Henrik Vibskov Wants to Get People Talking About Sustainability

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LISTEN UP: Less than an hour before the unveiling of his artistic fashion event on The High Line Monday afternoon, Henrik Vibskov discussed how he created the installation and performance “Jungle of Tongues and Ears.”

As the name suggests, the installation is all about dialogue and listening (including to critics) to convey the message “that we have to talk together and spread information from scientists to artists about how we can change this world,” Vibskov said.

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Having worked on a project with students at the Art Institute of Chicago, the designer thought it might be a good idea to have Parsons students pitch in with the New York event, which is part of the three-day Citizen Sustainability Summit being hosted by the Consulate General of Denmark. Held during the 77th General Assembly of the United Nations and Climate Week NYC 2022, Vibskov decided on using paper and wood for the installation, some of which will be repurposed by Parsons students afterward.

To encourage more discussion about sustainability, there was not a fashion show, but a “Slow Gym” performance, where participants did some light exercise like a little yoga or sitting folding paper objects. Set against a synthesizer and xylophone, the aim was for attendees to be more intentional about their actions and to help repair the earth. Observers could join in, too. Taking such discussions into the public realm is key to inviting students, families and other people to help work toward a solution, Vibskov said.

Monday’s live event was a switch for the designer, who had largely done digital events during the pandemic except for a smaller presentation this past summer. Although Vibskov, a Central Saint Martins graduate, has been as showing part of Paris Fashion Week for menswear for more than 20 years (and that has included mixing in womenswear), he sells mostly womenswear.

About 50 of the crafted objects from the installation will be sold starting at 5 p.m. Monday in Vibskov’s Broome Street store “to give it a value instead of just trashing it,” he said. More will be available Thursday, after the installation has been taken down.

Monday’s event included a discussion about the importance of sustainability and the fashion industry’s use of materials. Recalling how Louise Wilson was his professor at Central Saint Martins, the designer said, “Everything was about creating the form, the shape and making that massive and aesthetically wild. Five years ago, I was like, ‘Hey, what am I doing?’ Everything I had been taught may have been a bit wrong in light of all of the environmental issues. The idea of making it big and wild and using a lot of materials is not where you want to go right now. So I had to consider, ‘OK, if I have to continue to do this, what can I do? Is there anything I can do or should I just get another job?'” he said.

That led him to take sustainability more into account. He noted that the use of things like recycled wools, recycled organic cottons or other recycled material like buttons made from nuts, means his collections can be made of 90 percent recycled materials.

On another front, although the pandemic has made many understand how fragile everything is, including the planet, the ongoing war in Ukraine has made sustainability less of a priority to some degree, Vibskov said. With the war and the financial situation in Europe, people are ‘a little bit more aware of how they are spending their money or they should be,” he said. “But that said, my two stores are doing pretty well at the moment. There is a big consumerism that came after the pandemic.” The Danish-born designer has a signature boutique in his home city of Copenhagen in addition to the downtown New York location.

Next month, Vibskov will unveil a project with the Gothenberg Opera in Sweden’s “Hammer” premiere and another project with a modern dance troupe is in the works.

But more than anything, what Vibskov has been thinking about, and what he hopes the installation will help nudge people to ponder more seriously is:

“Should we be consuming as much as we do? That is the kind of stuff that I have been thinking about. Every time you find a solution there’s always a new problem that you’re hearing about. It’s going to be a long ride.”

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