Meet the future stars of British fashion as chosen by the BFC’s NEWGEN initiative.
In the build up to Faustine Steinmetz's presentation for AW16, she took a breather to show us what she is working on this season. The French designer who started her business in 2013 after leaving Central Saint Martins' MA, would really like everyone just to slow down a little. The great seasons debate is something she is already ahead of. Her handwoven pieces of clothing are made to order and will take several weeks to make. They are trans-seasonal. The clothing she makes is all numbers so that eventually when she opens her online shop, it will be possible to order hand-made pieces from any season you like. She would like to introduce the concept of ‘minimal buying’ which means you just order a limited number of clothes that you will cherish and wear for a long time.
Faustine has strong principles and her own way of doing things. She recently started to get rid of any items of leather from her own wardrobe and is developing accessories made from other materials. Her new tie-knot bags made from a metallic backed vinyl with oversized rivets are simplicity itself. ‘With the leather I saw animals being killed for fur in a video and I cried. I think leather and fur are the same thing. Animals who give fur are probably way better treated than animals we use for leather. It’s really not sustainable to raise an animal for a bag - it’s crazy.’
Faustine’s social and environmental conscience are at the core of what she does but it doesn’t detract from her creativity. For this season, she says she is really happy with her collection. It is very focused. She added rug making to her repertoire of hand crafts and her show pieces will include a pair of jeans with an undulating landscape of hand cut, hand-looped carpet in rich shades of blue.
What was the mood/inspiration for SS16 and how has that evolved for AW16?
For the new collection the inspiration has been largely based on sculptures. Looking back I don't really recognise myself in the SS16 collection anymore which I think has led me to push myself really hard for AW16 to begin to move the label more towards where I want to be so in a way we have kind of hit reset after last season and not looked to build on what we did last season but looked more to previous seasons.
Why do you prefer presentations over runway shows?
I think we have seen so many runway shows at this point that it has become awfully ordinary... I love presentations because you can really make people walk around your brain, I find it to be a far more artistic and personal approach to showing your clothing. It's funny though, I still get a lot of people who don't know that it is a deliberate decision to show in this way and they come to me and say "don't worry, NEWGEN will let you do catwalk soon", so I guess we need to work on making it look like a more obvious decision!!!
How many hand woven pieces are you producing this season?
All going well and we manage to weave the fabrics on time I think this season we will have around 8-10 handwoven pieces in the final collection. Of course we're also continuing to explore other handmade techniques and we will be introducing a new one this season which we never used before which i am really really excited about!
What did you learn from the LVMH prize process? Did it make you a stronger designer?
There was a lot of great feedback during the whole process for the judges, a lot of which I tried to take on board. I think the thing I learned the most was that I have a very long way to go before being considered commercial! I think coming to this realisation has made me a stronger designer as it is now something I am more focused on trying to achieve with my collections, although at the same time I feel it made me lose sight slightly of what I wanted to do with this label as I became a little too focused on that as the end goal.
How are you balancing the artisanal handcraft side of your practice with a more scaleable, commercial model?
I would say we are just about managing to cope. It is something which is quite difficult for us and having this handcrafted side of the label has placed a huge burden on the studio at times. I think we are getting closer to finding that perfect balance which works for us and which will allow us to scale the company while maintaining what we are about at the same time. In the past we've introduced commercial pieces into the collection which have been quite successful and now we're trying to put in place a structure which will allow us to scale the handcrafted side of the label so that it becomes more commercial and so that we can keep up with demand. We're getting there!
What are the main challenges you face in the next six months?
I think a lot of what we will be doing over the next 6 months will be trying to perfect the commercial model for the company. We are also hoping to finally launch our online store which we had to delay last year. We've put together a really good team to work on it but it is still going to be a lot of work to get it online before the show in September.
Can you explain your concept of 'minimal buying' - a different way of consuming clothes?
I firmly believe that there is only so much you can do to produce clothes that are truly sustainable. If consumers are buying 40 pieces of clothing a season, no matter how sustainable the production process is you are still producing crazy amounts of waste. I want to promote minimal buying because being a clothes lover I firmly believe that the best way to buy is to save for pieces which you really love, pieces that you will want to keep for years.
How has your work been received by the shoppers at Selfridges who are seeing your work as part of the Bright New Things project? Has it been interesting to see it in a big department store environment?
Quite well I believe, people seem really interested in it from what they have told me. It's really great to see your clothes anywhere to be honest, I never really thought it in a different way before to be honest.
How has Newgen helped your business? What support are you currently receiving?
Newgen is a wonderful platform on so many levels, the main support they offer is helping to support the costs of showing at London Fashion Week but they offer a lot more than that. Although I have to say it's great just to get to go in front of the selection panel and get their feedback, I've learned a lot from the feedback I've gotten from those panels which has a big influence on my label. This season is particularly amazing as I have been offered along with Molly Goddard the use of the TopShop space this season which is the most beautiful venue in London that is possible.
What do you most enjoy about what you do?
The rare moments when I am alone in my studio and can create all the textiles I can think of... I also love the weeks leading to our show at London Fashion week because it is the moment when I work the closest with my team and we like to giggle an awful lot! It's really a stressful time but it's also a time where you really develop a bond with people as everyone is going through the same thing.
Interview by Tamsin Blanchard