“Mapping the inner workings of reality isn’t easy,” concedes Corinna Springer, fashion publicist and director of Nouveau PR (affiliate of TOTEM in London and Paris), and something of a fashion theorist. With a client list of label-defying designers — past and present, they include A.F. Vandevorst, Haider Ackermann, Rad Hourani, Raf Simons, ØDD, Robert Geller — the philosophy buff has spent the last few years stewing over the knottiest of existential quandaries: the nature of art, the substance of minds, the meaning of free will. Her latest book, An Intuitive Study of Reality, is a précis of her ruminations on those very themes, distilled into accessible and mostly bite-sized reads, all expressed within an aesthetic context of art and fashion. She sheds light on the much-hyped Holographic Universe principle, personal autonomy, cognitive biases, parallel realities, self-doubt, sensory perception, and whether or not art is a fundamental requirement for sentient beings (in short: yes). Her polemic is cerebral, streetwise, and brain-bending.
Springer, ever the agent provocateur, argues that art performs the function of broadening our cognition and teaches us to mobilize our subconscious. Fashion, a sub-branch of art, is by its nature ontological and the ideal medium through which to “stylize, exteriorize and solidify” our deepest-held convictions. “Fashion, especially the conceptual sort like A.F. Vandevorst, Comme des Garçons or KAIMIN, has the power to bring our wildest metaphysical abstractions into an immediate perceptual awareness. In this sense, fashion is a stand-in for self-expression, identity, phenomenology and sociological feedback loops between the designer, the wearer and outside observers in an omni-connected world.”
Hint popped by Nouveau PR’s midtown office and fired off a few questions Corinna’s way….
What’s your background?
I studied art and literature at the Sorbonne in my younger days and got my start in PR at TOTEM in Paris.
What kind of fashion inspires you and what do you look for?
I admire the idiosyncratic explorations of designers like Raf Simons, Veronique Branquinho, A.F. Vandevorst, and Helmut Lang. Their work has made an indelible impact on my thinking and they constantly push boundaries. I’m always scanning the scene for stand-out acts like Dominic Louis, Fingers Crossed or koonhor, because they tap into the subconscious and make magic happen. They are at once alchemical, philosophical, and a touch mad.
How did you first get interested in metaphysics?
I’ve been interested in art and philosophy from a young age. As a kid I was a bit of a loner and spent time by myself reading books, fashion magazines and thinking critically about art and anthropology. My mom introduced me to philosophy texts as a kid. I studied literature and ended up doing my graduate thesis on James Turrell, who once said, “Light is not the bearer of revelation. It is the revelation.” I love Turrell because he’s the artist who projects moonbeams and catches starlight. Then I went into PR and it has been laboratory for thinking about all the rich dualisms like mind-body, abstract-representational, mystical-skeptical, political-apolitical, and reason-emotion.
What do you think about all the self-help literature out there today?
I think it can be too abstract and mystical. Our lives our so strewn with stressors and moral dilemmas that there is an insatiable demand for culty New Age manifestos. My thinking and writing is more logic-based and grounded in experience. But I do think that injecting a bit of bohemianism into the bloodstream of capitalism can be a good thing. Just witness the rise of companies like Google, Virgin, Ben & Jerry’s, and Apple, whose founders have incorporated loftier ethics into their corporate ethos.
Are you political? What do you think about culture and politics today?
Yeah, but I’m not an extremist. I worry about institutional corruption, conniving corporate lobbyists, the erosion of democracy and threats to a clean environment. I appreciate that designers and artists like Vivienne Westwood and Ai Wei Wei are getting more media attention lately.
What’s the most challenging aspect of the fashion PR biz today?
I feel like the blood sport of fashion is playing out by way of corporate interests, hyper-aggressive advertisers and fast fashion megaliths. Many of these entities eclipse the smaller players, avant-gardists, and humble visionaries who are the true shapers of fashion. The space teems with so many talented players that differentiation is a huge challenge. But that’s part of the evolutionary nature of the industry.