How to survive art school…

As told by KABK’s class of 2019.

KABK19 Stella Kim

Graduation season means one thing—you’ll sleep when you’re dead. And for now, to substitute the delicious but now only faintly recollected sensation of feeling actually truly genuinely well rested, you might try a few things to take the edge off. You might choose to multitask and ‘rest your eyes’ while walking places (we don’t advise it), or to take a suspiciously long bathroom break for a power nap, or a cry. You could easily maximize your time and cut down on unnecessary conversation by forgetting what you are saying mid-sentence. Exposing the idea of a reasonable work-life balance as an urban myth that you always suspected it to be, you might convince yourself that Red Bull doesn’t actually taste half bad, and give yourself semi-permanent caffeine shakes. Admittedly, in moments of weakness you might daydream of the warm, seductive embrace of your duvet, which, you’ve come to realize, is not at all unlike an embrace of a besotted lover… god, you do miss them dearly.

More significantly though, you might take every second of your discomfort and pour it into your work, now finally revealed as a fully realized fashion collection, or a carefully considered installation, the sweet results of the proverbial blood sweat and tears… at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague, it’s time for the annual graduation festival, and all is forgiven, but never forgotten! We got to chat to the new graduates of Glamcult’s favourite art school about the troubles and tribulations of their final few weeks as students, their best memories and their future plans. Here, for your consideration, are the most restless of them all: fashion graduates  Trumaine Huijts and Nina Dekker, and textile graduates Stella Kim and Larissa Schepers—the living proof of every sleepless stressed out hour being worth it.

KABK19 Nina Dekker

Congratulations on your graduation! Could you share with us how the past few weeks have been/felt? How was your final project realized and how was it received? (Also, have you caught up on sleep?)

LARISSA: Thank you! The past few weeks were a bit unusual. It was a hectic year and we all gave 200% of our energy to our projects, so it felt like a relief when everything was presented the way I wanted. I had positive and negative responses to my work, and that’s is good! I want my work to create conversation, and from negative responses—mostly coming from misunderstanding my work—a conversation starts. My body is still adjusting to the fact that I have more rest now. I am used to 4-5 hours of sleep before graduation so now I still wake up at 5:30.

NINA: It is so strange that you’ve been working towards this graduation for so many years and all of a sudden it is there. On the day of the fashion show I decided to dress my models before the rehearsal, and I was able to do a last styling check with all my teachers. Seeing all the right models wearing my collection with the right styling made me realize that I am really happy with and proud of the end result of the collection. So after the rehearsal I decided that I would stop stressing and I enjoyed the rest of the day so much!

STELLA: The past weeks have been very hectic. I felt like the process was never-ending, but it was important for me to self-reflect every time I made a decision. Then finally YES, I crossed out one thing out of 20 other things from my to-do list. After this long journey, I was very happy and honored to receive the Keep An Eye award. The biggest compliment I got was on photography, the booklet, the film, and, most important, on the fact that these elements worked together in the final presentation of my work. Since my graduation project Artificial Calm is about a tragic event, all the encouraging feedback turned it into something positive.

TRUMAINE: This year was the most difficult out of the four years of studying at the KABK, the last few weeks have been a struggle – I was wondering if the work was good enough to show as my graduation work. Our curriculum allows us to produce the concept and collection in 4-5 months, which is pretty intense. In the end I did what I do best, which is knitting, and it worked out very well. I was a bit nervous, because it is all knitted with super fragile yarn, which break easily if you’re not careful…  I have caught up some sleep, so my mind is more relaxed now. But my body is still in stress mode, I think it will take a few months before I calm my ass down.

You’ve spent a good amount of time at the KABK. What’s your key recommendation for keeping art school fun and inspiring, despite its pressures and challenges?

LARISSA: Create your own family! I survived art school by having the most amazing friends that are from all over the world. They dragged me through the years and were the biggest support, and you need that! You are not alone in your stress and struggles. Oh and, beer and parties!

NINA: What really helped me was that I always had a couple of good friends who were not in the fashion/art world. It is really good to talk to people that are not part of the art school bubble. But also have fun with your classmates! You’re all in it together and it is so important to have fun together and to help each other in every way possible, it makes the stress so much more bearable. Collborate with others as much as possible. Be open to criticism, and don’t take it personally. All the hard work and stress are not worth it if you don’t also enjoy what you are creating. 

TRUMAINE: When you’re working with passion a working day of 14 hours feels like a normal working day of 8 hours.

STELLA: My key recommendation would be not feeling too competitive with your friends, because the joy you will get when you achieve something is better when there are people crying together with you.

KABK19 Larissa Schepers

How have the past years of studying and discovering transformed you on a personal as well as artistic level?

LARISSA: When I came here the most important thing for me was exploring and following my curiosity, that is still there. I started to take my work more seriously, and so my topics became more serious. I feel like after these four years I can say that I contribute to the world with my work. And before, being an artist sounded very surreal to me, and now everything is possible and realistic.

NINA: On an artistic level I changed a lot over the past years. For me the best decision was to switch from womenswear to menswear, it suits me much better. On a personal level I gained a lot of confidence in myself as a designer. And I learned to value my failures in a way that I never imagined possible.

STELLA:I feel that I grew up so much here – I learned how and when to be harsh or kind with myself, I learned how not to be stubborn without a valid reason, I learned how to kill my darlings. I can still be insecure and mumble during presentations, but I learned how to pretend that I’m not, by being well prepared.

TRUMAINE: I used to work in retail management, which started the curiosity of production. Being surrounded by the mass productions of the bigger brands I subconsciously was searching for a solution, which could turn garments into more sustainable and more valuable products. In my first year at the KABK I learned how to knit by master knitter Hilde Frunt and Beleke Den Hartog. I have knitted all my collections myself, and knitting is a technique which allows you to control the source of the material and it is re-useable, especially with chunky knits, which are easily to undo. Knitting itself has transformed me on a personal as well as artistic level. It teaches you not to rush your work, to be patient and focused at all times.

Which graduation memory/anecdote will you treasure forever?

STELLA: “Stella, just because your jacket fits in your bag, it doesn’t mean you fit in your bag.”

LARISSA: The day of our exam, for sure! It was the last official stress moment for everybody so everybody was super tense . But after the announcements everybody was in such a good mood, relieved and happy, so there was only a positive vibe and love! Also because we were joking around with the teachers taking crazy pictures, throwing them in the air, that was hilarious.

TRUMAINE: “Gebruik wat u heeft.”

NINA: I’ll always remember all the friends and family helping me in any way they could. It was beautiful to see how everybody did their best to help me graduate and I am for ever grateful for everybody who helped me realize all these extremely time consuming ideas I came up with.

KABK19 Trumaine Huijts

Where are you headed next? And what is the most important quality you have gained at the KABK, which you are now taking into the future?

NINA: I would like to gain experience within a company first. I had the opportunity to do my internship at Craig Green in London and I learned so much there, but I also saw how much I still need to learn about the fashion industry. I would say textile design and visual design are the most important qualities I have gained at KABK, because they distinguish me as a fashion designer and they help me to express my story.

LARISSA: I will participate in two exhibitions in September, so that’s exciting to look forward to! Next to that I have enough dreams and goals that I still want to achieve, so there is always something to work for. The most important quality is to always stay true to yourself, believe in yourself and never give up! That sounds super cliché but it is true. Maybe a better way to say it is don’t be too stubborn, don’t get too full of yourself, and work your ass off!

STELLA:  One of the biggest qualities I gained at KABK is that I practiced various techniques in the field of design. It’s not only textile and fashion design, it’s also how to develop your visuals, how to collaborate, how to socialize and most challenging, how to manage all these by yourself.  

TRUMAINE: The most important thing I’ve learned at the KABK and what I’ll take into the future is knitting. It is a universal technique, somewhat underappreciated, even though almost every single person is wearing knitted products every day…I feel like I’ve learned a small portion of what I can do with it, so I will keep exploring and experimenting, and search for knitting ateliers.

Words by Glamcult

Runway photography by Team Peter Stigter

Exhibition photography by Jhoeko


KABK Graduation Festival is on until the 11th of July


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