Entering a photo studio hidden in the attic of a building in central Stockholm one autumnal Saturday morning, I did not expect to end up in in a twisted, parallel reality. There I was, surrounded by obscure masks adorned with precious stones, opulent black feathers and dramatic horns. The man behind this scenery, like something out of "Eyes Wide Shut", was Dutch designer Jessy Heuvelink. After carefully setting up his beautiful and phantasmagoric creations, he had some time to talk about the curious ways of finding fashion inspiration, weaving nocturnal dreams and blurring the boundaries between the real and surreal.
WPB: You are the head of design at the well-known Swedish brand J.lindeberg, but some time ago you started your own brand, dedicated to masks and accessories, JH Nocturnal. What were you looking for in starting your new project?
JH: When I first started working for J.lindeberg I was very happy – finally I had an opportunity to combine everything I’d learned through my long journey as a fashion designer. But after 10 years there I felt uninspired. The collections were getting bigger and bigger, time frames tighter and tighter. Even tough I worked in a creative environment, it was becoming a machine.
Three years ago during Christmas I came down with a terrible bout of pneumonia that kept me in bed for three weeks. It was then when something just broke in me: I saw I could not continue in the same way anymore.
My husband is a DJ and he had a summer club during Pride week. One day he asked me if I could make an art installation when he was playing. I got dressed up, put on heels and a mask and made – and became – a piece of gender-bending, living art. This spontaneous event started a real flow of creativity.
After 3 years I discovered that everything I do for my own brand, I get rewarded for while working for J. Lindeberg; the inspiration that I get becomes an energy that I can put into everything I work with. It’s a creative platform where I can freely express myself and do exactly what I want.
WPB: It all started with a performance, and the mask is a very theatrical element. What draws you to these dramatic attributes?
JH: When you put on a mask, you can become a completely different person. It literally hides you in sort of a shield. It is also a gateway, opening up things in yourself that you didn’t know were there. It gives you an ability to express yourself in different ways, and when you take it off you can take its energy with you in your normal life. It is all about blurring the boundaries between reality and fantasy.
The masks are fantasies, my brainchildren, everything that goes on in my head and no one knows about. The first time I made a mask people were asking, "my god, do you really think like that?"