And so it was that Bea won the competition. Her creative work was published all over the world on the first page of the V&S customer magazine. Naturally, Bea was pleased with her victory, but she was just as pleased to have discovered a material that she really liked.
“Working with paper was so enjoyable. The feel was enchanting and the material opened up so many new opportunities for expression, compared with fabrics for example,” says Bea.
Sparkling Björk at the Polar Music Prize
She is currently working on her fifth clothing collection in paper. One of her earlier collections, called ‘Sur la plage’, included beachwear, but do paper and the beach go well together?
The answer is… no. However, Bea’s paper collections are to be compared with Haute Couture. They are unique garments generally created to be worn just the once. They are essentially art, there to be admired. But they can be worn. Bea tested her ‘Sur la plage’ creations and they worked.
One of those to have worn an outfit by Bea is Icelandic artist Björk. When she collected her 2010 Polar Music Prize in Stockholm, she wore a heart-shaped jacket in folded metallic paper. It reflected the light from the spotlights on the stage magnificently.
“The jacket took three months to make. Everything is cut and glued by hand,” explains Bea. The jacket is now at the Swedish Arts Council in Sweden and other garments by Bea are held in the Nordiska museet’s art collection.
Different shades of toast
These days, Bea’s work is not confined to designing. She is a popular speaker and holds workshops at schools and companies. One of the companies to employ her is Sony Ericsson, whose design team learned to think outside the box – by creatin a colour chart of the different shades of toast!
“As a designer, you have to be prepared to think differently and tear up the rulebook.” Before Bea ‘discovered’ paper, she had her own clothing label, producing collection after collection. However, the demands on her to grow, to keep investors happy and to get a thousand and one things in the right place at the right time took up too much time and energy.
“There was less and less space in my life for what I wanted to be doing, which was designing. So I shut down the label and decided to move on.” She set up a new company with what Bea refers to as the right feel and major cultural capital. Design,
communication in its broadest sense and artistic projects are now her focus.
Museums open their doors
Bea’s most recent exhibition was held at the Town Museum in Kristianstad, southern Sweden.
“It’s wonderful to see museums exhibiting fashion and giving designers a new
opportunity to display their art.” Bea believes that paper captured her heart because it is a material with character, whether she is working with paperboard, serviettes or ordinary lined A4. “Paper is also all around us and I really wanted to work in a medium like that,” says Bea, who tells the story of a newly opened café in Stockholm, who employed her to make its opening an event to remember.
Coffee capsules became swimsuits
To cut a long story short, Bea took something completely ordinary – the used capsules from coffee machines. She split, washed out and coloured them, placed a little Swarovski crystal in each and created two most definitely different swimsuits with hoods. Two models sported the creations at the opening and the garments were then displayed in the café for a few weeks. And Bea’s clients certainly got their talking point.
Now Bea has the swimsuits back and they go on show at art exhibitions and fairs. Their most recent appearance was at one of Scandinavia’s biggest textile fairs, where Bea was a guest speaker. In amongst every imaginable creation in fabric and wool, the coffee capsules and paper creations prompted many spontaneous comments, such as: Amazing! Look at what you can do with everyday things! Such creativity!
Bea in brief
Bea Szenfeld was born in Poland in 1972. She came to Sweden with her mother in 1983. About 20 years later, she had built up her own fashion label with collections for both men and women. The collections bore her own name and were available across Europe and other parts of the world. An important step in her career involved competing against other European designers for a placement with Stella McCartney. Bea won the competition and had an exciting time in London. Now the label is no more and Bea divides her time between being a designer, artist, educator and speaker.
Text: Anders Thorén
Foto: Ulla-Carin Ekblom