Photo: Borut Peterlin

Meta Megušar Bizjan, the award curator:

Alan Hranitelj is a truly exceptional costume designer and, as he jokingly calls himself, a crazy hat-maker. Although it might seem that he has become deeply rooted in our Slovenian environment, Alan eventually belongs to everyone and to no one. He has indeed been working in many different places, but, as he himself claims, he is happiest at home. This internationally renowned and highly respectable costume designer, an artist whose life is just as interesting as his creations, is becoming a true fashion icon, which is something he has never really wanted to be. He is, namely, not really fond of fashion because, in his view, it often imitates unique creations and besides it also trades with “the emperor’s new clothes”.  Nevertheless, fashion designers love him, in fact, they adore him and his visionary world of imagination which serves as their great source of inspiration.

He experienced the fashion world as a young creator working in Milan, but he soon realized that the world of fashion did not offer him enough creative freedom. He opted for his own, independent path, and although his creations reflect a phantasy world similar to the one found in the creations made by Mcqueen or Galliano, he has managed to place himself on an equal footing with the big ones, but in his own peculiar way – without any background support of powerful corporations. He is no longer interested in fashion industry that oftentimes forces the talented, creative souls to be pushed to the outer edges, even to death. He likes art, he wants his creations to belong to eternity, therefore he has decided to be engaged in the world of costume-design.

What he likes most is creating for a stage and his creations include numerous wonderful, queer, magnificent costumes that can take us to some other, parallel worlds. His world of imagination has inspired many Slovenian and international creators, among them also the well-known Cirque du Soleil, which resulted in their long-standing cooperation. We are all impressed by his theatre, opera and film creations, and besides, we are all truly fascinated by his independent exhibitions that have so far taken him to at least three different continents. His dreamy, poetic, slightly melancholic world will eternally remain in his books that will pass on the creativity of this visionary time-traveller to future generations. When it comes to the topmost designs, it can be claimed that the two worlds of costume design and fashion are inextricably linked and they can mutually inspire and enrich each other. The creations designed by Alan Hranitelj have been stirring up the imagination of many young fashion designers and they have also been encouraging to surpass the rigid frames of fashion design, therefore I propose Alan Hranitelj be appointed the Fashion Visionary of 2019.

 

 

Alan Hranitelj, a Slovenian costume designer, was born on 3 March, 1968 in Zagreb where he also attended the Fine Arts School. He has lived and worked in Slovenia from the mid-1980s. After collaborating in the performance Baptism in 1986, he continued his career in Ljubljana. His creative endeavours are divided among theatre, opera and film costume design and make-up art.  He also worked as a fashion designer until 1992. He has been working with various Slovenian and foreign theatres and some most visible Slovenian theatre, film and video directors (Mateja Koležnik, Valentina Turcu, Vinko Möderndrofer, Vito Taufer, Meta Hočevar, Eduard Miler, Diego de Brea, Matjaž Berger, Janez Burger, Matjaž Zupančič, Miran Zupančič, etc.).

His opus comprises 395 costume designs and collaborations in different projects. His abundant costume-design collection comprises the following: 201 theatre costume designs, 16 opera and 9 classic ballet costume designs, 30 costume designs for contemporary dance performances, 15 film and television costume designs, 32 costume designs for various different events, and 26 creations for TV commercials. Among other things, he has also designed uniforms for 11 business companies, and he has even designed costumes for the acrobat theatre group Cirque de Soleil. His works are included in 4 permanent art collections in Slovenia (Slovenian National Museum, Slovenian Ethnographic Museum, Museum of Modern Art Ljubljana and the Maribor Regional Museum). He has also taken part in 51 exhibitions in total. He has been awarded 26 merits in Slovenia and abroad for his creations.

His unique visual aesthetics in very much recognizable designs is often upgraded also by his own manual work. Alan Hranitelj has presented his work through numerous independent and group exhibitions in Slovenia and abroad.  Among the most renowned are the following exhibitions: Modern Art Gallery exhibition in Ljubljana (1991), Equrna Gallery – A Bag & 12Hats (1993), and the City Gallery exhibition entitled Costume Design 1991–1995 (1995). In 2006, he prepared a display of his best works at the International Centre of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana to introduce his comprehensive monograph entitled Costumography: 1986 – 2006. In 2009, parallel to his renowned exhibition Jesen – Zima (Autumn – Winter) 2009 at the Ljubljana-based National Museum, his second monograph was published. As for his international success, his exhibition in Köbenhaven, the European Capital of Culture 1996, was among the most visible, along with the exhibition in the Cultural Centre Nansen Aranjo in the Brazilian city Belo Horizonte in 1997 as well as the presentation of his opus in 2000 at the Millenium Dome in London.

In the summer of 2007, Alan Hranitelj was invited to collaborate with the spectacular Canadian theatre Cirque du Soleil and he prepared costumes for their show ZARKANA which premiered in June 2011 at the Radio City Music Hall in New York. From November 2012 to 30 April 2016, the show was playing without interruption at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas, USA. We are currently inspired by his extensive exhibition the Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, and we are also looking forward to the publication of his new book bearing the same title.

 

An interview with Alan Hranitelj:

We met in a cafe where we had our interview discussion over a cup of tea. We have been acquaintances for quite some time now, however, I still do not know him very well. When looking at him, it seems to me that he is so very normal, which, in fact, appears to be rather unusual. He gives the impression of being so natural, common, calm and relaxed that everyone else seems to be truly awkward by giving the impression of being constantly stressed out and worried. Meanwhile, it seems as if he was floating in some magic, parallel world, but at the same time he appears to be completely down-to-earth, normal, peaceful and kind, while everyone else seems so other-worldly by being caught in the vicious yesterday-and-tomorrow circle of duties.
And Alan, just like his cat Zoja, keeps observing this world and enjoys the eternal present moment. He does not chase after ideas, and neither do ideas chase after him. There is a natural flow of everything, and like a precise instrument he comes up with the ideas at exactly the right moment. He is a master of many things, and he is primarily a master of communication with people and other living beings as well as a master of communication with parallel worlds…

Alan, we all know you are an exceptional costume designer, however, we do not know much about you personally. Who are you, Alan? How would your friends describe you? How would your cat Zoja describe you, if she could speak?
I think you should ask Zoja about this. And as regards my friends, you should ask them yourself. If Zoja could provide an answer to this question, she would say I am a total stay-at-home type, extremely peaceful, quiet and … with my head in the clouds, but at the same time she would also describe me as a very down-to-earth person. I am Pisces and Scorpio, fifty percent each, which is really helpful, it provides a perfect balance for me.

I assume you friends would say you are a very nice person as well?
Maybe, let’s say so … they are the ones who should answer this question.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

As a child, did you perceive the world in the same way as today? How did your creative activities begin?
There was not a specific moment that would signify the beginning of my creative aspirations. Creativity has always been somewhere there, ever since I existed. And it was most possibly present in the place where I used to be before. Therefore, there is no demarcation line here.

Were you born with this talent?
I cannot recall when it all started. I have a rare blessing since creativity has simply been given to me as a special gift. What is also very important is the fact that my talent was spotted in my home environment and that my mum proved to be extremely helpful as well.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

Have you ever felt what your life mission would be like? Have you ever imagined that you would be so successful? Have you ever dreamt about it?
I have always been interested in art … and everyone thought it was a logical path for me … there was no other way … everything happened of its own accord … things just unfolded naturally and I have never planned anything. I just let myself go with the flow. I am not someone who would be snapping at things and I have never possessed this character trait. Things have unfolded in their own way and in a manner that has been most appropriate. Things come up and find me at the right moment – the right things at the right moment. I see the world in the same manner as when I was a child. However, the older I am, the more I am becoming aware of everything. When it comes to creativity, I still see the world in the same way as I used to see it as a child. I really cherish this part of my personality, this child in me. In other words, I have never been day-dreaming about success, things have just fallen together somehow. I am a highly intuitive person and I take care of this character trait, and I really do not want my intuition to be blocked. I take care of this flow, and when it declines due to my tiredness, I take a rest and then it starts flowing again…

Which of your creations are you most proud of?
I make it, I let it go, and I do not carry things with me. I think there is something in each period that was really ”cool” at that time, but this does not apply to an entire journey. I tend not to bind myself in that manner, because I think it would represent a huge obstacle for me and I would be brought to a standstill. There are certain things that are not performed at a certain moment, but are accomplished later. If this happens, I let them go. If something is not ripe yet, I let it wait and ripen.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

What inspires you?
As regards performances, we shall take into account the texts, which means we are already given a certain vision in this creative process… Regarding my own creations that are not linked to the theatre, I do not know what to tell you since so many of these drawers have been filled … In any case, things shall unfold their own way. An inspiration comes … Look, I think that if you walk around trying to find an inspiration, you will never find it. If there is an open flow with the entire universe, things unfold in their own way. I just let it go through … You know, one can see a frog, or a stone, or a small grass, and as a result so many different things may be developed out of this. I sometimes watch some of my creations and I wonder,” o vauu look at this ….ooo where did this come from”.

How do you deal with a client (a director, actors, singers …). Do you insist on your own ideas or do you make compromises?
You know, in a theatre, we all belong to one team which supports a theatre director in his performance visions. We are all just instruments assisting a theatre director, we shall all be in tune to be able to grasp the spirit of his wishes and desires. I feel great being able to shift from one style to another, from opera to theatre and do so many different things. In fact, I adjust to a director and his/her aesthetics which I polish professionally, sometimes add something to it, and sometimes remove something from it. I am not attached to my ideas, I also make adjustments, which is the question of communication, it is about communication with actors. However, the performance itself still remains one of the key factors. Ideas shall remain open, and within ideas, there is always space for communication.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

And what happens when an actor really is not pleased with something?
Even when I meet an actor for the first time, I am open, not only as regards an actor on a professional level, but also with regard to an actor as a person. Some of them accept every costume challenge, while other actors may have their special visions regarding their own bodies and they simply do not feel comfortable in certain forms. I understand this and I also take it into account. I do not approve of convincing someone to accept the things one does not like, except if the issue at question is conceptually linked to a performance, then I leave it to a director. In this sense, a communication between a director and an actor is absolutely crucial, and I just tend to ease the process. I am not bound by a specific idea. One certainly needs a creative ego, however … I often say to myself: “lock your ego into a wardrobe, wherever, and leave it at home”. Do not take it with you to the theatre.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

Do you follow a very detailed plan, when preparing a project or do you tend to improvise?
I am eager to prepare a detailed research of everything connected to the project I am working on… However, if a certain project is, and we have all had such experiences, the so called last-minute-project and please-help-us-we-are-trying-to-save-things type of a project”, then such projects shall be carried out spontaneously. If one is open, attached to “that something”, then there are moments when there is a spirit of a great team cooperation and it seems that things somehow fall together the way they should. It is important to be well-prepared and at the same time one should also be able to just go with the flow, to be flexible and open to change. Needless to say, duties shall always be performed with a high degree of professionalism. There is no place for some bohemian “clap-trap”… and, just to make it clear, it is also extremely important to find a proper balance. Communication, conversations with actors and a director, even conversations with myself – all these things are essentially important. In my view, an ego trip nowadays represents one of the biggest problems in all possible walks of life. People can no longer hear each other and everyone is just trying to push forward one’s own ego. Teamwork, however, means that one should be able to talk to people, listen to them and be able to understand them.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

What has been your craziest proposal that convinced a client to accept it? And afterwards, you might have even said to yourself: ”Dear God, have I really dared to suggest such a thing”?
Some of my clients might have indeed experienced such feelings, whereas I myself viewed it as something very normal. You know, there are certain people who consider truly average things to be something special… It really depends on where one’s boundaries are placed or where one’s boundaries of creativity are placed. As far as my work is concerned, I have dared to go beyond and I have dared to accomplish my ideas.

Have your costume design ever steered a performance into a different direction?
This might have happened, however, no one has probably thought about it since everyone employs one’s own aesthetic perspective … It has already taken place, but I would rather not talk about it in order to avoid any possible misunderstandings.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

What is your viewpoint regarding fashion? What links, if any, do you see between fashion and costume design? Some most outstanding creations (showpieces), seen on fashion-show catwalks, can actually be considered some kind of costume designs. Besides, film and theatre costume designs oftentimes follow fashion. What is your view on such intertwining?
First of all, fashion, in my view, represents industry. And even within the world of fashion there certainly are some artistic dimensions. In its essence, however, fashion means industry. One can, however, also see theatre as industry. Only the purpose is different, communication itself is different. I can see very big differences between the two. Otherwise, people pay enormous amounts of money for something that is very, very modern and they are not aware of the fact that, as a matter of fact, they are only, time and again, changing into new clothes, and they all look as if they were cloned. There seems to be no real connection between them and the clothes they are wearing, there is no style, no soul within such outfits. They are only walking expensive clothes around, and these outfits might even be highly overpriced. There are many of those who think that fashion can buy personality and style. However, this cannot be done that easily, and certainly not in such a manner. When observing them, I get the impression that they are wearing costumes. They might indeed be wearing clothes displaying some well-known brand logos, but it is still far from being impressive, even if it may look perfect and it may give the impression of being entirely accomplished. Not every fashion designer is a good costume designer, and not every costume designer is a good fashion designer, with an exception of some rare cases where this might be possible. People are mostly not familiar with a difference between a costume designer and a film costume designer who only uses outfits that have been created for the film-styling purposes. In my opinion, it is better to focus on one task only. After creating ten different costume designs, one still cannot be considered a costume designer, and similarly, one cannot be considered a true fashion designer after creating only ten fashion designs. One needs to have much more experience which is of paramount importance at this point.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

What happens if someone is not really your cup of tea, but you find the project itself very interesting?
It depends … If the project is interesting, but the communication itself does not really run smoothly, I usually decide not to accept a certain project. However, one can always apply highly professional attitude. In fact, it shall not be about whether you “enjoy doing certain things or not”. One should simply get a project done. You distance yourself from a person and accomplish your work by applying highly professional standards. After all these years, we should all know how to do it.

Is there anything you are not able to perform, but would like to be able to do?
I would really like to be able to cook, and to cook really well since I like eating good food. I am, after all, Hranitelj (Nourisher), which means that, by means of my surname, food has been woven into every pore of mine. However, I do not know how to cook. And I would really like to be able to do it.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

What makes you sad? Is there anything you are afraid of?
I am not afraid of anything and I have got rid of all my fears … I am not sure whether I have ever been afraid of anything. I may only get a bit uncomfortable in certain situations, but I am not afraid of anything. I may say I am scared of volcanoes, earthquakes and other such things … I really do not like narrow-mindedness, double-facedness and similar. I feel sad about these things, but I have no real fears whatsoever.

Have you ever done any silly things? Do you tend to be childish or serious when surrounded by your friends?
I can be both. I am an eternal child, but at the same time I can be extremely serious as well.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

Are there any levels that you tend to keep to yourself and you do not let the others see them?
Absolutely. Definitely. I am, otherwise, a very communicative person, but what is mine shall remain mine. It is that Scorpio astrological trait within my personality.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

What calms you down when you are stressed out?
I could say that the way I function is related to a state of a slight meditation and I am constantly somewhere in between. It is solitude that calms me down. I have to be in solitude and I really need solitude. I can live in solitude for ten days, without seeing anyone, and I can only hope there will be no telephone calls…This usually happens in summer time. I really need to be alone, which means no TV, no music, nothing, really nothing, only me living in pure silence. It is only my cat Zoja that is allowed to be with me.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

Why do you like cats? What do they mean to you?
To me, a cat represents a mixture of everything. Cats are very interesting animals. Not only cats, other animals can be very fascinating as well … They possess such an enormous and endless depth and understanding. Those amazing cats’ eyes. One can see so many things in those eyes which also appear to have healing and meditation effects. Cats can neutralize negative energy that can be brought home with you. They somehow wipe out these negative energies, they are able to detect pluses and minuses, and they are also highly intuitive, they are immediately aware of who they are dealing with. Cats are really God’s creatures that have been sent to us from somewhere. Many people are not able to understand this. Cats have always found a way to find me somehow, ever since I was a child. We would always have a cat at home and there was no dilemma of whether to have or not to have a cat. A cat simply was there somehow… and we also had puppies. All these animals have always been part of my life. We were once shooting a film in a zoo. And there were some extremely dangerous animals involved in our shooting scenes. I am not afraid of such animals, and an animal can sense that. I really had this strong desire to be with them. The zookeepers said that I really had opted for the most dangerous animal in the zoo. It was a huge bald eagle, an extremely dangerous vulture. An eagle carries within itself some special darkness, and at the same time it also possesses such a wonderful balance, it is hard to explain these things. There were two huge vultures and the zookeeper said:« You know, we do not have any contact with them. We are not allowed to interact with them. We give them food and leave their cage immediately.« And then I said: ”I might be crazy, but I still want to sit with them, on this board, and I want them by my side. You should all just leave since you are nervous, and they can sense your nervousness, not mine.” There was a big panic and they said: ”Here is some rotten carrion that shall distract their attention. You should be aware that you are about to enter this cage at your own responsibility”. When I entered the cage, the two birds of prey first moved away, and I sat down in the middle of their board…and afterwards they both came closer and sat next to me. It was absolutely amazing. I really respect animals, all animals, not only cats. They have high emotional intelligence, people are more suppressed … animals are able to detect vibrations, they are very open…

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

Are you an early bird or a night owl?
I am neither an early bird nor a night owl. When I was younger, I used to be both. As a matter of fact, I became a morning person because of Ronson (my cat) who would have an inner alarm-clock which would go off in the morning at six o’clock sharp … in fifteen years one gets used to it and consequently becomes a morning type. Since Ronson died, this inner alarm-clock has become slackened. If I hadn’t had Ronson, I would probably never be a morning type.

What part of the day do you find most convenient for your creative activities?
When I am relaxed. Irrespective of a part of the day.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

If you could invite three people (historical fairy-tale, alive) to join you for dinner, who would it be and why would you invite them?
I would invite someone that everyone believes in, and everyone believes in something different, and at this point I am trying to find the right expression, maybe the creator, let’s call it IT, I would invite him. I would be interested to know what plans this person (if it is a person) had in his mind, and why, and how, and why our universe exists, what is the purpose of its existence … It would be really interesting to have dinner with him. And I would like to invite more such beings, not just the one from this, but also from the other worlds. Otherwise, I would also invite some historical figures and it would be really entertaining to be with them, but I do not have anyone specific in my mind … in any case, I have been “swimming” there somewhere all this time. I would maybe also invite an exceptionally good cook who would prepare excellent dinner for us and with whom we would also discuss the art of preparing these delicious culinary delicacies. I would maybe invite the famous celebrity chef Heston.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

Do you believe in parallel worlds, in supernatural? Is this the reason why your last exhibition and your last book have this title?
Well, you can guess yourself after all these answers. (Laughing) … It is this Scorpio character trait within me that makes me a bit more down to earth, so that I can carry out some basic, mundane tasks, which is, however, a rather difficult mission for me. All these common, everyday things – a car, for example, represents for me something that has wheels and moves, and I have no idea how it really functions. And computers, oh dear, my closest ones have been teasing me for years that I am like a Bermuda triangle when it comes to all these technological inventions. Nothing, zero, and this refers to everything, from a washing machine to a radio and a television. If there is a new technological device, I tend to stay away from it and I do not touch it. The same holds true for filling out various forms at the post office. I find it difficult to accomplish all these common, everyday tasks. And I am really pleased if my friends are willing to help me out with such duties. I do not pretend to be some kind of a know-it-all.

Photos of the costumes by Alan Hranitelj from his exhibition Parallel Worlds of Alan Hranitelj at the Ljubljana Castle, Photo: Borut Peterlin and Darja Štravs Tisu

Portrait photo: Borut Peterlin

If you could paint a new picture of this world for yourself, if you were like Alice in Wonderland, what would the world on the other side of your mirror be like?
It would be the world without fears, without narrow-mindedness, without provinciality, without arrogance, envy, greed, gossip, without ego trips. The world on the other side of this mirror would be the world without all these harmful elements. People really should understand that all these negativities are only harming themselves and nobody else.

Portrait photo: Borut Peterlin

 

The interview with Alan Hranitelj was carried out by Meta Megušar Bizjan, curator of Big SEE Fashion Design Awards.

 

 

 

BIG SEE VISIONARIES 2019
The Award is granted by Zavod Big to those individuals who enrich and inspire the world of creativity, tend to move forward by pushing design boundaries, and help to encourage the creative environment in the region of South-Eastern Europe. Their activities represent a significant contribution to the role of design in the region, and due to their efforts, the South-East European design has been put on the map of the greatest design achievements. We are all overwhelmed with emotion and deeply touched by these visionary leaders’ creative work which ignites our passions and steers us in the right direction to bring out the best in us.

 

FILE
Interviewer: Meta Megušar Bizjan

 

Powered by: