Tailored Imagination: Joel Janse van Vuuren

Now that you’ve had a chance to check out the Boogieman video from Desmond and the Tutus, the final winners in our Jameson INDIE Channel Music Video Grant for 2016, you’ll be fully aware of what a major role the costumes played in the video’s success. They were largely the result of one man’s vision, and that man’s name is Joel Janse van Vuuren.

In a nutshell, what is it that you do for a living?

I’m a creative designer, my main creative channel is fashion. I love it, it’s been such a great form of expression and I’ve met so many cool people.

What led you towards the slightly unusual path you’re on?

Since a kid my folks have always encouraged me to be creative and I never had an excuse to be bored cause I could always make something. I took this a step further in high school and started making creatures for art, including a posable life-size wooden skeleton. I liked that guy.

Whether you’re working on a colourful new collection or creating nightmarish costumes for a music video shoot, your designs are always bold and unusual. What in particular inspires your work?

I always catch myself daydreaming and I guess I’d like my work to create a type of escape for people through my work. I look everywhere for inspiration, it could be while on a run, seeing the shapes and colours the clouds and sun create at dusk to a movie I’ve just watched. There’s so much potential for ideas out in the world.

How did you go about interpreting the costume design brief for Desmond and the Tutus’ ‘Boogieman’ music video?

Once Shane, Greg and I had met to discuss the direction and feel they wanted for the video, my friend Anmari Honiball (another fashion designer) and I met up and went through the different design ideas and let the streets of Joburg further influence us. From there I we drew up sketches and chose fabrics and textiles that would push the characters to the next level. I think finding the textile is one of the most important elements, that allows for a specific type of movement, texture and colour.

Logic never dictates your designs, and it’s quite evident in this project specifically. Tell us about the process behind designing and making these wild and wonderful costumes.

Since studying fashion I’ve been fascinated with developing or accessing the unconscious and the use of free play within the creation process. So for this Anmari and I had a starting design concept to launch from, then we just had fun and played with different shapes and colours to achieve monsters that would not only read well visually but also had individual styles of movement. Helping create their individual identities for the monster party I guess.

What were some of the challenges with this specific project?

A few of the challenges we faced on this project were the really tight turn around time, working on such big size scale for the different monsters and finding homes for all the monsters once they were made, both our flats were crowded with monsters.

You’ve worked on some incredible sets. Any that stand out?

I’d say working with Ninja and Yo-landi on Yo-landi’s rip-away tracksuit for their Pitbull Terrier video, that was fun. Then doing the underwater stuff with photographer Ilse Moore, such a great experience she has an incredible eye for movement in water.

Tell us more about ‘Chaos By Design’

Chaos by Design is based on my dissertation in which I used the Theory of Deconstruction within the design process in an effect to help create things that are original. It works with going between order and chaos, and especially playing in that ‘between’ space. One of the ways I’ve used it before is taking inkblots and changing them into fashion illustrations, allowing the blot to dictate the silhouette of the outfit. It’s all about accessing that inner creativity.

Any advice for somebody wanting to make a career in fashion design?

Have an idea of what you want to do but don’t disregard things if you think they’re not part of your plan, a short left could give you an incredible life in fashion you’d never dreamed of.

What’s next?

One of my next projects with creative Elsa Bleda, we’re in the planning stages of a photoshoot but I can’t wait to work with her.

Photos by Roy Potterill

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