Frida and I

Frida and I

by marlies|dekkers

It was love at first sight, the first time I saw Frida Kahlo as a young teen. Those stubborn brows, those voluptuous flowers; this was a colourful outsider, a feminine rebel with a feminist cause, just like me! And, although we lived more than a half century apart, I felt in my heart of hearts that we shared an insatiable hunger for life, art and love. But what would really shape me was the realization that Frida wasn’t ashamed of what made her different. As a matter of fact, she celebrated it!

Emboldened by that insight, I decided I wanted to be an artist. I got accepted into art school, but found it hard to limit myself to just one subject. One day during figure drawing class, an idea struck me while I was sketching the model’s beautiful curves in circular motions: what if I used a woman’s body as my canvas? If you make a painting, someone will hang it on their wall. If you design a chair, someone will sit on it. But if you design lingerie, someone will wear it and by doing so, complete your art! I thought of how Frida Kahlo used to decorate the plaster corsets she was forced to wear with fantastic drawings -wild animals, political symbols like a blood-red hammer and sickle, a portrait of the baby she lost- thereby turning her own body into a statement of art. I had found my mission: from now on, your body would be my canvas.

During every phase of my life, Frida was there, pushing me to celebrate my uniqueness, urging me to CREATE, no matter what! Inspired by the raw, sensual self-portraits with which Frida turned her personal pain into universal art, I designed lingerie that glorified every phase of love, from its ecstatic beginnings to its bittersweet end. Like Frida, I created from a feminine point of view, continuously (re)discovering what made women click after centuries of the male point of view dominating art and design. And when I fought for equal rights while refusing to give up my sensuality, I honored Frida as the original feminine feminist.

The more I studied Frida, the more impressed I became with the sheer virtuosity she displayed in every aspect of her life. Even the way she dressed was pure art. Frida’s traditional Tehuana garments not only projected her feminist and socialist beliefs, but also masked her debilitating injuries. By concentrating all the adornment -the headpieces with the flowers and ribbons, the extravagant jewelry- from the torso up, Frida managed to distract the viewer from her legs, which she habitually covered with a long skirt. This was exactly what I did when I designed lingerie: highlighting the most beautiful zones of your body by covering up other parts. This game of concealing and revealing; Frida was masterful at it.

I became a mother, and much to my delight my daughter Zilver fell in love with Frida the same way I had. ‘The brave lady with the monkey’ my 8-year-old adoringly called her after seeing the movie ‘Frida’ with me. Shortly after that, I found this quote in Frida’s diary (‘The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait’): “I used to think I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too.” I smiled. Frida and I, we had come full circle.

— Marlies Dekkers

 

 

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