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From voluminous and architectural dresses made of paper to bright and fluid illustrations, Papier an exhibition open at House of Sweden through June 28, 2020 is full of surprises. A collaboration between the artists Bea Szenfeld and Stina Wirsén, the exhibition pushes the boundaries of fashion and injects it with a sense of sustainability.

While you have plenty of time to head to the House of Sweden and check out these incredible paper dresses (that have been worn by the likes of Bjork and Lady Gaga) by Bea Szenfeld and the off the wall fashion illustrations by Stina Wirsén, they are both in D.C. tonight for what is sure to be an excellent talk about their art. So we sent over some questions about their creative set up, how they like to collaborate and more. Scroll down to soak up that knowledge, and catch them at the House of Sweden, if you can.

When did you both realize you were interested in fashion? What was the catalyst that brought you into the fashion world?

Bea: My grandmother was a tailor and I have always been sewing things. I love crafts and I love creating using my hands.

Stina: I have been drawing, painting and making up stories for as long as I can remember.
My interest in beauty, the ugly and art has always been a part of me. I have done fashion illustrations for many years. I started out when I was very young at one of the largest newspapers in Sweden, Dagens Nyheter.

How did you both meet? How did Papier come to be?

Stina: I met Bea in my work as a fashion illustrator. A journalist and I found her work very interesting from the start. Bea’s first fashion show after graduating design school made the cover of Dagens Nyheter (daily newspaper in Sweden).

Both of you obviously know a thing or two about good paper. What is your favorite paper to work with? How do you know when paper is good / high quality?

Bea: I love all kinds of paper. I work together with a paper mill called Lessebo in Sweden. If the paper has been recycled, it’s even better.

Stina: I work with all sorts of paper; it depends on the project. If you go to professional stores you will get the help you need. When making art you must work with acid-free paper.

Your design talk this week specifically deals with sustainability, what kind of changes would you both like to see the fashion industry make?

Bea: I don’t work with the fashion industry, but I believe we can all make a difference by not buying too many new things and instead buy second hand.

Stina: There are other people who are more knowledgeable than me on this topic, but I long for high quality and vintage to get away from overconsumption.

What do you both like to listen to while you work? Music, podcasts, silence?

Bea: I prefer silence or listening to an audio book.

Stina: When I need to focus, I prefer silence.

Bea, when you’re constructing your paper couture, do you have an idea of the person you think should be wearing it? Do you ascribe a personality type, or even a specific person, to your designs?

Bea: No, I don’t. I make the object or garment and then I cross my fingers that somebody will want to wear it.

Stina, I know you do a lot of illustration work outside of your fashion illustrations, including working with newspapers. Do you have a different creative process depending on your subject matter? Or do you approach your fashion work and your political work similarly?

Stina: I have the same process regardless of the project. Whether it’s a children’s book, an art exhibition or a fashion illustration, I work hard, and I work a LOT. I don’t do sketches; I just go right on the paper. That means I throw away a LOT. I keep less than 1 of 50 Dragongatan/papers. Luckily, there are plenty of recycling stations in Sweden.

If you ould collaborate with any brand, person, artist, who would you choose? What would you do?

Stina: Right now, I want to work more with theater. I have just finished a play at The Royal Theater in Stockholm (Dramaten) where I wrote the play, made the costumes and created the scenery. I absolutely loved it! I also would like to expand the collaboration with Bea, we have been talking about exploring new topics together. Look out for monkeys in the future…

When you are both collaborating with people, what is your process like? Do you enjoy working with people / companies that have big ideas? Or do you prefer to have creative control?

Bea: It depends. I like to work with both bigger and smaller companies.

Stina: I love collaborations when the subject and the people are right.

Who are your favorite fashion designers?

Bea: They are not fashion designers, but I like Bill Drummond and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Stina: Alexander McQueen and Bea Szenfeld.