Katarina West INTERVIEW

Earlier this week I posted my review of Katarina West's debut novel Witchcraft Couture. I found that the novel was very relevant in the light of today's fashion industry, so I wanted to ask a few questions. Thankfully Katarina came up with some great answers and an insight in how she feels about today's fashion industry, creativity and pressure.

STEF Like I wrote in my review, I feel that Witchcraft Couture is very relevant. Especially in the light of McQueen's death and Galliano's arrest. Have these before-mentioned events been in a way a trigger to write this novel, or a source of inspiration in the process?

KATARINA I’m so glad you mentioned this, because that’s an aspect of my novel that was – and is – important to me. When I started to think about Witchcraft Couture I had in mind a provocateur, a bad boy, an enfant terrible, and so I studied the collections of Gianni Versace, Jean-Paul Gaultier – and yes, also Galliano and McQueen. But I didn’t read about their lives. I didn’t want any contemporary fashion designer to influence my idea of Oscar. Instead I read about artists’ lives: Van Gogh’s biography had an impact on me, and Charles Strickland in Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence was also an inspiration for Oscar.
While I was writing this novel I also followed the fashion industry. What astonished me was to find out how great the pressure on today’s fashion designers is, the pressure to keep up with everything: collections, mid-season collections, publicity campaigns, store openings, media, social media. The world of catwalks, supermodels, red carpets and It Bags is such a glamorous one, but there seems to be a dark side to it, because the pace is just so hectic.
Oscar couldn’t handle the pressure, that’s for sure. And you can see how his mind is breaking down from the way he designs his collections. His first collection is pure, collected, minimalistic and cerebral, whereas his last collection is as dark as it is sensual and sexy.

Oscar's creative blocks are a recurring theme in Witchcraft Couture. Did you have any while writing and if so, how did you cope with them?
One of the reasons I wanted to write this book was that I did indeed suffer from creative blocks. There was a critic inside my mind, and nothing I wrote was good enough for that voice. So I kept destroying my writings, and re-writing, and destroying them again. Then one day I saw creative blocks in a larger context and thought that I wanted to write about them. And yes, I did have some periods of doubt with Witchcraft Couture as well, and during those periods I wrote something else. But in the end, I always came back to Witchcraft Couture.

S Are you in the process of writing a second novel and could you tell something about it?
Yes, it will come out next autumn, and it’s entitled Absolute Truth, for Beginners. It’s a coming-of-age story, chronicling the ups and downs of a young woman who falls in love with a famous scientist.

S To end things lightly, what is your favourite designer brand (and why)?
Ah, that’s a tough one! I live in Italy, so maybe I’m being biased if I say that I love Italian fashion - and not just the world - famous brands, but also aspiring designers and local artisans. It’s just incredible, the craftsmanship and know-how here, the quality of work. There’s a shoemaker here in Chianti, for example, and he makes the most gorgeous leather shoes in the world. And there’s an artisan who makes bags from recycled paper. These people are just so creative.


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