What Comes Next?


an interview with Collectief WhatComesNext

WATF, What The Future? What Comes Next? A question we base our work and conversations on, the same question keeps 3 creative, young ladies from Ghent busy as well! Nanook Cools (30), Sarah De Geyter (30) and Sophie Van Gucht (30) embody ‘Collectief WhatComesNExt’, a multidisciplinary (fashion) collective that merges and challenges the lines between fashion, art and performance. 
Nanook, Sarah and Sophie share the same vision which makes for truly collaborative work, but their strength also lies in their diversity as individuals and creatives and their different ideas meeting and blending together. The three ladies met at school while studying Fashion Design. They’re part of the generation of young people that had the misfortune of studying doing pandemic times, when lots of classes took place online and there was less space for practical experience and exchange. Although, misfortune... maybe not so much! The pandemic also unchained great creativity and innovation. We humans often give birth to our most inventive ideas. 
“We graduated during Covid19 times, in 2021”, Nanook embarks. “Due to the pandemic restrictions, we didn’t have an end of year fashion show, like other graduate students usually have. This is usually a chance to showcase the creations you’ve been working on for such a long time, and it was really a pity we didn’t get to have this opportunity. I had the idea to mount a show myself and talk about this with Sarah, my classmate. She was instantly enthusiastic and, talking to others around us, the collective grew and Sophie joined us. Our collaboration and first project, our self-made graduate fashion show, was such a success that we just continued working together”. 
“The ‘Collectief’ offers us the chance to be very creative and, every now and then, create some crazy things, but it’s also an opportunity to learn to work together, while maintaining our own, individual styles and identities, which is very enriching”, Sarah says. 
Nanook characterises her own work as very colourful, loud and full of (cartoon-like) prints. She likes to colour outside the lines and do things her own way. A bit chaotic, a bit rebellious. Sarah studied Art History before diving headfirst into the realm of fashion design. She specialises in costume design and would like to focus more on designs for theatre productions where she feels she’ll be able to set her creativity free and connect to the performing arts. Sarah describes her work as theatrical and grand, always telling a story and often societally critical. The third member of the Collective, Sophie, loves concepts with a story; socially inspired, sustainable, profound. She breaks the everyday superficial fashion image by combining her textile art with modern dance, aspiring to touch people’s hearts with her creations.
Together, the collective creates and tells stories that, in a fun and creative way, pose questions to society. WhatComesNext mixes fashion design with other art forms like dance, performance and street art, for example. The collective always collaborates with different artist and puts no limits on the subjects and potential of their next projects. 
We give ourselves great creative freedom, blurring up the lines between different (art) disciplines (Nanook Cools)
“Our ‘Collectief’ grew, and continues to grow very organically. We don’t have an ultimate goal and have never made or make a fixed plan, things just come our way, and the direction of our collective adapts to the flow we’re in. We’ve actually already accomplished our main objective, which is to work together. The name of our collective actually refers to this natural flow of our intentions, ‘WhatComesNext?’, what’s the next thing that will come our way? We don’t know. It’s all very open”, Nanook says. 
“We follow the ideas of the group which allows us great freedom. We move in different directions depending on our projects, the people involved, it’s really great”, Nanook tells us. “No matter the direction we flow into, what we always want to do is question the status quo and blur the lines between different art disciplines, rediscovering the freedom within our art and work, unrestricted by a commercial framework”, Nanook adds. 
Sarah continues: “Our ‘Collectief’ is also a space where we can come together and collaborate. The idea that we can support each other, provide creative feedback, and not limit ourselves to thinking inside boxes. With the openness within our project, we also aim to move away from any pressure to perform or achieve a certain end result at a specific point in time. We truly want to liberate our creativity and offer others the opportunity to do the same, in a shared space, without limitations or pressure”. 
With every new project, the constellation of our collective changes, creating new groups, interactions and exchanges (Sarah De Geyter)
“What’s really nice is that we give ourselves the chance to, time and again, embark on new projects and, depending on the project, collaborate with different people”, Sarah explains. “We actively seek out individuals beyond our collective who are suited to the project at hand and are eager to participate. With each new project, the makeup of our collective shifts, resulting in fresh dynamics and interactions”. 
Nanook further elaborates: “Our roles within the collective and its projects are also constantly evolving. Sometimes we're designers, other times performers, and then we switch to roles like organizers and administrators. We wear many hats simultaneously, which can be challenging, but it's incredibly enriching!"
Dare to dare to do it, but in a deliberate way (Sarah De Geyter)
A few words of wisdom from these rebellious ladies to a younger generation of designers, starting with Sarah’s thoughtful advice: “Dare to dare to do it, but in a deliberate way”. 
“Have the courage to try new things, but – and I say this now with a bit more life experience to my name,” she laughs, “try to think about and research your different options first. There’s a wide array of possibilities in front of us and we often only see the surface. I think it’s important to ask yourself the question: what suits me best and what offers me the most possibilities to grow and be financially feasible? It’s a bit ‘less sexy’, but, I think, necessary to think about these things, especially in this industry”, Sarah shares. 
Rebellious Nanook offers great enthusiasm: “Just do it!”, she says. “It might have become this silly Nike slogan, ‘just do it’, but I think it’s really true, you have to just do it and keep on going for it. Try the best you can, join an audition, try a competition, react to an open call, do an internship, reach out to other, make connections… try to gain experiences, network and learn from everything and everyone around you. Along the way you’ll develop your own style and identity and you’ll discover what you excel in, what makes you ‘you’. It come organically, but you have to just do it and take the next step." 
It’s the perseverant people who obtain and create something. It may not be what you first expected, but that’s how it always goes, maybe you’ll end up somewhere that is really ‘your thing’ and, before you ever got there, you didn’t even know it existed (Nanook Cools)
We philosophised about generations, the ladies shared some interesting thoughts. 
“I feel like the younger generation feels a lot of pressure, especially coming from social media, and is very afraid to make mistakes”, Nanook shares. “When I look at them, I feel like many of them look the same and there is less room for experimenting with style and identity than when I was young. What happened to youthful experiments and forming your style, throughout the years? It’s such a pity that this seems to have changed”. 
Sarah adds: “I feel like the younger generation is less rebellious, less anti-establishment. As if, nowadays, people more easily accept and copy what’s offered to them”. 
The girls interact on each other’s opinions, Nanook continues: “We live in a society of instant gratification, everything is within reach and our attention span has become very short. People are constantly, mindlessly scrolling. There’s so much information constantly coming our way”.
Sarah: “I don’t want to generalise a generation, but there seems to be, on the one hand, a mindset that inspires us to ‘just do it’ and try, make a career switch, study again, build a life that is more ‘you’, and on the other hand, there’s a lot of fear of failure and little room for error. It seems like you need to have ‘a big dream, a big goal’, but you also need to be instantly successful”. 
Nanook: “It’s also true that it’s easy to say ‘just do it’, but in real life, there are more factors in play and we cannot always, just go for it, or we don’t have the circumstances or means to. I think we can try to go for our dreams, but also need to curb our enthusiasm sometimes and measure it to our reality. This was hard for me to learn. I’ve always been a big dreamer, but I also had to come to terms with my own life situation and limitations, while, in a thoughtful way also not be stopped by them. In an industry where a lot of people do and design a lot of things for free, there’s also an added layer of challenges. Where does it all begin and stop?”. 
Sarah: “The reality of dreams, life, the industry, that, at some point, comes barging in, can be confronting sometimes. It can be hard to juggle on the one hand, the financial pressure, and on the other hand, the social pressure. It can be hard to meet all requirements. In the freedom of our collective, we see the chance to break free from this and try to wake people up with our stories”.
So, what comes next for the collective? 
“We have no idea”, the ladies laugh. 
“It usually starts with a kind of crazy idea, ‘what if we would…’”, Sarah says. 
Nanook, Sarah and Sophie, we love your enthusiasm, your rebelliousness, your ‘go with the flow’-attitude. Thank you for sharing some of your time and thoughts with us! We look forward to WhatComesNext?