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Enter the Unknown World of: Ellebanna

by Maya Dupont

“I want each collection to speak for itself. You put the costume on and you get a feeling of what the costume does to you as a person, how it changes your movements. It all kind of evolves from there.”

Annabelle Widmann is the name behind the up and coming concept of Ellebanna. Ellebanna is not so much an acronym as the backward reading of the designer’s first name Annabelle. To categorize Ellebanna as a clothing brand would not do justice to the creative vision which it represents. It stands for the unification of the young designers three main passions; art, fashion and performance.

At age 23, Annabelle is fervently following her family’s footsteps in their creative orientation. Born to a sculptor and an artist, she has always been surrounded by inspirational people, as well as the eccentric elite of Ibiza – the island in which she was raised. Currently studying in Brighton, she took the time to talk to Amsterdam Today about the influences of island life on her designs, the thematic development of her theatrical performances, and her new project Recycle Art.

Annabelle is adamant about the inspiration that growing up on the island has had on her designs. She considers herself lucky to have grown up there. “You take in more than your average kid growing up in London I would think” she says referring to the beautiful nature which envelops the island. “Nature plays a big role on the island; you’re constantly in contact with [it] which in turn inspires my designs”. She also refers to the open mindedness of the island people “the people on the island are very open, all ages communicate with one another so it opens your mind as a child”. It is probably such a philosophy which motivated her to start with her first big show at only 20 years of age.

The young designer has already hosted various shows across the UK and Ibiza. To call them fashion shows would, again, be an understatement. From her more wearable hippy chique collection of 2008, she has now ventured into the direction of costume design or “sculptural costumes” as she refers to them herself. These extravagant designs often involve working with unconventional materials such as metal, plastic, paper, or even recycled waste. “I find creating the costume has become more like creating an art piece rather than just a fashion item to get mass produced” – and the performance shows are a way to bring her designs to life. “You put the costume on and you get a feeling of what the costume does to you as a person, how it changes your movements and it all kind of evolves from there”.

When asked about the development of her performances she gives credit to all the people who have helped her realize her dream:- “People help me a lot. People who are willing to help really influence what we do and the show we put on”. This refers to her haphazard/organic method of putting on a show which consists of gathering a unit of creative people to come together and basically – do what they do best – whilst wearing her designs. “The idea of the show is to promote each individual in what they do – if she’s a model then she can walk like a model, if they do back flips then I want them to do the back flip – I want to get the best qualities out of everyone participating!” she adds enthusiastically. Remarkably, all the shows she has put up have so far been realized through contributions of like minded creative volunteers.  Few people have the vision or the passion to inspire such creativity in people, and at such a young age.

In essence her performance art is all about creating a fusion between the performance and her costumes. The designer says herself:- “what I’m really after is that the costume becomes the performance rather than the performer doing the performance becomes the performance. I want the costume to be the focus of the attention and the movements of the performer should enhance the qualities of the costume and make it come alive. You become part of the costume and that should start speaking for itself.” The description ties in nicely with her criteria for her designs. She says she wants her costumes to “enhance a dance” – again emphasizing the fusion of aesthetics and movement.

When asked about future projects she refers me to her new undertaking of Recycle Art. Recycle Art is a new project which she is setting up in Ibiza with hopes of going beyond the Spanish border. The project consists of an intensive course for people of all ages to learn how to create costumes out of recyclable materials and then to perform their own costumes through a “sensorial performance”. Sensorial performance, originating from the US, is a new and engaging way of involving the audience in the performance by playing with their senses through touch, sight and smell. Widmann says that the sensorial performance “goes well with the recycle art project since not everyone wants to be touching waste products, yet we are creating beautiful designs from them. The beauty of it is that nobody really notices the costumes are made from waste products until they come up close and see the designs”.

So far her projects have not been financially beneficial to her or her creative volunteers. However, she hopes to continue on this path to eventually be financially independent so that she can “start paying these amazing people who have helped me” as well as develop her theatrical concepts. Despite the financial short-comings, in her 2009 show at Atzaro, she did a fund raiser by selling raffles to raise money for Motor Neuron Disease – a rare disease but one which a close family member suffered from. In totally they raised “over 1000 euro” she says proudly.

Speaking to the young designer leaves a sense of amazement at the simplicity necessary for the magic that she creates. All one needs is a vision, and an organic beauty to inspire people to involve themselves with her projects. Today I entered the unknown world of Ellebanna. It is a world of creativity and inspirations which I hope will spread worldwide!

Videos and photos of her shows can be found at www.ellebanna.com

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