.
Myriam Ullens and her husband founded a significant contemporary art centre in Beinjing (the UCCA, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art). The art aficionados who preside over the fashion industry can occasionally be seen to exhibit a taste for somewhat forced collaborations with their favourite artists. This is quite visibly not the case for Myriam Ullens. What is her role in the maison?
Kim Laursen: It would never occur to Myriam Ullens to print a bag or a garment with an artist’s work. What she is interested in, is texture. I was once inspired by the tapestry work of a German artist of the Bauhaus. He examined natural textures, such as fossils etc. He also created giant woven mural pieces. Myriam’s art centre in Beijing is a huge block in a quarter devoted entirely to art. Myriam and her husband set up there before anyone else and now welcome around 3 million visitors per year. Myriam’s passion for art grants her a rare degree of open-mindedness. We spend much time in dialogue. She wants the collections to be rigorously conceived and constructed, and so it’s always a pleasure to talk things through with her, the legitimacy of one piece next to another. We’re always learning from each other. One must abandon oneself without getting lost, pushing ever a little further.
Interview by Delphine Roche