The Swedish designer turns the ubiquitous accessory upside down from her Parisian atelier
You may have seen Thomasine Barnekow's gloves on the hands of models strutting down the runway at recent Walter van Beirendonck shows, or like us, perhaps you saw them beautifully encased at Stockholm's stylish Lydmar Hotel. Possibly, Barnekow hasn't crossed your radar at all. Since graduating from the prestigious Design Academy Eindhoven in 2006, the Swedish designer has been quietly carving out a name for herself in prêt-à-porter and couture glove design from her atelier in Paris, selling her collection of "soft jewelry-like gloves" in limited supply to small boutiques. With an official web shop launching this fall and a stronger US presence on the horizon, Thomasine is set to become even more than a fashion editor favorite.
Barnekow's gloves are one-half wearable and one-half a work of art. The meticulous designer began in school with a thesis collection dubbed "Peau Precieuse" (which translates to precious skin), based on the idea of "turning the world upside down." Barnekow positioned a number of gloves—which were secretly filled with hidden jewelry under the leather skin—in the form of a shoe. A thumb and hand gave the appearance of a high heel, a sneaker or a cowboy boot, each reflecting the idea of standing on your hands instead of your feet. Surprisingly, Barnekow hasn't always focused on gloves: "I had never imagined myself in the field of gloves nor in fashion," she tells us, adding, "but I have always loved textiles and jewelry."
Barnekow's interest in textiles is evident in her choice of materials—from extremely soft lambskin leather to lace or knit jersey—but it's her dynamic understanding of how to balance function with embellishment that really sets her apart. While gloves are usually synonymous with winter, she tells us couture work is seasonless, it's more about "creating an image with the gloves." For this, she often looks to architecture, specifically that of the late Oscar Niemeyer. Taken by the power of his visual language, Barnekow created a Niemeyer-inspired project in 2008 that laid the foundation for her work as a designer highly interested in "light volumes, where geometry meets an organic flow, strength and curiosity of construction."
Like most intelligent design, the initial concept is the part of the process that is most time consuming for her. After that, she explains, it's a matter of getting the drawings done, ordering the base glove from the glove maker, and setting to work adding her distinct couture accents. "Making a special piece can take me from an afternoon up to one week to finish. But it is very calm, meditative work." Once finished, she continues the thought by working with photographers to create a narrative for the gloves. A photo collaboration with Coco Amardeil elaborates her idea to cast gloves in a different light, showing them again as shoes, as well as a agent for shadow puppets, sign language and catching a wedding bouquet.
Despite close geographic locations, how did she come to work with the eccentric Belgian designer Walter van Beirendonck? She smartly made use of randomly sitting next to him on a train on her way from a textile fair outside Paris into the center—"I knew who he was of course, and I knew I had a half an hour to get to know him a little before we arrived into town, so I said, 'hello.' That is how it started." A month later, Barnekow received a written thank you note for a pleasant conversation and an invitation to collaborate on a series of gloves for his S/S 2012 Cloud #9 collection.
"For the graphics of the gloves he is the designer, I am the realizer and constructor making his dream come true," she says of working with van Beirendonck. "With the other leather accessories like the mask and the belts [for his A/W 2012/13 Lust Never Sleeps collection], I have had more freedom in shape design and construction, as there is no ready made formula existing. But during the process of the work, we would meet once in a while for a coffee—I show proposals and my progress and he gives comments. The result has really been a new visual image within the glove world!"
Barnekow's unexpected take on the leather accessory spans both mens and womens styles, and can be purchased or commissioned by contacting her via email. Those in Paris can find Thomasine gloves at the French outpost of the Antwerp-based shop RA, as well as at L'Éclaireur starting this June. Keep an eye out this fall for her online shop. Those attending Dallas Art Fair this weekend can also check out Barnekow's work on view within the Walter van Beirendonck exhibit at Dallas Contemporary.
Images courtesy of Thomasine Barnekow; runway image from Walter Van Beirendonck S/S 2012 "CLOUD #9" lookbook.