“I just love beautiful things,” remarks Dumitrascu, explaining the philosophy behind her beautifully eclectic, artfully crafted collections . “Fashion can be intellectual and ethical but in the end it simply has to be fun.”
Fashion fans might know Andra Dumitrascu as a shop curator – her boutique Salbazaar in Berlin’s Mulackstrasse has been showcasing a wide-ranging selection of modern designers for more than a decade. The unlikely blend of Dolce & Gabbana shoes, Comme des Garçons sweaters and Christophe Lemaire shirts that one finds there, is an evidence of Dumitrascu’s open-minded, receptive attitude, to which she also stays true in her work as a designer.
Even though her eponymous line was launched but a few months back, Andra Dumitrascu did, in fact, receive formal design training – she studied at Vienna’s University of Applied Arts back in the days when Raf Simons was a teacher there. In fact, Raf was one of the reasons she applied there, whereas his departure was the main reason she decided to quit. “At the time they used to have incredibly talented people teaching at the University – Raf Simons, Jil Sander… Zaha Hadid at the Institute of Architecture,” recalls Dumitrascu. What she appreciated most about studying in Vienna is the creative freedom each student was given there. Notoriously selective in enrolling students, the university allows them to do whatever they want “without having to fulfil somebody else’s expectations.”
Freedom of judgement and freedom of choice seem to be the two key values for Andra Dumitrascu no matter what she embarks upon. It is the lure of freedom, after all, that motivated her to move to Berlin and curate a shop: “It allowed me to travel the world, collecting what I thought was interesting, getting to know all those cultural, intellectual meanings behind the clothes.” What Dumitrascu protests against, on the other hand, is the constricting grip of definitions, as she refuses to pinpoint her inspirations: “I believe there is value to everything. Even the dullest ideas can give birth to something incredible.” Thus, however different it might be from her own design principles, she does not rush to condemn the wasteful ways of fast fashion: “I understand that the problem is complex and I try to avoid doing harm. But one has to be aware that it all goes back to social problems. Those [mass-produced] clothes are of personal value to lots of people, making them feel better, happier. One has to be respectful of that and aware that the social structure needs to be changed as well. Give people more self-esteem and integrity, and they will stop buying insane amounts of crap.”
As we turn to the subject of designing, Dumitrascu comes up with a brilliant metaphor. “Filtering. That’s what you do as a shop curator and that’s what you do as a designer – you filter and execute”. Instead of investing in clothes with a message – which does pose a certain limitation – Dumitrascu devotes a lot of thinking to the value of clothes as products – “Would they matter to somebody? Broaden their horizon? Make them look more confident or sexier?” Dumitrascu’s view on creating fashion seems to be too multi-faceted to be explained with one single concept. In quite a de Saussurean way she compares fashion to a language, shared by many, but employed individually, differently by each person. In her work, it seems, she is focused on putting together a fashion lexicon to be used for multiple occasions.
But it is not, of course, to say that Andra Dumitrascu doesn’t have a style – her distinctive clothes brim with character, just the way she does. Minimalist in cuts, they come with subdued theatricality, unexpectedly eccentric details that make them endearing and eventually make you understand Andra Dumitrascu’s design philosophy – you don’t have to analyse clothes, you just have to be responsive to their effects.