While teaching at ESMOD Berlin and the Warsaw Fine Arts Academy, Thorbjørn Uldam somehow found the time to start his own label TULDAM. He created a stunning first collection, showing amazing craftsmanship through ancient layered looks. We had the chance to stop by and chat with him about his work in and outside of the classroom.
One Look from the new Collection “the return” F/W 2015. Campain photography by Frederik Heyman.
When you were 20 you left Denmark to go to Barcelona, how were you drawn to the fashion business. Did you already know where life would take you at an early age?
When I moved to Barcelona, I did not know what would happen or where I would end up. I started exploring fashion there. I tried fashion one year at private fashion school but that was not for me. But then I got an offer from my design teacher, who asked me to collaborate with her in a textile design project. It became a very long project — about 2,5 years. This was not so much about fashion design, but an industrial design project. We made tags for blind people, so it was more about them understanding color and texture and helped them understand the composition of a garment. It even got patented when a big company (Mango) was showing their interest. We went to prison and wanted to teach the people to make the tags, but unfortunately the designer went missing in the middle of the project so in the end it didn’t happen. The project showed me, that you could achieve something emotional with fashion. We developed one t-shirt for blind people which explained the project in written form on the shirt. On the day of presentation during Barcelona fashion week, a blind woman who was a representative of the organization ONCE (National Organization of Spanish blind people), supported us through media. She was so overwhelmed because someone did something for her in this context, so this was also very emotionally overwhelming and beautiful for me.
So after the collaboration with our former design teacher you did an internship with Josep Abril. What did you take from that experience of working for him into your own company?
I learned how to deal with garments, Josep’s father was a textile representative, so he had this background and grew up in an industrial universe in which he worked and developed his whole work. I learned how to deal with the material and to suit them to certain garments. Josep had this big archive with a lot of pieces in stock, so he would give me a garment and tell me, “do something with it.” Then I started to design garments with his mood board in mind, sometimes up to 50 sketches and he would pick 3. Josep is not a person who designs silhouettes; he designs garments already thinking about details, which is a total different design process to how I work. What he really taught me, though, was no matter what you design, a piece always has it’s origin. A trench coat stays a trench coat a duffle coat a duffle coat. We can play with the connotation of that garment but when people don’t recognize were the garment came from, there is a very big chance they won´t understand it.
From the Look book of “the return” F/W 2015.
The collection was inspired by myths of King Arthur and the round table.
You’re teaching at ESMOD Berlin and at the Warsaw Fine Arts Academy; what do you like about teaching young designers?
The possibility to explore new directions where fashion can go, because fashion changes all the time. At ESMOD, I’m teaching the third year students, so for them it’s the first real collection.The eyes of a stranger looking at the same thing can be a very interesting moment.
Does storytelling underlie your work?
What I understood from my time in Antwerp was that I can have a story that is for myself and not the audience. As a designer you will always be judged on the final product, on what people will see in the end. Then they like it or they don’t like it and it is a very subjective moment of reflection when you see a collection on the catwalk. Very often the fantasy goes in a direction were one would think, “would I buy such a thing and how does it look when wear it?” I also have to be able to survive on what I make and I can’t do that if I’m making straw trousers or shorts.
How would you define your design signature. Does it change with your own age and experience? Your last collections wavered between boyish and masculine. Is it maybe your own story of growing up?
Definitely, there is a huge evolution in my work. I see it as something that was very naïve that has turned into something more mature. My next collection will be very different again. The only way you can grow with your work is to create tension. I had a big time gap between my graduate collection and now, it’s always about going to the next level.
Looks and Leather Bags from the collection “the return” F/W 2015.
Where do you see yourself with Tuldam headed in the next few years?
I hope it will go on and that I will create more consistently and grow in my understanding of the market.I want to stay a teacher parallel to the fact that I have my own thing. I really enjoy teaching and see how things grow, even without knowing where something might go. I consider teaching as a career. If I’m able to continue my own thing next to teaching, I’m not sure. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship from the Danish Art Foundation to start up this thing right now. Establishing the rudiments of the future workis what I am doing right now and it is very exciting. There will be a future collection.