Andra Dumitrascu is busy. When SLEEK meets her, she’s preparing to leave her Berlin studio of 10 years in the eastern district Prenzlauer Berg for another up west in Schöneberg. “I remember this room being so empty when we moved in. Over years we have managed to accumulate a lot of stuff here,” she says. Her outgoing premises are full indeed, littered with incongruous objects – massive desks, mammoth-like chairs (“these are from colonial times”, comments Andra), several rails overloaded with clothes, and a pack of larger-than-life playing cards. It looks like a scene from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The designer is moving “next Monday, hopefully”, and her less bulky possessions have already been packed in boxes decorated with a quirky zebra print evoking the design of her website. “These boxes were custom-made,” laughs Dumitrascu. “And then I had to find matching tape, too. I think it tells you something about my aesthetics.” This meticulous approach is typical of Dumitrascu. Whether she’s curating her shop (the Berlin-based Salbazaar), designing clothes for her eponymous brand or staging a fashion show, she won’t compromise on details.
Whilst her most recent show at Paris Fashion Week was a huge critical success, the execution was radically different to what Dumitrascu originally envisioned. “Initially I was going to have [it] on the rooftop of Paris’ Centre Pompidou,” the designer explains. “[However], in reality it looked slightly different from what I had expected. And, then, as I wanted to decorate the venue with rubbish for some Arte Povera chic, it turned out we weren’t allowed to do even that.” The solution was sudden and unorthodox.
After the visit to Centre Pompidou, the exasperated designer went down to the nearby Rambuteau metro station, where she found the perfect location. The prewar station — with its slanting walls plastered with colourful posters – seemed to be the most fitting location for her “Kebaby”, an eclectic collection inspired by a kebab shop in Pigalle.
“We had exactly what you’d call a guerrilla fashion show. We didn’t have permission for showing clothes there. But somehow it worked, ” says Dumitrascu. On the day of the event, the press and buyers were directed to Centre Pompidou where they were given metro tickets instead. On arrival, they were greeted by models mingling with the Parisians dismounting trains, with a soundtrack that roared from a set of loudspeakers placed on a supermarket cart.
This is not the first time Dumitrascu has taken risks with her fashion shows. Last year she presented her SS17 “Wifi” collection at a Parisian sex hotel. The presentation consisted of a series of tableaux vivants (“living pictures”), staged in the hotel’s rooms. “You’d be amazed how a place like that makes people behave differently,” she notes. While the models seemed to go along with the decadent atmosphere of the venue, some people were shocked. “There were people with children who seemed to be less than delighted. I thought I would be sued,” confesses the designer. Dumitrascu describes Paris as “cute” and “grand”, but actually doesn’t like the place. “It was my art director who persuaded me to show collections there”. This person in question is none other than Rich Aybar, a stylist who works with Rick Owens and Shayne Oliver. Indeed, the connections don’t stop there: for several seasons, Dumitrascu has also been working with casting maverick Walter Pierce, who works with Oliver, too. “It just happened [that way],” she reveals. ”It is a gang that I’m sort of married into.”
In addition to switching studios, Dumitrascu is busy working on her label’s third collection. Mixing offbeat details and unlikely inspirations with trendy tropes and classic silhouettes, she’s hit a nerve in fashion – an industry addicted to fresh blood. In September, the New York Times listed her as one of the five best new designers to watch out for, and in October, Vogue’s runway director admitted she was “kicking herself” for missing the designer’s metro extravaganza. With this in mind, it seems Dumitrascu’s current relocation won’t be the last move she makes on her way to the top.