Elisabeth Michiel is no stranger to multidisciplinary design work, merging graphic design, illustration and fashion, her fluidity translates from her approach to the work itself. Flowing lines, bold shapes and a strong compositional aesthetic result in dynamic, multilayered and beautiful works where following the interconnected lines reveal a new story each time.
Berlin-based ELMI was invited to leave her mark on FRISUR’s SS18 collection as the brand continues their exploration of local artists through collaborative works. As with AW17’s “The Artist” it was important to connect with a like-minded creative who inspires and is inspired by the collection.
Your work covers a wide range of artistic and graphic designs. How did you get into illustration? What / who are your inspirations?
My background is in communication and fashion design. Drawing was always a major discipline in my studies. I actually didn’t see myself as an illustrator for a long time even though my graphic work was always really playful and illustrative.
I get inspiration from everyday shapes and patterns that are surrounding me. But a lot really happens just in the process, depending on the tools I choose and the mood I am in. Nowadays I see illustration and pattern design as a relaxing and more intuitive side to my work. Beside my textile design and illustration work I work (as bureau Michiel) in branding and creative consulting, which is more strategic and conceptual.
We’re now in your studio in Kreuzberg, Berlin, what is important for your working environment? What do you need to get started on a project?
My studio needs to feel as comfortable and cosy as my home, meaning there must be many plants surrounding me, my desk needs to be organised and the studio fridge must be filled up since we cook here almost every day. It is actually my second home.
Ideally a new project starts with a personal conversation, preferred over a coffee or lunch
Can you talk me through your creative process?
After kicking of the collaboration with FRISUR, visiting them in their studio, seeing the fabrics and mood boards I started to research old images of jazz musicians. I was interested in the shapes of the instruments and the facial expressions of the musicians while they play. Of course listening to some Mulatu Asteke and trying to transfer these shapes and forms really intuitively. As soon as I liked the results I set up a meeting with FRISUR and walked over to their studio.
FRISUR approached you for a collaboration on their current collection, the musician, how did you connect with the theme and how was it to work with a local fashion brand? What is it like to see your work go from sketch to an embroidery as part of a fashion collection?
The collection theme moods and the story FRISUR created were easy to understand but still left freedom for my interpretation. The main difference to my other fashion projects was that our studios are so close by that we met in person to discuss the outcome. That made the process much easier and created a good and close working atmosphere.
Since I worked for different fashion brands in the past this was not the first time my designs were printed or embroidered on fabrics. However I am always super excited to see the results. Working with different materials and print techniques has a huge effect on the outcome. In this case since we worked with embroidery we decided to focus on lines rather than even surfaces. Otherwise the shirt would have been really stiff and uncomfortable to wear.
How did their style and choice of materials effect your design? What pieces from the collection speak to you the most?
Generally I feel like FRISUR focusses on interesting but classic silhouettes and high-quality fabrics. For THE JAZZ we did not use any other prints or embroideries, so I was free to choose the illustrative style for the SELA shirt. I was able to create the non commercial eye catcher and I am happy that the feedback is so positive.
Besides the SELA shirt, my collections favorite is the CHARLOTTE top.
I love the asymmetric piano stripes and how the fabric connects with the collection theme. I appreciate that some pieces are gender neutral like the ASIR Jacket, and TOM coat which I will definitely get for myself.
You had a pretty close working relationship, it seemed important on both sides that the result grew organically alongisde the development of the collection. How does that compare to the way you usually work?
We really took our time to let the illustration grow organically. Most of the time I work under a big time pressure and my clients have a specific idea in mind. With this collaboration I had the freedom to try out and experiment.