With a background in architecture and graphic design, it’s easy to see why designer Mike Vensel’s clothes are “minimal, functional, clean and sexy.” Known for this minimalist aesthetic and use of traditional natural materials, Vensel’s background is subtly obvious, yet seamlessly translated into striking collections. In addition to designing, Mike Vensel is also an accomplished artist and photographer – and somehow managed to squeeze time in for an interview with two + seven!
two + seven: You’re educated in architecture and graphic design. For you, what was it that bridged the gap to fashion?
Mike Vensel: It was a natural progression. The bridge from architecture to fashion came when I realized that architecture is far too restrictive and often the outcome very much controlled by the client. Fashion appealed to me for its instant nature and its balance of art and commerce. Graphic design came in handy when I needed to create branding, lookbooks and a website. It’s all related, design is design and my graphics and architecture are very much like my fashion: minimal, functional, clean and sexy.
2+7: The styling of your Fall/Winter 2011 editorial evokes a very strong, warrior princess-esque feel. What was the inspiration behind this shoot?
MV: I’ve always loved the idea of women as goddesses. I grew up with a single mother who worked multiple jobs to put food on the table and always saw her as a sort of superhero. I love researching primitive cultures and love the bright colors of the Maasai warriors. The collection grew from an intersection of architect Mies Van Der Rohe’s clean, stark architecture and the bright colorful simple clothing of the Massai warriors.
2+7: In addition to designing, you’re also a photographer and artist. How do you balance it all?
MV: I feel that I am mostly an art director; I have a sewing machine, I have a camera and a canvas, and with all of those things I can create my vision. I love all three and feel by taking photos of my clothes I can better understand they way they function in real life and how my brand can be communicated through editorials. Art is the most free of all since there are no limitations or guidelines. If you can dream it you can do it.
2+7: Does your art ever inspire your design, or vice versa?
MV: Sometimes there is a link between the two and sometimes they stand alone in separate worlds. It really depends on what I am working on and the source material and inspiration. I have a backlog of art that I need to produce but have been busy working on collections recently so it will have to wait until the timing is right to produce it all.
2+7: What is one thing you would want people to know about your work that they couldn’t necessarily ascertain by looking at it?
MV: I think one of the things about my work that is not obvious at first are the deep links that create each collection. Every piece from every individual collection is interchangeable and at home in another collection. I work on creating a design vocabulary that is timeless, seasonless and functional, so someone could potentially keep any item for many years to come and it would never go out of style.
2+7: What can we look forward to from you?
MV: I am working on my Spring Summer 2013 collection which has many Greek influences; there is a progression from Egyptian to Greek via Cleopatra, one of the most celebrated women who has ever lived. Expect even more goddess-like dresses and strong color.