“Be extreme to the point of powerlessness!” That’s Austrian designer Flora Miranda’s raison d’être, and her mantra when it comes to fashion. Based in Antwerp, Belgium, the young couturière’s clothes are extraterrestrial, extravagant and extreme, but also incredibly delicate and detached from reality. For Rado, she has forayed into the world of time pieces, with a limited edition watch she has designed for the Swiss manufacturer.
We got the chance to sit down with her to talk about her approach to fashion, her Rado collaboration, and what it’s like to be an Austrian expat in Antwerp.
Flora, you live and work in Antwerp, one of the most influential cities in the fashion industry. To what extent has the city influenced your work?
Unlike in Vienna, not much happens in Antwerp and I don’t have any obligations to distract me from the work. Geographically, the city is well situated.
Inspiration can take place anywhere; for me it isn’t tied to a place. From an intercultural perspective, Belgium and Austria are similar. As in Vienna, the people in Antwerp are relaxed, their beer culture could compete with that of Vienna’s coffee house culture. Art, dance and music can be enjoyed in both cities. Because Belgium, as a result of history, always belonged to different countries there are few strong traditions and only mild nationalism. One “tradition” that stands out for me in Belgium is the “New Beat” of the ‘80s and ‘90s, a musical movement that had international successes like ‘Pump up the Jam’.
Antwerp is famous for having a diversity of iconic designers. Who are your greatest influences?
I can remember my mother, since I was little, wearing Maison Martin Margiela on special occasions. So that’s always been the epitome of good taste to me. My education in Antwerp also impressed upon me a specific perspective on fashion. At 16, I finished an internship in Switzerland with an active wear manufacturer, and later at the Viennese men’s tailor Kastner/Dronia. After my studies, my first freelance job was with Iris van Herpen. All of those experiences have influenced my development.
Your fashion is dreamy, almost detached from the limits of being human. Where do you get your inspiration? How has your style changed over the years?
Designing fashion is very complex, and as a designer you never stop learning because there are so many different materials, cuts etc. You learn and relearn a material and ways of working with it. And over the years, you get a sense for various bodies and the ways in which materials and forms will harmonize with them. As this happens, the pieces generally become more flowing. My creations have always revolved around similar themes. I observe society and the latest developments. As a designer, you pick up on whatever’s ‘in the air.’ The digital world is particularly exciting for me, because it is changing how we live and work right now. At the same time, the aesthetics of it pull me into the world of computers, where everything is mathematically calculated. My work is ever more closely linked to technology. In my atelier, we don’t just use techniques like laser cutting or 3D printing, but also work especially on design systems that automatically design and manufacture clothing – the tools of the future, so to speak.
You designed a watch for Rado. How did that collaboration come about?
In 2017, I participated in the design competition Rado Star Prize Austria and won with my display window installation “Time Warp”. At that point, Rado was presenting two cooperative works, the first with with the designer Rainer Mutsch, who created the Rado True Stratum with them, and the second with the design trio Big Game and their Rado True Phospho project. When I was at the press event, I had already envisioned what a watch would look like if I designed it. In fact it was during this event that Rado asked me whether I could imagine a collaboration! Of course I said yes and got to work immediately. From my first idea to the finished watch – the Radio True Thinline Deep Web – about two years passed. During the entire cooperation I never had the feeling of having to limit myself, but rather felt very free in my execution. At 5mm, the True Thinline is one of their flattest watches, so the challenge was finding space inside the watch for the design as I imagined it. The solution was two overlapping polycarbonate disks that create the hypnotic design on the watch face and use it to show the time.
What’s behind the design?
It was especially important to me that the movement and dynamics of the watch itself were expressed. The basic idea was that a watch is always moving – just like human bodies. I wanted to interpret these movements as a graphic design. The result is a hypnotic effect on the watch face, that confuses the eye at first glance and yet creates a calm anchor. To me it was important that the watch showed my perspective as a designer, but remained truly timeless and elegant. Because it was originally conceived as a watch for women, the fineness of the design was an important aspect – although now that the model is in stores, it turns out that the True Thinline Deep Web is also popular among men.
The number of watches is limited. Why exactly 1001 pieces?
Rado has made creations with several designers, for instance right now they are working with the Spanish designer Inma Bermudez or Bethan Gray from Great Britain. All these watches are limited to 1000 pieces for the retail market and one is for the designer themselves.
Do you still spend a lot of time in Austria? What do you miss from your home when you’re in Belgium?
My atelier is in Antwerp, but my projects bring me back to Austria all the time. Moreover my family still lives in Austria, and I visit them a couple times a year. What I miss the most in Austria are the mountains. And I have the feeling that, in Austria, you spend more time in nature in general. Because I’m not a big fan of gyms and like to hike, I miss being outdoors a little sometimes.
Vienna is famously one of the most livable cities in the world. As an expat-Austrian living in Belgium, do you agree?
Definitely. For me, Vienna is one of the most beautiful cities. In general, the quality of living in Austria is very high and the social system is among the best. So in that sense I can only agree.