Get Familiar: Bodil Ouédraogo
Photography: Anne Lakeman
Bodil Ouédraogo returned to Amsterdam Fashion Week with a live presentation of a capsule collection in collaboration with Patta. The work connects themes such as Afro Modernism, West African couture and African diaspora streetwear from Bodil’s own context. The collaboration is a print based on bundling the wealth around the Bazin Rich fabric by manipulating and enlarging the fabric. A representation of the culture surrounding wearing the amount of luxury of the grandboubou.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers and let us know a little bit about yourself?
I am Bodil Ouédraogo, I am an Amsterdam-based visual artist / designer in fashion and my work focuses on the art of dressing up.
Congratulations on the recent appearance at Amsterdam Fashion Week - how was that experience?
It felt good! I always really enjoy the energy of a show. There are so many elements to a show and you can only think things through to a certain extend. I like that there is much space for the unexpected. I usually have a clear vision on how I imagine the show, the end product to be but when everything comes together, the result is always a surprise. I enjoy it when my ideas, are worn by people that understand what I am trying to communicate. In a way a show, those few minutes take up space in which we create a reality in which things can happen. Eventually everybody will have their own experience but that moment of the show in its self, the performance creates a different kind of world. A world I envisioned that can be experienced in different ways.
Your previous showing at Amsterdam Fashion Week was responded to with great acclaim too and you seem to have developed on the ideas shown there in this year's collection with Patta - where is next for your fashion work do you think?
Next up for me, I would love to go to West Africa again. Researching another part of the art of dressing up. I admire giving myself the freedom to see which form fits my idea the best. My focus will always be the eyes of pride/strength that I find in the art of dressing up in fashion, but the outcome doesn’t always have to be wearable.
How did you meet Vincent van de Waal?
I met Vincent a long time ago, I do not remember where exactly but I think at a party. Back then I was about to switch from one art academy to another. I used to study Fashion design at ArtEZ but switched to the Gerrit Rietveld academy. Vincent was teaching a class at a different department at the Gerrit Rietveld at that time. Ever since we became friends.
The show was quite avant-garde, who was behind the choreography?
Christian Yav did the choreography. He is a movement artist. At the moment he is touring with new work: Movements of Soul, a performance that shows different dimensions wherein the soul travels through different stages. I met Christian a long time ago. We understand each other’s practice really well, which makes working together fun and uplifting. His eye for movement and his ability to really listen to what I have in mind and translate it to movement is amazing.
As the fashion world gets closer and closer to traditional African practices, how do we pay homage without appropriating a culture?
This is an important point also since I am mixed. I think this is something that is for every designer. In my own practice I always keep it quite close to myself.
In my work I see the Self as a fabric of abundance of identity markers. In Burkina-Faso, people reminded me over and over again that a person is not alone but overly connected. All the pieces of a person’s history are akin and make you who you are. The ‘self’ is one big connected web in which all these threads together are what makes it whole. What drives me is representing myself through my own eyes. As someone from the African diaspora living in North Western Europe world where I lIve, instead of how people would want to see and place me. So it is always about finding these connections often about myself and placing them in the now.
As a Black-owned brand we constantly try to tell the stories of our backgrounds - what is your background?
My father is from Burkina-Faso and my mother from the Netherlands. Within these identities I search for connections.
How does this duality of backgrounds affect your experiences?
My cultural background deliberates my lived, day to day experience. It therefore affects everything, including my work.
The aesthetic of your collaboration with Patta has a very unique take on the tracksuit, what inspired this pattern that we see throughout the collection?
The grand boubou was a starting point for the pattern. The grand boubou is an outfit from almost two meters by one meter. One thing that I find so attractive about the style of the grand-boubou is the amount of fabric that it has. When you wear it you have to keep moving the outfit and create different shapes while moulaging the fabric, it is almost impossible to just let it hang loose. While wearing the grand boubou you are almost forced to take up space. The grand-boubou is often made from the fabric Bazin rich, when you move in the grand boubou you get amazing folds in the fabric. I wanted to capture the amount of luxury through the folds. The print on the tracksuit is based on bundling the wealth around the Bazin Rich fabric by manipulating and enlarging the fabric and turning it into a print.
How was the internship in Burkina Faso for you?
It was very good. I felt that after studying fashion for five years (ArtEZ and Rietveld) in The Netherlands and only having European teachers, an internship in Burkina Faso and Mali was something I really missed in my education. So I went to different ateliers in Mali and Burkina-Faso. They have taught me a lot!