The Fierce Sisters of Therapy +Recycle & Exorcise

Paula & Mariángeles Aguirre - header photography by Daniela Pafundi - all images of this interview are courtesy of Therapy +Recycle & Exorcise.

Seldom have I met women as courageous – and passionate about fashion as the following two women you are about to meet. They are sisters, incredibly creative and part of a new generation of designers re-shaping the landscape of fashion through the voice of authenticity and sustainability. Based in Berlin and Córdoba Argentina, Mariángeles and Paula Aguirre are the founders of Therapy +Recycle & Exorcise, a soul project combining deconstruction, up-cycling and a kind of rock ’n’ roll in to a life philosophy. They challenge the status quo, exploring social tensions around gender, sexuality and individuality through the realm of radical sustainable fashion. The girls re-design and up-cycle vintage and secondhand clothing, fabrics, materials, objects & accessories- a way of working that has been part of the Therapy +Recycle & Exorcize manifesto since day one.

I saw their latest collection, ‘Courtesans’, on the runway of Berlin Alternative Fashion Week, where I felt there was something profoundly different about these clothes. The show emulated a sense of fun, power, protest and rebellion as the models strutted down the runway with conviction, in clothes that spoke for themselves. Without knowing anything about the brand at that exact moment, I was immediately drawn to these clothes and their energy. I got in touch with the girls and our conversation could not have been more interesting! We talk about gender and taboos- but above all, about clothes and having fun with fashion that communicates.

Therapy +Recycle & Exorcise. That is a very interesting title for a brand- what’s the story?

Therapy Recycle & Exorcise was born in Berlin, in 2012. Mariángeles was always a vintage fashion and DIY lover. She has always loved to look for treasures on flea markets, charity shops and second-hand places, while traveling around. She was also always creating and reworking things by herself. In 2012 she went through a very difficult period and decided she needed to do something creative in order to push away everything negative and self-destructive. She put together all these things she had collected throughout the years on a table and started reworking and customising them – almost like an exorcism- she was taking all the bad energy and replacing it with positive- by giving new life to things. Images, moments, movies, places and people came together in her mind, turning into inspiration. And so the magic therapy was born. That’s the concept behind the name: a therapy to recycle and exorcise all things negative and turn old things into new, improved and beautiful.

You are sisters, so who does what in ‘the therapy room’?

The Therapy room is a playground where we invent costumes and play to be whatever we want to be. One day we are (re)designers, the next we are researchers, marketing or art directors. We do everything together. We have similar skills because we both studied Communication and Design.

The TR&E individual…….

Can be a man, a woman or transgender- individuals that aren’t attached to trends and aren’t afraid to express themselves, to show their personality through their looks. The Therapy individual is aware of the current environmental situation of the world and cares about it. They are open-minded and like to enjoy life and have fun with what they wear, but don’t live in a bubble. They have an opinion about fashion, politics and art- and are willing to change bad habits in order to have a more sustainable and conscious life.

True or false: Everything is Fashion!

For us, more than fashion- everything is communication. Fashion is a channel to say what we (you) want to say and to be who we want to be. We are always communicating something and being someone through what we wear, so fashion is a weapon of choice to show your self to the world. And ultimately, to have fun!

Backstage Fun at BAFW- Photography by Jesus Pastor.

Where do you think today’s challenges faced in fashion come from? In other words: what is wrong with fashion today?

Media and advertising increase superficial needs in people. When people think about fashion, they get an anxiety. The anxiety generated by the thought that you have to be trendy, to fit in. You have to buy this and that. It’s an endless race, a rat race! We have lost control and we need to stop. Because this planet doesn’t have endless resources and it is wrong to think that we always need to have the latest shit. We need a fashion revolution, actually a complete change of the consumption system. We need to create awareness about how much our planet has being damaged for this addiction to consume.

Fashion doesn’t have to take control of our lives. It’s us who have to ask ourselves how we want to live our lives, instead of following rules from dictatorial systems that have always lead to the same starting point: dissatisfaction. We have to use fashion as a channel to express ourselves and live better. And fashion needs to be a win-win situation for all involved in it, not just for a few. This is not the case right now and that is what’s wrong with fashion at the moment.

Do you think fashion magazines are part of this problem?

Media and advertising are key players in the fashion system, as in any consumer system. But blaming them won’t bring about change. We need to re-educate ourselves, for them to see themselves as communicators who can help moving fashion and society to a better, more sustainable place, instead of thinking about fashion as just a pair of nice shoes that will be discarded the next season.

So it’s time for a fashion revolution.

The revolution has begun and nothing will stop it.

How are you contributing to this?

We work in both sustainable fashion and DIY. We aim to reconnect fashion with personal communication, self-expression and personal identity. We encourage people to find themselves and be that person, by exploring and developing their own style. To tell something about their own history, their feelings or their mood and at the same time to be more conscious about the impact of it on the rest of the world by doing it.

Seeing your magnificent show at BAFW16 I found the intro recording very interesting, where a woman says: “Men can be rough, edgy, hardcore…but women are always feminine” – could you please elaborate on that?

That was Bjork interviewed in 1994. We found the interview and we decided to use this excerpt because she is doing with words what we did with the show: to describe the current situation of many women in the world today, without being feminist, which neither of us is.

“Everybody says that this is the age of women, I say this is bullshit (…)” and this is exactly what we wanted to say with our collection: women as men, transgender, or anybody have (or should have) the power to be who and what they want to be, and not what they are supposed to be. In this particular case, we were inspired by woman that have broken rules in the past centuries in a time when they were invisible and condemned to do what others told them to do. Bjork, like we are, is talking about following your own rules, being who you want to be whatever gender you are. Gender is a secondary thing.

Sado Opera (Love them!) performed through your entire show – what drew you to this band to perform at your runway?

They did a shooting and bought some of our pieces in a Berlin store where we were selling and we started talking. They are attracted to our clothes, by the fact that we do conscious fashion, and because of the style I guess. They are really cool and we love and respect each other in what we do. We actually talk about similar things and have a lot in common. We were constantly talking about doing a collaboration someday. We felt that BAFW would be a good opportunity for that. We proposed them to take part and they accepted. We are all very happy with the results.

Your garments breathe an air of rebellious sexuality, which I find to be very important in a time where sexuality is slowly becoming a taboo. Is this a deliberate choice?

Yes, we talk about searching and communicating your identity and expressing yourself through what you wear and sexuality is a big part of that too. Sexuality is one of the main characteristics of human beings, which happens to be a controversial subject instead of being analysed as something natural, as it is. So in this field we feel there is still a lot to talk about and to fight for. Don’t forget where we come from. Latin America is still a very patriarchal society ruled by “machos”. And when we say machos we aren’t talking just men. You would be surprised how much women legitimate this status quo.

I believe you. But how exactly do these women legitimate this?

There are verbal attacks via social media as well as in real life. They discriminate and even legitimate abuse by saying that the abused was dressed provocatively, or that she was looking for it. We remember some gender aggression cases in the past years and the way they were talking about these abused girls, even in the media. Media adds a big portion to the job. We have too much junk TV in Argentina…

The label is very female- empowering and sexual at the same time- whereas today being openly conscious of ones sexuality (as a woman) is extremely under pressure and deemed counter empowering- with modesty groups and feminists spearheading the debate. What is your view on this?

We are not just female- empowering. Although our latest collection is inspired by powerful women in history, our message is not feminist, but goes beyond genders.

Just recently we had an encounter that was funny, yet meaningful at the same time- because it reminded us of who we are. We were supposed to take part in the first Global Sustainable Fashion Week to be held on April 12th to 14th in Budapest. We were already accepted but later, when they saw the pictures of the collection and the show at BAFW, they asked us to cover the models or change the looks, by adding not only underwear but also more skin covering pieces.

Later we were informed that a big portion of the sponsors and designers of the event were from Muslim countries. We were told that they were going to present modest fashion and that they were not going to tolerate our nude looks. We offered to put underwear on the models and not to show any ‘intimate areas’, but they were still not happy. They wanted us to change the looks or bring other pieces. Then they told us to just come anyway and take everything with us and “once you’re here we will see where we can put you”. This is the reason why we decided not to take part in the event.

Even if we want to spread our sustainability and authenticity message through style everywhere. We respect other point of views, but at the same time we honour our own integrity and brand identity. We would have taken part in an event next to people who don’t think like us or don’t share our message- because we respect other people’s point of views and creative vision. What we found disrespectful was that we weren’t given the same treatment. They didn’t analyse what we are about and they wanted to change our work to make it fit in with the rest. We believe that in a real global fashion event everything should go together as it is, regardless of political or religious statements.

That is very counter-creative and unprofessional on their part. Does this happen often, you think?

I don’t think this happens often. What I can tell you however is that we shot the looks of the show with two models, one transgender and female, the same way as we presented the clothes on the catwalk. It took a remarkable long time for these images to get accepted by magazines for publication. I mean, maybe they just didn’t like it, but we think the shoot made them uncomfortable. There were nipples, there was a transgender model…Finally they appeared in Bricks magazine last week. Many thanks to them! We believe any kind of censorship is testament to the narrow-mindedness of the ones censoring the content.

How does fashion look like in the future from your point of view?

In the future, we will only have sustainable clothing, enforced by law. There will be advanced technology and sustainable materials replacing less functional and polluting materials. People will have many options to choose between different styles and materials, to create their own identity without needing the acceptance or help of others. Of course human beings are social beings and we always want to belong to some group or category- we don’t think that’s going to change. On the contrary. McLuhan’s Global Village concept is growing stronger everyday. And as people feel threatened in their sense of identities, they tend to need “memberships” or communities that define them.

What would you like to say to people and moreover to those who are about to clean out their closets?

Think before you dismiss clothing. You are passing the problem to someone else. So try to be creative and do something useful with the things you think you no longer want to have. And in the future buy less, buy smart and think globally (impact-wise), not individually.


More Therapy +recycle and Exorcise? Visit their Facebook and Tumblr for more info or to shop the the looks.