Traveling to jobs around the world as a model can often lead to downtime during layovers. Luckily for the Copenhagen model and knitwear designer Laura Hagested, she has her knitwear projects to keep her mind focused and active on the go. The recent Kenzo F/W 21 walker started knitting in primary school and has used the material as a medium in her studies as a fashion student at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. We spoke to the model about the inspiration behind her designs, taking time for herself, and how textiles can tell stories.
Where are you from and how were you discovered?
I am from Copenhagen, and I was discovered there while shopping for white tennis socks in a sneaker store.
How are you managing to balance your fashion studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts with modeling?
Balancing fashion studies and modeling is difficult at times since both things run at quite an intense pace. Whenever I travel for work, I usually try to bring a knitting project along to make the most of transit time, and when I return to Antwerp, I feel inspired by a small break in the routine, so somehow it works for me to keep doing both things.
When did you first learn how to knit?
I remember learning the basics of knitting in primary school and spending months finishing a striped blue scarf which turned out very wonky. A few years ago I took knitting up again in my spare time and started making a few simple things for myself. Since then I have improved my skills through tutorials and recipes from the Internet – my latest achievement was figuring out how to make socks. There is something very comforting and luxurious about a good piece of knitwear and I have quite restless hands, so a combination of those two must be what keeps me going.
Where do you get inspiration from?
It is too difficult to pinpoint exactly, but my current project is about creating a wardrobe for running away from home in the way children sometimes do – bringing their favorite objects in a small valise and going off into the woods only to return when they become hungry.
What about knitting/fashion excites you?
I find it fascinating that ‘just’ clothes, textiles, and yarns play such an important role in people’s lives. It can be the medium to tell so many stories about individuals, groups, and the world.
You’re originally from Copenhagen but now studying in Antwerp. How have the two cities influenced you aesthetically?
Danish design is known to be quite clean, strict, and monochrome (something which is now changing a bit with the rise of brands like Ganni and Hay) whereas the Royal Academy in Antwerp is currently lead by Walter Van Beirendonck who has a very playful attitude to fashion. I am still discovering my own aesthetics but I am surprised to see how easily I am drawn to the use of bright colors and fun elements in my designs now that I work in an environment that allows and encourages it.
Is there an element of the design process you enjoy the most?
My favorite part of the design process must be the making. I love using my hands and see objects come into being between them.
How has the pandemic altered your creativity as an artist and model?
The pandemic has made me question the relevance of fashion. On dark days I felt like I was spending my time on something superficial and superfluous, and I know that a lot of my fellow students felt the same way. However, I have recently been thinking that fashion has a sort of magic to it that just assembling textiles in a certain way makes people dream and feel like they can be whoever they want in the world. And that this invisible force of garments is important during times when we cannot experience the things and communities that would normally make us feel the most alive. I hope that fashion will learn from the challenge of surviving through a pandemic and in the future focus more on this kind of magic – in the details, in the quality, in the people that create things with their hands.
As a model, I have come to appreciate my job even more during the pandemic. I recently went away to work for a few days after staying in Antwerp for a long while, and despite getting up at 4 AM to go to the airport, I was smiling on my way to the gate. I realize how much I had missed the feeling of being on my way somewhere unknown but having faith that I will be taken care of where I arrive and meet new and interesting people. Also, I feel like the uncertainty and danger of the pandemic has made everyone I have met extra careful and respectful which I hope will continue in the future.
Working as a model must give you a unique perspective of the design side of the fashion industry. What have you learned about the business from being behind the scenes?
I have learned a lot! A few things come to mind – on one side, seeing fashion from behind the scenes made me realize exactly how much of a business it is. The first time I heard a designer in a high position talk about price point, production, and sales, I felt my fantasy of the ultimate creative, visionary character fade quite a bit. On the other side, wearing so many luxury garments that I could never get my hands on as my regular self, I discovered that the magic of design is also really in the details, the materials, the finishings, and the insides that, when done just right, make you feel wonderful.
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently, I am finishing my 2BA collection which I’ll present in just a few weeks. It will be a bright counteract to lockdown blues.
What goals do you have for 2021?
At the beginning of 2021, I set a goal of sending more handwritten letters to friends and family, but I have been too busy so far and haven’t sent a single one. Fashion would not be fashion without its fast pace, but I want to become better at taking time for myself to do small things that make me happy, like writing a letter to a friend, baking something, or reading a book. I think the days of glorifying sleep deprivation, overworking, and constant traveling are really over.