The new self-titled book from Henrik Vibskov is a lot like his work—slightly haphazard yet cohesive; purposeful, but ultimately entertaining. Since graduating from London’s Central St. Martins in 2001, the Danish designer has penetrated the regimented fashion industry with a distinct style that bucks conventionality and traditional seasons in favor of more conceptual shows and collections that reflect his artistically driven mind.
“Henrik Vibskov” the book is set up to explore these themes and his larger creative oeuvre in a natural progression, starting with a preface split between five contributors that loosely alerts readers to the collage-like layout that lies ahead. The collaborative foreword is written by Vibskov’s brother Per, German professor of experimental fashion design Dorothea Mink, New Museum deputy director Keren Wong, Danish artist Jørgen Leth and Röhsska Museum director Ted Hesselbom. Together they shed a little insight on Vibskov while referencing five keywords that help define his career—”donkey,” “boobies,” “mint,” “tank” and “shrink wrap”. Before delving fully into what these words mean, social anthropologist Camilla R. Simpson offers a more serious biography in the three-page essay “The Vibskov Scenario”, which is followed by an equally extensive but completely different story—novelist Jokum Rohde’s “Science-Fiction Noir”, an imaginary work that draws from Vibskov’s various show titles over the years.
From there Vibskov takes over, detailing his career to date with randomly ordered sketches, candid commentary, inspiration shots and behind-the-scenes images of his shows and art installations (which are sometimes one in the same). While slightly confusing at first, the arrangement actually works out well and fans will enjoy how the book mimics the same sentiment expressed in his bizarre ensembles. At first glance there is a lot going on on the page, but further inspection reveals a beautiful chaos. As Wong comments in the preface, Vibskov’s work is always full of contradiction—to her, he simultaneously evokes confidence and humor, and inspires performance and relaxation.
The layout also shows how his projects continue to evolve and more importantly, how many different artistic elements they incorporate. Stating in his short note at the beginning that this is a book “mainly based on visual materials”, Vibskov, who is also a serious drummer, shows how his vision applies to a myriad of media. For example, an over-sized blue cardigan sweater from his A/W 2008 collection, “The Mint Institute”, is featured on the page opposite his explanation of “Drumming Friday”, a concept initiated in 2007 where Vibskov and musician Mikkel Hess send out a text message asking who wants them to stop by. They then hit the streets with their drums while donning blue plastic tarps. In 2009 he employed the same shade of blue in his S/S collection called “The Tent City”.
Vibskov notes that in retrospective they should have named that show “The Tent City Blues”, but it isn’t until 20 pages later that he speaks candidly about the importance of show titles. “I think in general it’s nice to have bizarre, twisted names for the collections, and actually we end up spending a lot of time talking and discussing what the name of the collection should be,” he writes. After emailing around for ideas, he lets it hang there for a few weeks and typically makes the decision at the last minute, which, he says “mostly works out well”.
Leaving things to chance to work out well seems like a modest understatement for the industrious designer. By allowing his imagination to lead the way and exploring fields outside of fashion, his collections are highly original and fully developed, making his one of the most honest and interesting labels to watch.