Antwerp-Based Founder and Designer Timo Sassen Talks ‘Showmodel’, Self-Expressions and More

Whether it’s fashion or design, Antwerp is the city of great designers. Which also made room for a new generation of self-taught young creatives bringing something refreshing to the market. One of those hidden gems is founder and designer Timo Sassen. His inspiring story made us very curious, so we asked a few questions to Timo himself. Our conversation drifted from his ‘SHOWMODEL’ line and self-expression, to browsing through his mom’s magazines and more.

Timo, tell us a bit about your journey: What has drawn you into the fashion industry?

Clothing and self-expression have always been so important to me. As a kid, I would spend my time disorganizing my mom’s and grandmother’s closets, pulling looks and trying them on my friends and myself. I loved fingering through the pages of those seasonal catalogs and my mom’s fashion magazines. I adored using unconventional materials to create my own mini masterpieces.

It was always clear to me that I would have a future using my imagination and creativity.

Pursuing a degree in photography, I found myself injecting fashion in all of my photo work. I began styling for friends’ projects and ended up working as a stylist at an agency.   

After some self-exploration, I realized more and more my passions laid in the design process and construction of garments. This is when I started to teach myself how to sew and things just snowballed from there. 

Can you tell us a little bit about the SHOWMODEL collection? 

The initial thought behind my collection is taking very stereotyped, typically hetero-centric menswear concepts into a fab next level, elevated by fabric manipulation and interesting/unexpected cuts.

With inspiration from ‘The North Face’ pullovers, stonewash denim, Bermuda shorts, checker button downs, ratty old T-shirts or ill-fitting underwear, I inject a *wink* into my work. There is always a level of playfulness in my process which often comes through hands-on experimentation. 

I find it really important to never show off the fabrics as I bought them. Every piece is either bleached, dyed, hand painted or embroidered. It’s details like this that keeps the surprise alive for both me and the consumer. 

This *wink* that I injected can be found throughout the whole collection, from the workmen-esque oversized fleece gloves to the styling elements.

What’s the message you want to spread with your line SHOWMODEL? 

I’m really trying to push the idea of sexy for all genders under the spectrum. SHOWMODEL is in ways a protest. I love nudity, I love marginal things, I love my community and I wanted to combine it all. 

I’m designing for a market that has been underestimated for years.  

I want to provide an alternative to the traditional cliches by pushing the materials and design further and incorporate the unexpected. 

Any musical influences that help you in the process of designing?

Of course! I wouldn’t say music directly influenced the collection, but as far as setting a mood and letting me work for hours at a time for sure! While designing and constructing I was bopping along to a lot of ’70s and ’80s disco, pop hits and it helped set a tone for the collection.

As you can see in my videos I used ’80s gay anthems to represent the power and rebellion SHOWMODEL captures. 

We can see that nudity is no problem in your work and we love that! However, aren’t you bothered by online policies being harsh on you, e.g. the no-nipple rule?

Censorship will never hold me back. SHOWMODEL is almost a direct response to the censorship placed upon us online. I find it incredibly sad that we aren’t able to express our bodies openly, that a lot of people are afraid of the human form in its barest state. It’s stupid… when you see a blur on a nipple you know its a nipple, whom are we fooling? We’re being forced to create a new visual language used to express our bodies which, in some ways, is exciting to push and play with.

What do you have to say to the conservative souls stumbling upon your Instagram account?

Look away, hunny.

Are you into fashion designers from your own generation and who are your favorite ones?

Very much! Half the people I follow on Instagram are either young designers or creatives themselves. We’re able to interact in such a personal way that it feels like we’re creating a community beyond Instagram. We push and support each other in ways past generations haven’t been able to because of social media.

Some of my current favorites are Charlotte Knowles, GmbH, Faustine Steinmetz, Stefan Cooke, barragán, ASAI and Y/Project.

You’re young, so you must have some plans in the long run. Can you share them with us?

As I’m self-taught, there’s so much more for me to experiment with within the realm of fashion. However, I don’t only want to pinpoint fashion, there’s so much more I’m interested in and so many creative outlets I want to deepen myself in. I’d like to be able to combine multiple disciplines to create a fuller brand for Timo Sassen. 

I don’t want to say too much, but I’m in the early stages of my next project and I’m working alongside others for collaborations of different sorts. 

Where do you stand on internet success? Do you think the Internet will play a big part in your future success?

Social media gives easy access to an audience. It can act as a springboard, catapulting your work and being able to reach so many like-minded people at once, instantly. With the internet, it’s all right there for you to find, it’s about digging in the right places. 

Most of the people who have reached out to me with interest in my collection have done so via social media. The opportunities I’ve been gifted thus far has been because of the internet and the presence I have on Instagram. I think that it’ll play a big role in my future success, as that’s where most industries are heading, but it’s also about hard work and determination that will ultimately bring me to my goals. 

What other output, except for fashion design or photography can we expect from you in 2018?

I’m constantly creating content for my Instagram, defining a visual brand for myself. My boyfriend Jacob and I are working on a few different things at the moment, ranging from home goods to publications. I’m also in the early stages of a collaboration with one of my closest friends here in Antwerp. I don’t want to put too much on my plate and be able to give all the project the time and energy they deserve, but be sure to expect more from me in the near (and not so near) future.

Photo credits: Stef Van Looveren and Stijn Hoebeke

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