Malta’s story in textile | Marisa Attard

Local artist Marisa Attard is currently representing Malta at the Fashion Art EU exhibition at the Parlamentarium in Brussels. She speaks to us about her contribution to this EU-wide showcase of art and fashion, and how she transferred her skills as an illustrator into another medium to tell a visual story of Malta’s youth, and their future.

How did it feel to be selected for this exhibition?

It was a great honour to be selected for such a prestigious exhibition.  The invitation came out of the blue. The Spanish designer Manuel Fernandez who is the director and founder of Fashion Art Institute viewed my website and chose me to represent Malta. I was one of 28 artists each representing the 28 EU countries. 

Was it challenging to channel your creativity from traditional illustration to fashion design this time?

Yes, it certainly was. The actual dress design was done by the Fashion Art Institute.  It was inspired by our traditional ghonella, though obviously given a modern twist.  When I received the canvas suit I must say it was quite daunting to say the least.  When painting on canvas or paper I am free to discard it and start again if it doesn’t go well and I don’t like how it’s turning out.

In this case, I had this dress in front of me – a blank canvas in 3D, a one off – each country’s dress design was different. I couldn’t afford to make any mistakes. I also felt the responsibility of representing Malta among the other EU countries. After much thought and many rough sketches and visual brainstorming, I decided to be myself and approach the design in my own unique way.

How did you represent Malta in the final design?

Our brief was to be the connection between our country and the EU, its values and how being a part of the EU affects us. We were given absolute freedom as artists. I decided to focus on our youth, our future and how joining the EU has been so beneficial to them through the opportunities it offers in education, work experience and the interaction between other Europeans.  All this helps to broaden their minds and outlook. 

On the back of the dress I depicted a group of children standing on our little island.  Towering above them is a Maltese cityscape that is closing in on itself, keeping them in, restricted.

On the front I showed the change that took place after joining the EU.  There is an opening up of the cityscape, we are given the opportunity to venture out and experience a wider reality.  To exchange ideas and work with others.  Although this was possible before, we were very limited and opportunities were not available to all.

What led you to represent Malta in the way that you did? 

Two things. Being a children’s book illustrator as well as a painter I have an affinity towards anything to do with children so I decided to focus on that aspect of how Malta, and especially our youth, has benefitted from being part of the European Union.

The second aspect I wished to communicate, and one I feel strongly about, is the situation regarding migrants and asylum seekers. On one sleeve are sailing boats and people enjoying our beautiful sea. We are a popular tourist destination and we welcome our guests with open arms. 

In strong contrast, on the other sleeve are the migrants and asylum seekers who risk a very dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea in a desperate attempt to escape wars and prosecution.  A tragic reality that often ends in death, and something that needs to be addressed by all the European Union and not just the border countries.

The exhibition will remain on display at the Parlamentarium in Brussels until May 2015, after which it will be visiting all EU countries. For more information log on to and

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