Interview by Fiammetta Cesana
Fashion Content Direction by Woo Lee
Visual Edit by Ilaria Soggia

German visual artist Timo Helgert, whose IG profile @vacades has been a happy place for his fans during quarantine creating dreamful places where plants and animals take over cities worldwide, has been chosen by the REDValentino for its Spring 2021 campaign. With the Roman maison he brought to life an enchanting land in which Mother Nature’s awakening invades urban environments with its colourful delicacy.

So let’s see what the artist told us about this new ‘digital-bucolic’ escapism through high fashion and his whole vision on the use of technology to create positivity and oppose media’s toxicity.

Fiammetta Cesana: Dear Timo,

How beautiful to see your surrealist use of digital art conquering also the fashion world. A dream, that of yours, born from a series of Instagram posts, enchanted and even relieved your fans during the outbreak of fear of last April. Videos of urban places invaded by flora and fauna, from the Milanese Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and Brooklyn Bridge turning into flourishing gardens to the metro in Berlin hosting an anaconda, praise nature and its inextricable bond with us.

Has your ‘Return of Nature’ project definitively bloomed with REDValentino’s spring collection?

Timo Helgert: It’s a perfect match and I’m very grateful for the collaboration with REDValentino. Their designs and patterns couldn’t be a better match. So I was very excited to take my series a step further and create custom environmental pieces inspired by the collection and the designs used by REDValentino. It definitely bloomed with their new collection, because it adds a new layer to the series, which was always without any human interaction. Now we have guests in these empty environments, which we can see as the bridge between man-made and nature.

REDValentino showed a unique ability in making cold urban ambients and figures a dreamy realm. For the Spring 2021 fashion collection, its magic wand transformed an aseptic industrial interior into a garden of sentiments, clothes and flowers. How does the brand’s vitality and emotional strength affect your digital artifacts?

The brand’s vitality and my prior vision was so perfectly aligned. I am very happy about the collaboration. In my opinion it affected the digital art I create, in a very distinct and romantic way. I would describe it, as the cherry on top, by taking a general concept and enhancing it to become something truly stunning.

How much is important to you to build up positivity with art?

Very important! The reason I wanted to create the series was directly inspired by the many comments I heard online, but also from friends, who had many troubles adapting to the lockdown. It’s not their fault, but the changes came so sudden that everything suddenly felt foreign. Being locked up, your only window into the vast world is technology, but then even media creates just fear and is very toxic, by jumping on the trend and trying to profit from it. This didn’t felt right and in my mind I wanted to find out, if we can use technology and maybe even media to start a new trend, a positive one, which makes it easier for us to adapt to this sudden change, to help us calm down and be mindful. That was the goal.

Mother Nature is reawakening and we need to respect all its spaces and elements. Do you think that fashion, as through your visual creations with the Roman brand, can truly convey a consciousness towards this matter?

Of course. While many often see fashion in a negative light, I encourage everyone to think deeper. Luxury fashion uses the highest fabrics, you have talented teams with amazing workmanship whose sole goal is to focus on the fine art and create something for you, which you can love. Seeing this whole process and having appreciation for everyone involved gives a piece of fashion a very deep meaning and whenever you wear the piece, you can feel grateful and proud, that we live in a modern world, where we can all benefit from each other’s hard work, where highest quality is easily available. And apart from that, where fashion doesn’t just serve the purpose of having clothes to wear, but much more. It’s an expression of yourself, we have the freedom to choose whatever we want to wear and how we want to express ourselves.

This can help us to feel free and creative in a grey world. It also starts interesting conversations, with unique people – just one of these conversations, depending who you meet, can change the course of our lives forever. I often love to sit in a cafe and just watch all these great people walking by and admiring their fashion choices. While many take it for granted, they all made conscious decisions influenced by their life story. I find it so fascinating. Therefore, being able to support luxury fashion through my art is very honoring to me.

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The contrast between the rigidity of the urban landscape and the models with the colorful delicacy of nature seems to represent the paradox of contemporary history. Can the beauty of artistic and fashion imaginary let us free us from the physical and mental imprisonment of such hard times?

I hope it inspires us all to think broader and to see cityscapes, nature, environments and everything as an interconnected system. I personally have a big passion for Japanese culture and there was one translation about the connection between “man-made” and “nature”. It asked the question about “dirt”. What is it? It’s the elements of nature meeting our perfect man-made structures. In our current time, we try to separate the both so much. We cut the grass and trees, we try to have perfectly white walls, everything has to be shiny. Which also creates a sense of stress and anxiety.

Therefore I hope we can meet in the middle. I think a garden is a great example. If you let it overgrow too much and the nature is out of balance, it looks too wild. But if you try to control it too much, you almost end up with a zen inspired stone garden, it can quickly feel cold and empty. Therefore I think it’s important for the future to find a middle way. To be mindful about our surroundings and not selfish.

Although your work is grounded on digitalization, you want to transmit a deep attachment to what is real and living. How our relation with Nature can co-exist in harmony alongside the all-encompassing presence of virtuality in our lives?

I think that our digital improvement is nothing opposing to nature. While now, it might seem like it, where technology and digital means that we have to carry devices, which are visually clearly visible. If we think a few steps into the future, I don’t think that technology or the digital will be noticeable. We are already starting to connect the environment and digital, through the use of AR. It won’t be black and white anymore, but it will blend. The reason I think this will happen is, because it always went like this in the past.

When electricity arrived, first it was so visible. Cables inside the room, cables from house to house, along the streets. Now electricity is invisible, but more available than ever before. With technology and devices, I think in a few years they will also slowly start to become invisible. The internet or screens will become augmented, so we don’t need to buy large screens to hang on our walls. And this is how we will find balance, because we can live much simpler lives from a material perspective, but they will be much richer in meaning and function.

Have the sensitive meanings and balance carried by REDValentino helped your digital art to find a way of concreteness in the tangible reality of clothes?

REDValentino’s vision is great. I was really amazed by how detail oriented and careful the entire team is. In fact I still feel greatly inspired by the progress. The same of course goes for the reality of clothes.

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