bcy marques © jessica van meurs

If the Corona crisis makes something clear to us, it is that the solutions of the past no longer work for today’s problems. But in order to achieve those new solutions and create real innovations that benefit society, something has to change in the way we look at the world. Curiosity, the basis for everything we do at Innovation Origins, is crucial, as the research of Danae Bodewes shows. In a series of interviews, she talks to curious types who each in their own way provide the building blocks for a life filled with curiosity. Here’s the complete series so far.

Bcy Marques is a young artist, dancer, clothing designer, and entrepreneur. He is only 23 years old, yet he has been through a lot in his life. When he was twelve he moved from his native Mozambique to the Netherlands. He left everything and everyone behind and had to get used to life in the Netherlands. From an early age, Bcy was already drawing. In the Netherlands, he temporarily ignored drawing in order to belong to ‘the others’. Nowadays Bcy does exactly what he likes: painting and making art on clothes. Together with his partner, he has his own clothing brand called Steven Blanco.

[Please note: This interview was held before the coronacrisis]

Curious Types, Bcy Marques (23): artist, dancer, clothing designer, and entrepreneur

When Bcy had just arrived in the Netherlands, I got to know him through the father of my son who is also from Mozambique. From a distance, I saw Bcy grow into a professional dancer and artist. He now has his own shop in the Urban Shopper in Eindhoven. I was curious about all the developments that Bcy had undergone and how his curiosity had played a role in realizing his ambitions. During Dutch Design Week, I interviewed him in his shop while one customer after another walked in.

In 2008, at the age of twelve, you moved from Mozambique to the Netherlands. Can you tell me more about this experience?

My father had been living in the Netherlands for a while, it was the intention to leave in 2004 together with my mother and my sister for the Netherlands, but due to circumstances, this did not happen then. Four years later the time had come and we left for the Netherlands. As a country, it took a lot of getting used to, but our family was reunited. In the Netherlands everything was new and I had more possibilities than in Mozambique. I socialized with different people at school to discover what I was like; to discover who I was as a person. You do that quite a lot at that age (12). Luckily I found out early on what I wanted, so I could focus well.

Are you curious about yourself?

Yeah, I always want to know if there’s more to it than meets the eye. For example, when you show me your new laptop, I wonder why you bought it. I wonder what you do for work, and what inspires you in your work. I’m always curious about the story behind the person. I show interest in everyone.

Art brings me into a certain space where I only ask questions. I recognize more and more art in daily life. For example, why does someone wear something yellow? I’m always working on it that way.

What does curiosity mean to you personally?

Curiosity has brought me where I am now. I’m not always aware of it, but I’m always working on it. I always want to know what’s there. I really see it as a lifestyle. Curiosity has had both a positive and a negative influence on me.

For example, by asking questions I have discovered how I can best print clothes. I have spoken with four different designers. The first one did not want to share their knowledge with me because they saw me as a potential competitor. One othher designer did share all his knowledge with me. I asked him – surprised – why do you share all your knowledge with me? His answer was: what if my clothes are hanging in the shops and you see them hanging? Would you look at it and buy it if I hadn’t helped you now? No. Probably not.

The lesson he gave me was that you should always try to help someone. This takes self-confidence; being sure of your own work. With Steven Blanco, I have a concept that no one else can reproduce. I motivate others to ask questions so that I and others can help them. I don’t want to limit the creativity of others.

Why did you start a clothing brand?

My uncle painted and drew all kinds of things. I found that so impressive that I wanted to learn. At a young age, I broke my left arm, I was treated the wrong way in Mozambique, after which I couldn’t use my left arm for almost two years. I was left-handed and learned to write with my right hand. I can write, draw and paint with both hands, this is what I learned when I started drawing again in the Netherlands because that is my passion.

At school a portrait contest was organized, everyone could vote for the best portrait. In the end, more than 90% voted for my portrait and I won the contest. This gave me more self-confidence and I started thinking about what else I could do with drawing and painting.

After high school, I got low education advice. I had a learning disadvantage compared to Dutch children, which made me inadmissible to the SintLucas; an mbo-school with only creative education. I needed a diploma to be admitted to the SintLucas.

I started with a technical education, which I didn’t like and promised myself that when I finished this education, I would work harder and focus on my passion. I started printing shirts, dancing, and giving dance lessons. With my work, I want to convince everyone that I can make a clothing line that appeals to all generations: art brings people together.

Your clothing line is called Steven Blanco, where does this name come from?

Logo Steven Blanco

Steven Blanco is the name and logo of my company. It stands for what I have learned in my life. Steven Blanco is a new identity to put my past behind me. It is a new beginning. Blanco stands for the empty space: a place to do what you like. I started my clothing line because I couldn’t find anything more fun to do than work on my artwork for Steven Blanco’s clothing line.

Blanco stands for the empty space: a place to do what you like.

The figure on the logo is blindfolded. As a person, you walk around in an empty space with a blindfold. You hear someone shouting. You don’t see it with your eyes, but you interpret it. Your vision tells you how to do things. Then you have the focus on yourself instead of focusing on others. Everyone explains things in their own way. By linking this to art, I want to give everyone the space to be free in what you do. It is purely about your mind and the space you take.

Taking space was an important step for me. At school, I had to work under time pressure. You lack time for the creative process. School keeps you small that way. When you develop yourself, you don’t always meet a deadline. When you do, you don’t have time to think out of the box. With Steven Blanco, I create the space to do what I want without feedback and time pressure.

I also want to offer others this space. For Steven Blanco, I worked with four artists. They all got some clothes from me. They were free to do what they wanted with them. I asked them to return the finished garments after a month. They came back with very nice and unique garments. I got a lot of inspiration from this experience.

I used to have creative people around me all the time. In the neighborhood where I lived in Mozambique, there weren’t many people with a working television. Luckily we had one so we could watch movies. These films were broadcasted twice. At 22.00 and the next day at 15.00. My cousin made drawings of the film, put them in a poster to promote it so that people could come and watch films the next day for a fee. When I saw him working, I thought: Wow, what he’s doing is really cool! I started to sketch with him myself and needed a new notebook every week. Besides that, I was always making things. This is where my creativity started.

Here in the Netherlands, it was harder to apply my creativity. Creative people think a lot, they think about ‘what if’. People here saw me as a nerd. I stopped being creative to fit in. Eventually, I left these people behind me and started working hard on my art, dance, and developing myself.

I learned a lot and made a lot of mistakes so I could find myself. Parents tell you: You shouldn’t do this. But you have to make mistakes, otherwise you don’t know how to do it next time something goes wrong.

You’ve had setbacks, but you’ve moved on. Do you think you have become more or less curious during your life?

Even more. Because I know what my goal is, I can focus on one thing; for example on the education in print media and design that I followed at SintLucas. I knew I wanted to do something with fashion, that’s why I followed a fashion course at Summa College after SintLucas. My goal was to become better as a designer. Everything I did during my education was focused on Steven Blanco. I wanted to know how to set up a clothing line that everyone can and wants to buy, and how famous designers think. I thought: how can my teachers make me better?

A teacher asked me: do you know that if you only do what you like you won’t succeed in your work? So for the first year, I focused on the basics. After the basics, you can really learn the trade. For example, now I know how to make a seam so that I can paint over it. I worked on my Steven Blanco concept and asked teachers for feedback on my concept. From there I went further and further.

I was elected fashion student of the year and was allowed to participate in Summa Star with other winners of the other courses. Together we competed for the prize for the best student of Summa, I made it to the semifinals. After this experience, I was able to do an internship at well-known companies in the Netherlands. However, I decided that I wanted to do an internship abroad. I know the Netherlands is a small country, and since I have lived in the Netherlands for quite some time, I wanted to get my inspiration from other places in the world. I decided that I wanted to work on a new “look” at art and did an internship in Portugal for four months.

You are working hard and have a busy life. How do you protect your own curiosity?

I do this mainly through my consciousness. When you’re doing this kind of work, you can’t just do or tell everything you think about. Now that this has become my work, I’m more focused. I can’t do everything I want anymore. This limits my creativity a little. But I really want to know how I can do this work as well as possible.

Preferably I wouldn’t want to be in my own shop and people don’t know that I am the owner. Preferably I would want to only be busy painting, together with a team. We would then only appear with the release of a new collection or for example, as now, during Dutch Design Week.

What dampens your curiosity?

I’ve been through a lot so I’m strong. When something goes wrong I think, it was meant to be. When I do something I want, I do it 100%. When I’m busy with too many things, sometimes I’m afraid of my own creativity. Then I drop things and for example I don’t meet my deadlines. I have to learn to limit myself. I want to do that now because I have experienced the negative side of “doing everything at once”. When I have no planning at all it doesn’t feel good. I find it difficult to impose a certain structure on myself.

It is difficult to combine structure and creativity.

Fortunately, Faith Verbeek is a good business partner for me. She provides structure and that I have normal working hours. That gives me more peace of mind. It’s difficult to combine structure and creativity. It is important to take rest in the process.

If I hadn’t done my fashion training and hadn’t discovered my perseverance during my technique training, I wouldn’t have learned that things can be different. Sometimes you have to be patient and know that life doesn’t work like a machine in which you toss a coin and chocolate comes out. There are several ways to reach your goals. I noticed that young people aren’t so eager to buy a painting. They do buy clothes, hence my focus on fashion.

The video announcement of the opening of the Steven Blanco shop in the Urban Shopper in Eindhoven, in September 2019.

Especially as a foreigner learning to live in the Netherlands you have to constantly give 100% and learn to live with a different mindset. So you can’t just shout in the train or dance on the street. People will look at you weirdly. There are many small things that ask for your adaptability. This takes a lot of time and also makes you insecure.

Thinking differently is allowed. You can get feedback and accept it gratefully. You can then choose for yourself what to do with it. You don’t have to take everything for granted. As long as you are aware of how you live and how you deal with others.

You can’t just scream on the train or dance on the street. People look at you weird.

In the Netherlands everyone wants to go in a straight line from A to B. People only relax on weekends. In Portugal, people are more open and busy with other things. For example, they sincerely want to know how you are doing. People make you feel more at home, you feel special there. The connection is different. In the Netherlands that happens less.

When you take the time to give feedback to others, you can change someone’s life. It is a lifestyle. Give people compliments, tell them when they look good. That can do people more good than you think.

In the summer of 2018, there were a few events that made me feel very down. At that time I was offered the chance to start a pop-up store in Heuvel Gallery. I needed money for this, but I didn’t have it. I’m always looking for a way to do things differently. So I decided to work hard all summer. I had three jobs next to each other. I worked in a clothing shop during the day and in the evening and at night I worked in a restaurant and as a dance teacher. I collected the money for the pop-up store. It turned out well in the end and I got a lot of compliments. I learned that anything can be art and that I am not a customizer of clothing. I am an artist who makes paintings on clothes. I make people walk around with a work of art.

I am an artist who makes paintings on clothes. I make people walk around with a work of art.

You’re very curious despite and perhaps also thanks to what you’ve been through. What do you think everyone should know about curiosity?

If I hadn’t been curious, I’d never have ended up where I am now. You shouldn’t be afraid to be curious. You can get a yes or a no. When you often get no as an answer, so be it! Go on and use the experience to get a yes. You always have to stay curious.

When you are thankful for things, you look at the world differently. Let people know: I’m glad you’re in my life. You never know what you got, until it’s gone.

Epilogue

Curiosity, patience, positive thinking and daring to be yourself: these are the most important messages I take with me from Bcy’s life story. What wisdom and wealth Bcy has at such a young age.

During my conversation I didn’t feel like I was facing a 23-year-old. I felt I could learn a lot from him about patience and acceptance. Acceptance that many roads lead to your goals and you often don’t reach them in a straight line. Patience with yourself, with others and with life, so that you always keep going and see the good and beautiful in others and the situation.

I’m a fan of Bcy Marques and his clothing line. I hope that Bcy with his personality and Steven Blanco’s concept will inspire many more young and old people.

How do you manage your curiosity?

Have you had positive experiences managing your curiosity? I’d love to hear it from you. Share it in the comments below or email me: [email protected]

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About the author

Author profile picture Researcher at Fontys Lectorate Business Entrepreneurship. Themes: entrepreneurship education, curiosity, informal and non-formal learning. What does a lifetime of curiosity look like? In a series of portraits called "Curious Types", she gives a face to curiosity, entrepreneurship, informal and non-formal learning.