Three seasons ago, French designer Faustine Steinmetz started her eponymous label after buying a loom on a whim. Through reading old books bought on Amazon and watching YouTube tutorials, London-based Steinmetz taught herself how to weave and began creating the pieces that have lately captured the attention of London’s fashion insiders.
Steinmetz uses her (now multiple) looms to make luxurious, handmade versions of ubiquitous everyday clothes, including soft jeans and biker jackets with a shredded texture, and trenchcoats and trousers interwoven with copper, whose shapes can be bent and changed.
The label is currently expanding, and will be showing a presentation at London Fashion Week in September after receiving NEWGEN sponsorship. Steinmetz, who says her clothes weren’t originally necessarily meant to be sold, but rather made as a “piece of thought about the fashion industry” and the relationship between artisanal and mass-produced pieces, has nonetheless received a vote of confidence from some of the most discerning retailers in the industry. Her collection for the Fall/Winter season will be sold at LN-CC in London, Opening Ceremony in New York, LA and London and Isetan in Tokyo. We spoke to Steinmetz in her airy Whitechapel studio to find out what’s in store for the emerging designer.
How would you describe your work?
I try to work a lot with texture, because it feels very luxurious to me. If you go around the high street shops, everything is so flat. To me, it feels more special when clothes have a texture; I think it makes them more unique.
Do you have any designers that you especially admire?
Yes, a lot of them! I look up to every person that is following their own path and creating something new through their brand. I love Issey Miyake and Pleats Please; it’s the same sort of mentality that I have and we could do the same pieces. I love Iris Van Herpen and Hussein Chalayan—there’s no borderline between art and fashion anymore. And, obviously, Martin Margiela. I think that I’m more attached to the concept and the idea behind clothes than actual clothes.
How long does it take to make one of your pieces?
The trenchcoat that we’re making for F/W14 takes about a week. That’s why our price points are quite high—it takes a long time for the clothes to get made. I’d say all the denim pieces take about a week to make, as well. We use different materials every season. For the trenchcoat we use rayon and copper, so it’s bendable and you can mold it any way you want.
Last season you were named “One to Watch” by NEWGEN, which recognizes emerging talent, and for next season (S/S15), you received a presentation sponsorship. What can we expect to see?
This season we’re expanding a lot and, for me, the real excitement about the next collection is that there will be pieces that aren’t handwoven, though they’ll still be made manually. We’re also launching accessories, shoes, bags and jewelry. Previous collections were very small, we only had about 10 pieces—and we’ll still have 10 handwoven pieces, but we’ll also add new ones. The higher-end products will be made-to-order and we want to build relationships with our customers for the handwoven ones. There will be about 30 pieces in total.
Who is the Faustine Steinmetz customer?
I’m focusing on pieces that everyone already has and wears on a daily basis, so I don’t have to speculate too much on who my target audience is. I think there’s a danger in doing that—you can very easily create an ideal customer and start dressing the fantasy instead of dressing the real woman. So what I really think about is, would I wear it? I really want to create clothes that are wearable, and I believe that you stop being current when your clothes aren’t wearable anymore.
How does it feel to enter the Japanese market, now that you’re stocked in Isetan?
We’re very excited about that! It’s exciting to be in such a big store, but we had a problem this season with some of the clothes because they have copper in them. You can’t sell copper in Japan as it’s a precious material there; as a re-seller you need a special license and we haven’t been allowed. It’s a very random problem to have, and the copper clothes were kind of the core of the collection. But thankfully the collection also includes other pieces—for example, some that have been woven flat and when you put them in hot water, they shrink and pleat.
You experiment a lot with different textures. What’s new for next season, fabric-wise?
Well, we’re starting to work with independent weavers throughout England, basically outsourcing to them. There are so many people who have this talent but many are really old, and we don’t want those looms to end up in the basement. I’m quite into crafts that are disappearing, crafts that maybe only three people can still do – like certain types of crochet and lace. For mid-season, we’re also looking to collaborate with textile artists on some special projects.
Studio images courtesy of Cajsa Lykke Carlson, lookbook images courtesy of Faustine Steinmetz