Velvit Welcomes Maude Nibelungen
Maude Nibelungen, the Canadian queen of handmade knitwear, talks Tom Waits, alter egos, and trips to Limbo
Velvit met with designer Maude Nibelungen for a deeper look into her creative background, her chosen medium, and her fondness for chokers.
Velvit: When did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer?
Maude Nibelungen: Ever since I can remember, I was dressing up my dolls, sketching pieces I'd like to wear, sewing and knitting garments I couldn't find anywhere or simply couldn't afford. For some reason (I think it was a lack of confidence), I didn't think that I could become a designer until I was about 19 and people started asking me to create pieces for them.
V: Did you try your hand at any odd jobs before designing for a living?
MN: I studied History, Anthropology, and Religion to do research and teach, but it became clear really quickly that it wasn't my destiny. I have tried plenty of jobs, but none have really interested me. Honestly, I don't know what I could do to still be happy if I couldn't create.
V: Why have you chosen knitwear as your main medium?
MN: I like the idea that I not only create the design, cut, and fit of my pieces, but I also create the material as well. Each item is truly unique that way. It is very time consuming, but I like how personal everything is.
V: Who taught you how to make clothes and knit fabric?
MN: My grandmother taught me the knitting basics when I was about 5, and one of my aunts taught me how to use a sewing machine when I was 6 or 7. I've been teaching myself from there.
V: What pieces of jewelry or articles of clothing could you wear everyday?
MN: I wear chokers and rings at all times. Somehow they make me feel safe and covered. I wear the XXX choker and the Magic Bean ring in black from Raw Taste, and I want to get the La Femme choker as soon as I can. Raw Taste has amazing pieces. I'm also a very big fan of Hunter Gatherer in Chicago; I have her super wide ear cuff, the Dandoor stacking rings, the Kindling ring, and the Slag neck cuff. I also wear pieces from Missy Industry, another amazing Montreal designer. As for clothing, I'd say a big hooded sweater. I'd pair it with pants or leggings, or over a skirt or dress. Two of my favorite hoodies are the Rudimentary Peni hoodie that my boyfriend cut up and gave to me, and a piece I just made for my own collection. I make pieces that I want to wear, so eventually some of them become staple items in my wardrobe. The pieces I keep are usually my first samples, so often the versions I release are slightly different and usually better.
V: Do you have a particular article of clothing that is connected with a strong memory?
MN: I have a chain that was given to me by my grandmother, the same woman who taught me how to knit. She is still alive, but she has started parting with her belongings. She is a great source of strength and inspiration to me.
V: What has been the biggest inspiration for your new collection?
MN: The last collection was Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell), so the new collection is closely connected. It's called Âmes en Ascension (Ascending Souls), and it's pretty much a trip from life to death, spending some time in Limbo. My new collection is full of contradictions: country vs. city, melancholic vs. futuristic, sexy vs. comfortable, grungy vs. direct, light vs. heavy.
V: How does music inspire your work?
MN: Tom Waits and Chelsea Wolfe are great inspirations. I'm listening to a lot of Alcest, Iceage, and Slowdive these days. Patterns in music inspire a lot. I like transitions, titles, and the stories. I like how music allows me to travel to different places and different universes. I hope I can do the same with my creations.
V: Is it true that your brand name is actually your alter ego name?
MN: My brand name is slightly different than my real name. Just a change of last name made me feel like I became someone else, someone who didn't care what people would think, someone who wouldn't feel vulnerable about exposing her soul to the world. I feel like it allowed me to transform all my magical universes, chimeras, weird thoughts, and dreams into something concrete. It's always been very hard for me to talk about my feelings, but when I create, I feel like I knit with the essence of my soul; I couldn't be more open and transparent.
V: What is one thing you've done recently that you never thought you would do?
MN: I'm in the process of immigrating to the USA, and I never thought my passport would say anything other than Canada.
V: What is your goal as a designer?
MN: I'd like to be able to extend my brand to broader design areas, such as babies, toddlers, teens, and home design.
V: What advice would you give someone who is pursuing a career in fashion?
MN: Don't try to copy, emulate, or follow trends. Get inspired by people, not what they make. Dig deep inside of yourself and show yourself through your work. Be dedicated.
For more information on Maude Nibelungen, visit our Artist profiles and shop our Velvit boutique.