Heimat Atlantica x Camargue
Harriet caught up with Montserrat, the designer behind Heimat Atlantica to talk about what inspired her to start the label.
What was the inspiration behind Heimat Atlantica?
I designed and made the bag for myself, it came up in a very intuitive way; I wanted a talisman to help me find true love (I have always being obsessed with finding a real love and avoiding fake pretenders – the bag worked by the way!) and then people stopped me on the streets in Paris to ask where I had bought it…
In a certain way, it was with the intention to integrate and communicate on my cultural heritage. I grew up in a close-knitted family where ethnographical and popular culture and references were mixed with more contemporary and sophisticated themes.
In a more personal note, my grandmother Isidora (she was a real entrepreneur; she had a knit factory and a mine, she was a very avant-garde person and strong woman) transmitted her love of ethnography to us and through her eyes I first discovered how our popular culture can be mixed with contemporary themes.
Also I have been involved in the preservation and development of various types of crafts, teaching to different craft guilds (for example the women net makers in Galicia) on how to utilize their talent and technique in new ways and to produce new product formats.
It was quite natural for me to begin this Heimat Atlantica project. I felt an impulsion to go forward with this project about imagining spaces where ancestral techniques and contemporary ideas come together and
Can you please tell us about the unique craftsmanship of the Heimat Atlantica bags?
HA is all about crafts, about building a community of outstanding workshops to invent something new while saving what’s already good and beautiful in the world.
Traditional handcrafts are a treasure, a collection of techniques and aesthetics that we need to approach with respect and from the point of view of culture. From my point of view, fashion must have a social and cultural responsibility.
It is interesting to note also that the project is about is not just creating a label, it is about entrepreneurship itself, to understanding that culture and entrepreneurial initiatives are intrinsically related. I always have believed in the importance of creating a market, selling and buying is of first necessity in order to preserve the crafts themselves. Simultaneously to establishing this commercial exchange, we need to enhance and communicate on the value of the crafts and help the craftsman to create a system, not only for their business but also for the evolution of their techniques.
Therefore, I have started offering artisans a real project in order to motivate them, both, at an economical level, because this is obviously important to enhance the value, and to let them know about the real impact and projection developed as a result of their incredible work.
We work with different artisans, Celeste for the reed, our workshop in Ubrique for the leather, Idoia Cuesta made the hand-plated leather handles, Carina is our craftswoman in house, she sew all the charms and prepare the bags, a family that makes the dust bags, the Colareiras “shells necklace-makers” who gather and hand-embroidered the shells, Mario Feijoo the alchemist ceramist and his apprentice, Angel Porto the goldsmith man… It is like an orchestra where everyone plays its instrument.
What do the porcelain embellishments symbolise?
I wanted my bags to be more than a simple container…so they are also talisman.
I am interested in the narrative function of the object: far away from typological rigor, projects can be transformed into new realities.
In fact, Magic realism is a Galician cultural attitude towards reality that sees what is fantastic in an ordinary or common context. Fables and myths are mixed with reality. Facts are real but have a fantastic connotation. It is like blurring the boundaries between what is real and what is magic.
Sargadelos charms are based on this. Biser (with the lovers) charm is intended to help you to find or protect your love, Biman (with the hands) charm is intended to protect your money… and the Cigarron is an homage to Galician carnival so represents for me all the joy and fun of festivities.
I also believe that each of the charms I have use on the bags represents a powerful trait of human behavior: protection of happiness, material possessions, honor, love … In that sense whether you are Galician or not, whether you believe in Magic or not, these charms have a universal significance.
How has your upbringing influenced your brand?
I am quite a novice in the fashion business but in all of my earlier experiences, I had been driven by an enormous amount of curiosity; and it may be that due to my background as an art historian, I have always tried to put together different contexts that seem hard to combine. This is similar to the process of curating an exhibition, where one choses the pieces and draws a scenographic and conceptual line between all of them.
I also worked 5 years with the Bouroullec brothers (furniture design), where my focus was to understand the creative process better; I observed that there must always be a place for a kind of disruption, which brings tension to the whole object equilibrium. I think this tension is the key to a good project (which does not necessarily mean a perfect or beautiful one), it brings justness.
I do not feel that I am a designer, I feel like an art historian, which by the way, is not the opposite of a creative person.
My project is not only about design or selling. There is a cultural and economic idea behind all of this, since I want to participate as an actor in the evolution of traditional crafts, and contribute to show how they can be a part of our times, by creating a new synergy with craftswomen and craftsmen and a new methodology of work that can be applied in other areas and with other means.
I am very much influenced by William Morris and his vision of enterprise.
Again, I feel it is important to ally the structuring responsibility of the designer to the craftsperson’s capacity to produce and realize, and I see Heimat Atlantica as a giant collage of different structural and ornamental elements that I put together in an organic and intuitive way.
What was it like to collaborate with Comme Des Garcons?
It was a dream and a honor for me, when I started Heimat Atlantica, I made a list of “wishes” or goals, one was working with Comme Des Garcons.
Rei Kawakuwo saw my bags at DSM Ginza and was very surprised and interested in the traditional Portuguese hand-woven reed technique mixed with the porcelain charms. I think we had a common subversive approach in terms of what we expected.
This collaboration represents the ideal project for me, to imagine spaces where ancestral techniques and contemporary ideas come together in order to create objects that possess the energy of evolution.
With Comme Des Garcons we broke the boundaries of the traditional technique of the Portuguese reed basket and we adapted it in order to make an original shape: the Portuguese reed Tote bag.
This is really the type of project that puts design and crafts together, and I think this really embodies what the Heimat Atlantica project is about.
What’s your personal style philosophy? Do you look to anyone for style inspiration?
I do not like the total look, I like to have fun or living a special story while I am wearing the clothes, thus, I love mixing styles, patterns, materials etc. or try to find a piece with a story so I can feel part of this and I can create a kind of fiction on a daily basis.
Mixing pieces it is also a way for me to make them mine. The result is eclectic.
I have a very passionate relationship with clothes, once I fall in love with a piece I have to wear it all the time, to see it, I make plenty of different outfits with it until I find a new one.
Also I love to mix traditional costumes pieces with contemporary ones.
I am inspired by the work of designers that I admire: Marc Jacobs, Rei Kawakuwo, Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela… also I adore the work of Maria and Paulo from Marques Almeida or Teija. I look at the clothes like art, they have to represent an historical moment and avangarde so when I see something outstanding, I have a necessity of having it.
How are you keeping well during the COVID-19 pandemic?
In stressful times is even more important to have a “rigid” routine. Covid has been super damaging for us and I had to work even more than before to be able to overcome the situation, so it helps me a lot to have habits.
Every morning I wake up early 6h30, I like to take a coffee alone. It’s my “thinking time” to organize the brain, go through the different subjects and review the goals for the day. After I do some stretching and start the day at the workshop.
I am always listening to music and also, I try to have flowers; having beautiful things around help us to feel better. At the end of the day, I made 1 hour of walking, it makes me feel so good, alleviate stress and overstimulation of the day.
What’s next for you and the brand?
I want to reach a new horizon by exploring our values and being even more focused on our DNA. I want to continue on the original meaning of FASHION AS CULTURE so I am going to create a new program.
Our bags are much more than a trend bag, they are based and part of the legacy of traditional crafts.
We are also launching a new ceramic project of vases… and me, I just moved to NY for a while so I’ll do a lot of city walking to get inspired.
Shop Heimat Atlantica in store at our James Street boutique and online here