How Raw Materials Inspire Consciousness with Adriana Meunie
Fashion designer and multi-disciplinary artist Adriana Meunie has the talent for seeing beauty in things most would call mundane. Witnessing the underappreciation of native cultures abroad she returned to Mallorca with a realisation that the skills and materials of her home island are suffering a similar fate. Following her innate interest for weaving, Adriana embarked on a unique personal journey of tracing back the source of raw materials; gathering organic fibres to make one-of-a-kind weavings and garments. Adriana’s hands, translate the wool from the grazing sheep and sun-kissed grass into the voice of Mallorca, both candid and wild.
Adriana talks about rejecting commercial fashion to pursue textiles in her own way. We’ll also learn about her dedication to preserving local cultures and how raw materials inspire consciousness.
Advance Copy: Throughout the pandemic you’ve shared a constant flow of new work while also appearing in numerous publications. Has it felt like a busier year than usual?
Adriana Meunie: For the moment I’m very thankful, it has been hard but at the same time the work that I’ve done this year has been some of the best because I was able to create large-scale pieces which is something I love doing. This time has been complicated and two-sided but as long as our creative work is moving forward then everything is in its place – that’s the objective, to advance with patience.
AC: We’re used to thinking of progress in economic terms but now we’re questioning what development means on a personal level. For many, the lockdown has brought on a lot of contemplation, mixed emotions and lack of inspiration.
Adriana: For me, it was the perfect time to think and you realise how quickly life can get messed up. Everything that you want to do you have to do because if life wants to get hard it will. So don’t worry and don’t make it more complicated.
“To live through this kind of work isn’t crazy, I know it’s possible.”
AC: Your academic background is in fashion design and your work is a wider exploration of raw materials, weaving and textiles. How did you turn from a commercial fashion design career to pursuing textiles as an artistic endeavour?
Adriana: I started in fashion but I didn’t see myself fitting in with a big brand or the bigger system. When you start working in fashion it’s something that’s in you. I once said that I would quit the industry and it never really happened, it always comes back in one way or another. I started to make clothes but you need a lot of investment to make a brand which is something I wasn’t able to do. But I began to play with textiles and do wall hangings. I love weaving because it’s the primary form of textiles that’s been a human activity since the beginning. I find this concept of creating something from zero and line by line so beautiful. This worked well with my personality as I love to make things from scratch.
AC: Ultimately, you decided to direct your own career path. Is it something you set out to do on purpose and if so was it a difficult decision?
Adriana: My father was a painter who lived from his art so to live through this kind of work isn’t crazy, I know it’s possible. Even when I was studying I was doing textile weavings and tapestries so it was always there somehow. I remember walking down the street and seeing a piece of weaving through a window, it was made of wool and I thought it was amazing. I had a few experiences like this when I saw that weaving was a possibility and for me, it was the most impressive thing. I made a lot of things that I didn’t show, things that I was doing for myself. My way has been very slow, a process that took years but then I started to show my work and it went on like this, bit by bit. There’s a time when you go crazy and say “okay, I’m going to show it” that moment when it clicks and you’re ready.
“My way has been very slow, a process that took years.”
AC: Whether it’s clothing or art, your work celebrates raw materials and tactility. Where does this interest stem from?
Adriana: When you see raw materials you see their beauty, they show that everything comes from somewhere. For example, when you purchase a sweater it should come from a sheep and if you see raw wool you might become more conscious about the work, or the lack of work, that went into making that sweater. The same with a basket, if you see the plants it might make you think about the person who first cut them, dried them in the sun and treated them – all the primary parts. Then, someone has to come in with the knowledge of basket weaving to add more value to the process of making it. That’s always on my mind because these materials are beautiful and also because I believe that we have to be more careful with our surroundings. That’s how it started.
AC: You’ve lived in Barcelona and Berlin before returning to Mallorca. Did it feel necessary to rebuild your relationship with the island?
Adriana: I never thought that would happen to me but at a certain moment I became tired of living in cities and there was a sudden need to come back. I had a period when I hated nature but then I started missing being in Mallorca. After Barcelona, I went to New Mexico to do a short course on weaving with women of Navajo, whom I’ve always admired. It was an important experience and during one organised visit to a pueblo, I felt a connection with the Navajo people: their preservation of identity and relationship with the natural world. I admire them greatly and although I will never be a part of their culture I recognised that Mallorca is also losing a lot of its culture. I felt something in New Mexico and I understood that my palace is here.
“The world doesn’t need any more big enterprises, we need people who take care of where they are.”
AC: What skills and resources are native to Mallorca and how do these influence your thinking?
Adriana: I was always attracted to the vegetation of Mallorca and the sheep that graze here but nobody uses this local material, there is no wool industry. Another example is locals who are making baskets, it’s mostly the older generation and the skill is disappearing. Mallorca is based on tourism and with Covid, a lot of people acknowledged that basing the economy on one thing is terrible. We need more industry, a more local and diversified economy. Globalisation is great because it opens up your mind and lets you learn from others but at the same time, we are losing a lot of small cultures which for me is a big fight. The world doesn’t need any more big enterprises, we need people who take care of where they are.
AC: Last year you launched Odeminui, what is the meaning behind the brand name and what are you hoping to explore through this new project?
Adriana: Odeminui is a play on words which sounds like ‘eau de minuit’ [midnight water] in French but spelt phonetically in Spanish. I love that image but I didn’t want it to be literal. Odeminui has two lines, one which is made using organic materials and the second which is made from more common materials: having different fabrics allows me to have two price ranges. The most important thing about Odeminui is for everything to be made in Mallorca although it’s very difficult to find people here who can sew and create a whole garment. This year I also started creating pieces that mix clothes and wool weaving, getting a mixture of Odeminui with something more commercial. It’s challenging for me to do something simple but it’s important because it’s useful, easy to wear and beautiful and that’s the way I want to continue. When you first see these garments they may look a little crazy but when you try them on they are really fun and easy to wear. It feels powerful to wear raw wool and you get more involved when wearing these pieces.
AC: How do you approach seasonality with Odeminui? Do you produce regular collections or make garments on demand?
Adriana: I wish I could do more but this year has been difficult, this doesn’t worry me because it’s a personal project and if I want to do a little collection then I can and when it feels right to do something bigger then I will do so. I think creating singular pieces works well because when you’ll buy an Odeminui garment you’ll know it’s yours only. I want to show everything that I’m creating, to make something new instead of having extra stock of older models. Something that I also hate in fashion is the cycles. I tried to be more rigid but it didn’t work for me and since I’ve made this decision I feel free and it has to be about that. I don’t want to feel tied to anything, if there are things that I want to explore with the line, I can do so. Odeminui goes along with the moment.