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And the MoMu Award goes to... Alise Anna Dzirniece

Alise Anna Dzirniece, 'Unapologetic Feast', graduation show
Dominique Maître & Etienne Tordoir / Catwalkpictures

Every year, MoMu awards an MA fashion graduate from the Antwerp Academy whose work stands out in terms of its graphic quality. This year, two such awards were granted. One was bestowed on Alise Anna Dzirniece for her collection ‘Unapologetic Feast’, which – as part of the award – will be exhibited in the lightboxes abutting the MoMu Café. In Dzirniece’s case, having her work shown next to the place where people savour their soups and eat cakes from small plates is particularly poignant: her collection also tells the story of a meal, but one that gets somewhat out of hand.

Alise Anna Dzirniece
Jānis Dzirnieks

Can you tell us more about your collection and how it came about?

ALISE ANNA DZIRNIECE: “My graduation collection is about a dinner party where the guests completely lose their manners. It is based on a Czech movie called ‘Daisies’, from 1966, which is about two proper young girls who realise that the world is spoiled - so they decide to become spoiled too. Throughout the movie, they go to lavish dinners, they eat all the food, drink all the drinks, smudge their make-up and end up dancing on the tables."

“It made me think about the urge one tends to have as a child, when confronted with a beautiful cake for example, to smash it completely – to not hold back. It also made me think about all the things we do hold ourselves back from as adults. I started fantasizing about wild dinner parties and turned these fantasies into a collection.”

Alise Anna Dzirniece, 'Unapologetic Feast'
Jānis Dzirnieks
Alise Anna Dzirniece, 'Unapologetic Feast'
Alise Anna Dzirniece

You won the MoMu Award for the rich graphic language that characterizes your work. Where does that come from?

AAD: “I always start by drawing. I love drawing, I spend all my free time drawing and painting. It’s very intuitive: I never know at the beginning where I will end up. I’ll just fantasize for days about smashed puddings or strange table settings and everything that’s happening on the scene, and paint what comes into my head. I build a story, and only afterwards realise where it came from; a movie perhaps, or something else I’ve seen.”

How do you translate these drawings to garments that work on a body?

AAD: “I paint on the fabrics first and then drape them on a mannequin. I don’t really use patterns: I put fabrics on a doll, and they become garments. The same counts for the salad dress I made, based on the crunchy ruffles of a lettuce, and a dress with a candy sleeve. I work the cloth around until I think it looks right. I never really have a clear expectation, I trust the process, push forward and see whether I like the result or not.”

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Your work will be on view in the windows of the MoMu building. What does that mean to you?

AAD: “After studying there for years, finishing in the place where I started is so special. It is such an honour to have my work featured in a museum that has such a beautiful collection. It is an appreciation of my work and that of my brother, who really helped me in building my collection and creating the collection photography.”

What you hope the audience will take away from it?

AAD: “That there is a lot of craftsmanship in my collection. Nowadays, people easily forget about the making process. On Instagram, people swipe past your design in a second, but there are so many hours behind it. My garments are embroidered and painted by hand. Even on the runway, that’s difficult to see.”

“My goal in life is to work in haute couture. I love the craftsmanship behind it. And in the end, couture is what made me really fall in love with fashion when I was little, looking into fashion books, seeing those amazing pieces, drawing my own collections. I used to laugh when people said they had a passion for fashion... But I guess I have one too.”

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Photos and editing: Jānis Dzirnieks

Alise Anna Dzirniece’s collection imagery is on display at the MoMu Café from now until early 2023, when Dominika Grzybek, the second MoMu Award winner, takes over the lightboxes to present her MA collection, ‘Ikebana’. Our interview with Grzybek will be published on momu.be early next year - stay tuned.