Photography by Jaime Stoker for Yahoo Style
Like any young designer showing at London Fashion Week this season,
Faustine Steinmetz has made a few personal compromises for her art. She is currently living at her studio: a large, shed-like structure in Seven Sisters, north London, which houses the looms that are used to weave her collection. “We took this old wood factory a year ago, and it was entirely flooded,” she says, laughing. “We redid all the walls, and we made ourselves a bedroom – but we don’t have a door.”
Right now, the 29-year-old Parisian designer is willing to accept a spartan lifestyle so that she can create luxurious products. Steinmetz specialises in hand-woven pieces, which can each take a week or longer to make; invest in something from her collection, and you know it has been made with the utmost care and expertise.
Until last season, in fact, she was weaving every fabric from scratch. Now, in order to grow her label, she works with a combination of hand-woven and factory-made materials, and at this morning’s spring/summer 2015 presentation, she showed a larger collection than ever. “We want the brand to be quite democratic,” she explains. “We want to be able to make amazing pieces that take a really long time, but we also want to be able to have things for people who like the brand and want to be able to buy it more easily.” The factory fabrics allow her to offer some more affordable pieces.
Steinmetz only established her brand in 2013, but it is already causing a stir: her trompe l’oeil ‘denim’ skirt, made of brushed wool that looked like paint strokes, was a stand-out piece last season. For today’s collection, her inspiration came from the distorted paintings of Salvador Dali. She began with a handful of classic fashion pieces – the polo shirt, the tracksuit, the denim jacket, the bag and the jeans – and has created four studies around each one, from a long polo dress that disappears and reappears before your eyes, to a jacket that is pulled and knotted across the body.
It’s an unusual approach to a fashion collection – and typical of a designer who is setting out to build one of London’s most distinctive labels. Steinmetz is inspired by brands like Maison Martin Margiela, “who came in and said ‘I don’t like fashion the way it is right now – I’m just going to do my thing. And not because I want to be different, but because I want to do something interesting.’ I love that,” she says.
At this morning’s presentation, her models popped out of holes in a wall, giving the impression of a living art exhibition – so that a bag hung on a disembodied arm, and a pair of denim-clad legs appeared only from the waist down. “I’m quite happy to be able to cut up my silhouette, and say ‘We work around pieces,’” she explains. She has no interest in putting on a runway show. “To me, the image that catwalk gives is one of walking down the street and wowing everybody. I find it almost embarrassing, you know? Because that’s not the kind of woman I am, and that’s not really who I want to sell clothes to.” Glamour is not for her; instead, she’s trying to find a whole new way of thinking about fashion. “I think it’s more important to focus on the piece itself.”