Naomi Gilon’s clawed handbags are quite literally gripping the fashion fanatics of Instagram, and these multimedia monsters just scratch at the surface of the daring creativity brewing with this Belgian-born artist. Educated in painting and sculpture, her artsy background landed her in a long-time love affair with ceramics, and Gilon now weaves, or perhaps more aptly molds, a certain uniqueness into the thread of the traditional fashion world. It isn’t surprising when she tells us that her work, now imbued in a sexy ruggedness, distilled into the clunky solidity of her clay forms, began with her infantile assembling of car parts and mismatched scrap material. A young and hungry instinctiveness to build and create still frames the Naomi Gilon studio, which is untethered to medium or product, and stocks candlesticks next to earrings.
Despite now being notorious for her bags, she tells GLITCH that her distinct foray into the world of fashion and design was nudged forward by her exploration of footwear and its sociological history. It was in investigating the stories and intricacies of accessories that she began to start blending the artistic—that which should traditionally remain in exhibition behind glass—with the glaring opportunities she saw for innovation in day to day living. It is this dualism that has arguably landed Gilon her slither of success; purchased by both art collectors and fashion enthusiasts alike, Gilon toes both sides of the border and relaxes beautifully into her own niche.
“I felt the need to let go of the glorification of traditional ‘artwork’ and instead focus on crafting sculptures that could directly interact with people and their daily lives. I aimed to imbue static objects with movement, challenging the perceived fragility of ceramics as a medium”.
It is Gilon’s artistic preoccupation with the monster that makes her brand so recognisable and arresting. She tells GLITCH how she sees the hooked fingers of monstrous animals as chimerical reflections of our present society—“The monster represents a being that stands out, disturbs pre-existing harmony, and often opposes a hero”.
Gilon also takes a lot of inspiration from popular culture. In particular, she speaks of her wide repertoire of literary works, and cites science-fiction novels like Blade Runner by Phillip K. Dick, and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, or horror films like House by Nobuhiko, and Rosemary’s Baby by Roman Polanski, as key sources of her fantastical inspiration. Mythology and anime also play their part in informing the structures and shapes of the beastly body parts that creep into her pieces. Yet, the Naomi Gilon studio has a much more refined aesthetic that isn’t just fabricated from the ghosts and ghouls of the cinematic world. The Naomi Gilon world is provocative and androgynous, a world littered with eerienes, but also glitter, and rock and roll, encased in hammered metal, and then glazed in shine—“it is almost like the image of the band KISS”. Incorporating a range of popular culture references is how Gilon maintains her wide customer base and fan club, but raw imagination and spontaneous image making still bubbles away at the core.
“Naomi Gilon is a sentimental ballad that resonates with everyone”
When asked about why her work has centered on ceramics, Gilon speaks of the baseness of this medium – “I like working with a material that is directly sourced from the earth and transforming this shapeless matter through both my hands and imagination”. Gilon cites the limitless learning she reaps through her physical crafting, sculpting, firing, and glazing. Even with products that she eventually 3D prints, she uses ceramic in the initial prototype stages, and clay will always occupy a role in her creative process.
From stoneware to spindly stilettos, Naomi Gilon is steered purely by fresh desire and coarse imagination. When interrogated on her first design, Gilon admits that it’s hard to recollect when she first started “officially” designing because her childhood was plentiful in craft and experimentation. She does however describe to GLITCH her earliest memory of an intentional design that marked her artistic emergence—a car window, covered in iridescent stickers, featuring one of her all too iconic ceramic claws, which was then suspended by chains, and bedazzled in glittery nail polish. It seems apparent that even from the early days, Gilon has had little concern for sticking to a lane, and will willfully color outside the lines—paintbrush and potters wheel to hand. She stamps out overthinking and takes pride in the ambivalence of her work, her purpose is in channeling her imagination into the tangible world, not in placating any one person’s tastes.
“The candleholders nowadays serve as my business cards; accessible and unique, they are my little everyday design objects that I can distribute”
As we speak with Naomi Gilon now, it is obvious that despite this youthfulness and frivolity remaining at the crux of her studio, she has been organically propelled into high fashion and art circles. A collaboration with Han Kjobehnhavn drove huge visibility to her designs and work. The “Grip Dress”, from the fashion house’s SS22 collection, allowed Naomi to translate her tactile sculptural designs into something more useful and wearable and also gave her the opportunity to experiment with leather work. Grasping at the neck of the model, the otherwise sleek dress made a brazen statement with analysts and onlookers, who found the piece to be questioning the power dynamic between consumer and creator, artist and voyeur, designer and wearer.
Despite the strength of this snatched moment, Gilon tells us that she anticipates her upcoming collaboration with Belgian clothing brand Léo Official to be even more successful. In this pairing, she explains how she has a wide breadth of creativity and is looking forward to working with a team that sings to her Belgian roots.
Naomi Gilon certainly seems to be one of the frontrunners attempting to diversify the somewhat stagnant fashion industry through multidisciplinary activism. As she continues to shrug definition in her artistry, she is freeing art of its bourgeoise and glorified associations, and attempting to make it more readily accessible, prevalent, and “of use” in our modern world. – “I believe that we can create a coexistence or fusion between both art and fashion, but they are not interchangeable, not yet at least”. – As practicalities pinch priorities, and superfluous creativity is often tossed aside in this hungry capitalist environment, Naomi Gilon is certainly paving a new direction of appreciation. Whilst pottered bags and fragile clay boots may not be to the tastes of everyone (and certainly not the butterfingered amongst us!) they are certainly turning heads, and suggesting that the borders of fashion are there to be bent.
Written by Hebe Street from GLITCH Magazine