In a world where clothes are made, bought and discarded at a head-spinning rate, Faustine Steinmetz offers a welcome alternative to fast fashion. However straight forward her denim pieces and white T-shirts may seem, this simplicity is nothing but illusionary. The Paris-born designer creates basic wardrobe staples with the diligence of haute couture. Each of her items takes up to several weeks to make as the designer weaves, dyes, sews and embroiders them by hand.
Faustine believes that true luxury “is somebody spending time making something special”. This approach is especially relevant today, when the mass market offers clothes at the price of a cupcake, high-end designers show up to eight collections a year and almost no one seems to care about the time and labour invested in the production of a garment.
Steinmetz’s interest in haute couture techniques was stimulated during her BA degree at the Parisian Atelier Chardon Savard, famous for its pedantic attitude towards the technicalities of fashion design. She then completed an MA at Central Saint Martins in 2011 under the mentorship of acclaimed British professor, the late Louise Wilson. Perhaps this training is why she prefers fashion presentations to quick and hasty runway shows. Her last one, sponsored by the British Fashion Council’s NEWGEN initiative, presented an extraordinary scene evoking surrealist collages with models emerging from rips in a white wall. Fascinated by the way in which Faustine Steinmetz merges art, fast fashion and haute couture, Sleek engaged the amiable designer via email to talk about her attitude to fashion, art and creativity.
SLEEK: You were lucky enough to study under Louise Wilson. How did she influence your attitude towards design?
Faustine Steinmetz: It’s actually a very difficult thing to grasp. I think she taught us how to think fashion more than anything else. But the most important thing she ever taught me was to never settle for an idea because I like it or because it looks beautiful or cool. My job is to come up with something new that I have not seen before which sounds a lot simpler than it is.
The fashion world has been buzzing about your artisanal denim pieces – basic items that are created with an almost haute couture attention to detail. How do you feel about the other end of clothing production, such as fast fashion?
Well there is the obvious problem of being fair to the people who make our clothes. But as well as that, fast fashion is also very boring! If you look through eBay you will find so many soulless, badly designed, boring clothes. Designing takes time and there is just no way around that.
In the last few years your work has received a lot of critical praise. But has there been a moment in your career that you would describe as a turning point?
I would say that there have been three such moments. The first one was being accepted on to the MA at Central Saint Martins. The second was being invited to showmy SS15 collection at the British Fashion Council’s NEWGEN presentation, which was a dream come true for me. Finally, the last major turning point was making it into the final round of the LVMH competition last year, which was huge! Talking with all the experts from the panel helped me to start about long-term commercial goals for my label, which is very exciting!
Could you tell us a little about your SS16 collection? The pieces seem to be more intricate than before, and there are also a lot of transparent items. What were the inspirations behind it?
For SS16 I went back to the reason why I wanted to design clothes in the first place. The collection was mostly inspired by Joseph Kosuth’s “One Chair Three Chairs”, in which he placed a chair next to a text that described it as well as a to-scale photo, which I’ve been fascinated by since I was 14. For SS16 I picked several clothing archetypes – the polo shirt, jeans, the denim jacket, the baguette bag, the grey tracksuit – and then I tried to deform them and make them disappear. I wanted the logos to drool and the yarns come out of the weaves. It was all about finding out what those pieces represent for us and how to break up that image.
If you could change one thing in today’s fashion world what would it be?
I don’t think we need to kill animals to make clothes anymore. I am always very surprised to see most people wearing leather. To me it is most likely a sign that people don’t question anything that is going on around them. As long as we wear leather, fashion will kill for us. I think it is up to us, the consumers to shift our perspective first and change our behavior.
Images taken from Faustine Steinmetz, SS16
Taken from Sleek issue #48, available for purchase on our online shop now.