Prize Winner: Katell Gélébart 

Katell Gélébart was born in Brittany, France, in 1972. She grew up in a creative family and discovered the world of design in her childhood: she fashioned clothes for her teddy bear and furniture for her dolls from leftover fabrics and cardboard boxes she found at home. This principle of material recovery and reuse is still a defining feature of her creative work.

She first studied Art History at the Ecole du Louvre, then did a Master’s degree in Danish Language at the Sorbonne. During her studies in Paris she was active in several environmental organisations. She opened her first shop for recycled fashion in Amsterdam in 1998. The shop no longer exists, but its name became a mission: ART D’ECO. Katell Gélébart has created fashion for more than ten years under this label, including clothing, handbags, lamps, furniture, and other objects. With impressive consistency she exclusively uses materials that already exist in other forms, such as packaging material from households in New Zealand, silk from Indian production surpluses, felt from former Soviet army inventories, or old burlap sacks from the German Mail Service. The concept of reuse has been picked up by other designers as well, but Katell Gélébart has been working with this method for a long time in a trailblazing fashion.

She places importance not so much on elaborate cuts or fashionable trends, but rather on deliberate and sustainable work with the material. What others might perceive as a restriction provides a boost to her imagination. To her, creating something new without wasting resources or producing waste is challenge and inspiration at the same time. At the end of the creative process, something unexpectedly beautiful emerges: a brightly coloured rain cape made from cat-food packaging or an elegantly curved lamp constructed from aluminium blinds.

Her work has not only an aesthetic but also an ethical dimension. As a modern nomad, Katell Gélébart has worldwide connections and engages with her collaborators with curiosity, respect, and empathy. She shows an understanding for local customs as a matter of course. Her sensitive approach to people and their (hi)stories creates a climate of trust and opens many doors for the artist. Katell Gélébart represents her opinions with conviction and passion but does not want to blame or sermonise. Her work constitutes a criticism of blind consumerism, of course, but far beyond that she is interested in the aesthetic potential of things other people would throw away. The KAIROS Award therefore honours Katell Gélébart as a creative visionary.

The prize-giving ceremony took place in the Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg on 4 March 2012. On the same day the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg opened an exhibition with design objects by Katell Gélébart, which ran until 6 May 2012.