Sunday, 2 March 2014

Not for the stiff-necked

There is an intriguing exhibition of the multi-talented Danish fashion designer and artist Henrik Vibskov ongoing in Helsinki. As I do not follow fashion much being more of the self-sewing and recycling type these days, I probably heard about him for the first time in late January when his show had just opened at the Design Museum here. I had to see it, especially as my son had been so impressed he urged me to go. Vibskov’s avant-garde world certainly is crazy marvelous!

Or how would you describe a fashion designer who named one of his latest shows The Stiff Neck Chamber making his models walk through a forest of extra-long flamingo necks hanging above the catwalk?

Wooden puzzle on the wall.
And that is not even the quirkiest of his shows. Other recent titles include The Bathtub Observer, The Transparent Tongue, The Shrink Wrap Spectacular...

A few years back his collection was called The Big Wet Shiny Boobies. He made his models lie on the catwalk in a sea of breasts made of foam.

Another one was called The Human Laundry Service, which included an installation of black-and-white treadmills symbolizing the rat race in present-day societies. Two of the striped treadmills are on show in Helsinki.

The inflatable sculpture is the Mint, part of the set for The Mint Institute collection.

This January, Vibskov presented in Paris a collection called The Spaghetti Hand Job which got its theme from food production. The 5-meter-high, 7-meter-wide installation made for this show has been brought to Helsinki. It is a set of three rotating crossbars with fettuccine-like stripes of fabrics hanging from them. I bet the Parisians were not expecting that. No one could. Each Vibskov show will be not only a spectacular experience but a crazy surprise.

Items of the January show will be available only next autumn and winter but several pieces of his earlier collections are on display in Helsinki.

Despite the retrospective exhibition, Henrik Vibskov is only in his early 40s. He earned his degree of fashion design in menswear at the Central St Martins arts university in London in 2001 and established a fashion label under his own name in Copenhagen in the same year.

Fragile Soap Bodies photographed through a soap bubble wall.

Vibskov also does set design, interior design as well as installations, performances and other experimental artworks. He even plays drums in a band. There seems to be nothing related to design and conceptual arts this imaginative and versatile talent wouldn’t have entered into.

Nylon Sock Foam Parts.

The Russian Boys.
Several of his one-off works of art from the past 17 years are now shown in the Helsinki exhibition.

Wind Tunnel Plus with 16 rotating cylinders.

Visitors could walk inside this piece of art.
Henrik Vibskov has won a number of competitions and awards over the years, from a break dance competition (at age 11) and a first prize for his short film ‘The Monk’ to the biggest design award in the world, the Torsten and Wanja Söderberg Prize, which he received in 2011. The Söderberg Prize of 1M Swedish crowns (about EUR 112,000 or USD 154,000) administered by the Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg is awarded annually to support design and the decorative arts in the Nordic region.

Face Wool Explosions with Wool Bins Ultra made out of raw wool.

The graduating collection The Pigs.
As the selection of clothing on display was rather limited I spent quite some time exploring Henrik Vibskov’s website and online store, which also offers items from other unconventional designers I was happy to observe. However, I could not find a single word about where his products are manufactured, which was a bit of a disappointment to me. Even the craziest, most inventive and most celebrated of creators should not skip telling that these days I believe.

Nevertheless, it would be fascinating to see what kind of costumes Vibskov has designed for the Swan Lake to be premiered at the Norwegian National Ballet in late April. Not to mention it would be a thrill to experience one of his shows one day.

According to an interview, Vibskov who had studied design in Copenhagen only applied to Saint Martins “to impress a really hot girl”. In the short documentary shown at the exhibition, when talking about his universe in relation to that of others he suggests that perhaps he is the one who is ordinary and everyone else is special. I’d welcome his kind of regulars with his kind of an attitude with open arms any day.

Props from the show of The Bathtub Observer collection.
So keep on pouring out those refreshingly unconventional, bold and shocking ideas of yours – preferably with a social twist of some sort – for the assistants to resolve. For the stiff-necked I’d advise against visiting this exhibition. They would only be disturbed.

The show will continue until 11 May, 2014.


  1. Replies
    1. Piristävän erilaista! Täällä tuli oikein hyvälle mielelle siitä, että joku uskaltaa olla erilainen ja vieläpä onnistuu maailmalla.

  2. I'm glad you were persuaded to visit this . It does look quirky but also so interesting and appealing.Sarah x

    1. His universe is so different and what's more his loose-fitting clothes are quite wearable I've been told. For the younger easy-going generations that is.