Faculty Q&A: Professor Olivier Rabbath
by Vicky Pei, AAS Fashion Marketing
Originally from Paris, France, Olivier Rabbath is a talented artist, designer, composer, cartoonist, a true jack of all trades in the arts, and lucky for us – also a professor at Parsons the New School for Design. He will be featured in the 2012 Smithsonian Craft Show on April 19-22nd in Washington, DC with a collection of leather footwear. Olivier Rabbath takes some time out of his busy schedule to give us an opportunity to get to know him better.
You have an upcoming exhibit at the 2012 Smithsonian Craft show, could you please tell us a bit about the collection and your inspiration?
This collection represents ”Return to the Ancient Source.” Primitive techniques like burning, ponding, or hand mashing leather are used in this collection. Each spiral is burned free hand, a symbol of our ancient trace on Earth. Each process is made by hand with the spirit of the unique aspect of each individual artwork.
You grew up in Paris. How do you think this influenced you as an artist and as a designer?
Paris is known to be a very inspirational city, and ancient culture overwhelmed the people who live there. Traditions are still practiced and respected; therefore there is an influence on your values all time.
Has teaching at Parsons been a rewarding experience for you? How so? What is your favorite aspect of being a professor?
So far, the experience is great– I’m just waiting to get more classes! The only interest for a professor is to give. I started by teaching at my own studio a course called “How to make boots from your garage” two years ago, and the aspect to give to a student a skill is absolutely magical to me. The reward is priceless. I adore to give.
At what age did you realize that you wanted to pursue the arts and how did you come to do so?
At age 7 when I start drawing. My first job was as a cartoonist and I was publishing for different magazines by age 16. Born from a family of artists, art was not just an activity for us, but the only way to live. Art is like prayer. You are in meditation and connected with the world at all times.
You appear to be a jack of all trades, an artist, designer, cartoonist, composer, and so much more! Please give us a glimpse into your mind. How are you able to pursue so many talents?
My father told me at age 8 that I can pursue everything, just be organized. Since then, I have listened to him, and realize that with a well-organized spirit you can do everything in life. Every type of art is connected and the more you know, the more you know absolutely nothing. It is, for me, an obligation to practice all arts in order to have a large view on my main skill. My favorite art is sound. Music, for me, is the foundation of matter, and then from it, everything else – colors, textures, forms, directions, etc.
What advice would you give Parsons students on following their passions and pursuing a career in fashion?
Just launch a small collection, very simple, one top, one bottom, in 2 or 3 different colors or material. Hit the road ASAP, collect orders, deliver, and break even at the end of the season. If you do it, and your client feedback is positive, then you know you are in business already, eating and paying the rent with your skills. With more practice, you will become the best. Maturity takes time, and there is no problem with that. No one is supposed to be a God in his/her field when you just start your career. The sooner you start, the better you’ll succeed. Don’t wait until the end of your studies to start! The more you dare, the more you are, and we all love people with an attitude.
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