Text JF. Pierets Photos & concept Criaturas
Criaturas is the name Saskia De Tollenaere and Olivier Desimpel gave to the world they created for everyone who dares to dream. An experience concept where their passion for theater, art, fashion, beauty, spirituality and emotion merges in the form of unique celebrations and parties. Each time they create a new universe, their artists bring the concept to life. Especially for Et Alors? Magazine they created one of Criaturas’ amazing photoshoot. Needless to say we are very proud to feature these gorgeous images, so we asked them about this unique world of theirs.
Where did you get the name?
When we studied fashion at the academy, we got a lot of inspiration from movies by Pedro Almodovar, Tim Burton and David Lynch. Our graduation collections therefor had a high theatrical atmosphere.
Saskia The red thread in my graduation collection was the female seduction in all its facets. It was named ‘Criaturas de la ultima seduçion divina’. When we started our company about a year later, it was immediately clear to us that the name Criaturas = beings / creatures perfectly encompassed what we created.
When did you start?
Olivier My graduation collection was a Victorian funeral procession marching through the old city center of Ghent. It was a hot day in June 1999, the terraces were packed so we had a large audience. Someone asked us why we didn’t bring such act in the events sector. In those days there was very little entertainment, except for the clown, the magician and the music band so that’s how we found our stage. Later on it expanded to total concepts.
What was your first project?
The theme of our first big event was From Hell to Heaven. It was an interactive concept where guests first had to endure the journey through purgatory and hell, to end up in heaven via the gardens of Eden. 50 artists performed as witches, devils, satyrs, angels, nymphs, all the creatures symbolizing good and/or evil. It was inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, dripped in a David Lynch atmosphere.
What’s your best project until now?
Each concept is like a child, therefor impossible to choose between them. The most innovative are our Tableaux Vivants, because the guests not only step into a painting, but also become part of it.
What’s the most amazing thing you ever did?
Putting a smile on someone’s face or seeing tears of wonder. The fusion of the illusionary world and reality. Technically, it is perhaps the hell-heaven concept in the beginning of our career that was the most daring. With the resources we had in those days, it was litteraly a ‘hell of a job’, yet it gave us the confidence that we could handle everything from then on. Take for example the Cotton Palazzo-event where we hung 3kms of white curtains in an abandoned, open cotton mill during a storm. The result was.. heavenly! Currently we are organizing a party where we actually build a location with 75 large sea containers This is undoubtedly the most amazing project until now.
What’s the most amazing thing you ever want to do?
To let our world make a journey as an avant garde healing theatre. A mix of beauty, spectacle, interactive acts, unity and spirituality.
Where lies your main interest?
To live life in the full. With love and all its beauty.
Tell me about the photoshoot?
The time had come to take a new direction in terms of acts and costumes. We needed a new challenge and wanted to put more emotion and story in our creations. The spiritual message we wanted to convey was that every individual is beautiful with his own style and image, and can perfectly blend in a society where originality is appreciated. In nature, the bird with the most colorful plumage is the most successful match. Among people; far too often gray and colorlessness is considered normal. For the photoshoot we have created very different characters and looks, and made them party together. By giving them names like The Storyteller and The White Knight, we give a hint of the story they tell, yet we allow the viewer to have his own dreams and fill in the blancs. The photoshoot is also the start of our traveling avant garde theater so for us it’s a preview.
‘When it comes to costumes and accessories, yes, we make everything ourselves so it is absolutely unique. We use couture, ethnic and antique fabrics, vintage and antique ornaments and applications. Therefor our costumes radiate luxury and history.’
Do you actually make everything yourself?
When it comes to costumes and accessories, yes, we make everything ourselves so it is absolutely unique. We use couture, ethnic and antique fabrics, vintage and antique ornaments and applications. Therefor our costumes radiate luxury and history. I’m always looking for material with a high dose of craftsmanship. Both at flea markets and the worldwide web. I also like to learn new skills such as origami and kanzashi, which I used in our geisha costumes. Also the art of making hats, for which I get professional help of our makeup designer, is an enrichment. We also design the graphics, invitations, special props and floral decorations for our concept events.
Where do you get your inspiration?
History, movies, fashion, nature, dreams, life and we inspire each other.
You also have your own jewel collection?
Yes, and not only jewelry and accessories but also home decoration, interior design and art. My jewelry collection; DTS for lovely creatures, originated at the request of a couture shop that wanted to offer bespoke jewelry to customers. So each time I use a lot of jewelry that’s been personalized make a suitable jewel for a particular cocktail or evening dress, it developes into an extensive collection in different styles. Along with Olivier, I also design for our O + S studio, which are mainly interior designs such as lighting, furniture and accessories. We always make unique pieces, we do not like mass production. Our favorite challenge is to create something customized for the clients. Watching someone’s character, personality, style, experiences, dreams, .. and design something that he or she represents. This way of working has led us already to design very spiritual things for customers.
Don’t you ever think about starting your own fashion collection?
No, during our fashion studies, we dreamed of designing haute couture collections because of the theatrical aspect. Back then, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen were our heroes. Yet we don’t want to get stuck in the commercial circuit where we have to take trends, rules and sales figures into account. Frankly, we just want the freedom to create whatever we want. My favorite aspect of the job is that every day is different. I feel blessed that one day I can come up with a concept and put it into shape, and the next day I can make a costume or work on my jewelry collection. I can live my inspiration and imagination without restrain. I rarely feel that I ought to do something and therefor can start each day with full passion and love for what I do.
Tell me about your future dreams?
When it comes to realization, Criaturas is our child and we would like to see it grow and inspire others. Also the opportunity to work with famous artists or filmmakers, so we can reach more people internationally, would be a goal. And later on… a house on a hill, with a lot of animals, surrounded by nature. That would sound good.
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