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Ovelia Transtoto doesn't deal with fashion but with clothing. She focuses on broadening the relationship between people, individuality and their apparel. The Indonesia-born, London-based designer introduces her vision for Fall/Winter 2017: a collection where yesteryear's prosperous-looking volumes encounter functional fabrics.

On the one side lies the glitter of fashion, and on the other lies the work. This relies on quality and thoughtful design. Ovelia Transtoto loves clothes, and she loves comparing her practice to a Chef or a DJ – she mixes and matches diverse elements and various inspirations to create peculiar stylistic expressions. Driven by a desire to transform, the now thirty-seven year old designer puts this fascination into her versatile pieces, which balance street and attire. Some of her pieces are full of tricks, “like a Swiss knife.“
Zaha Hadid has been one of your inspirations. Her architecture rejects gravity and right angles. Instead, it's floaty and complex. How much has she influenced your style?
Well, it’s not so much her work that made her the kind of person I wanted to buy into my brand; it was about Zaha as a person. I used to observe her when she came into the store at Ed. Dover Street Market. The stuff that she chose was so in-line with her work, and it just gave me a glimpse of her thinking process. She’s just a real, genuine and authentic individual.
Regarding her work, I do appreciate her stuff, her shape is so graceful, fluid, and there’s sensuality and warmth to her very modern design, which can potentially be super cold. There’s a lot of depth, meaning, experimentation of form, pushing new ways of constructions and exploring new materials. There’s a lot of exploration, and I respect anyone with that work ethos.
You didn't present your Fall/Winter 2017 collection in a traditional show, or even at the London Fashion Week – was this by choice?
It’s all due to financing. I would love to have a show or presentation, but for now, we are focusing on the products and the foundations of the business first.

Lots of designers today prefer to distance themselves from the fashion world – fashion is becoming industrial, an emotionless business, rather than avant-garde like it used to be. Is this how you feel?
I think it’s a massive challenge to be avant-garde these days. Not only does it seem like things have pretty much been done before. Having normcore trends circulating amass doesn’t help much either. The system and the economy have made it so difficult for designers to further their experimentations, which again, is because there needs to be money and time
You've said to the New York Times that « Creative expression takes the form of clothing — an object that someone can wear.” Would you say pragmatism and utilitarianism are important to you when clothing a human body?
I wouldn’t say it will always be my main designing threads, but I’m always trying to find ways to optimize design and functionality, as if the clothes become someone’s second skin. It should keep them comfortable enough and make them feel special at the same time, without ever holding them back from their life, because life comes first.
You've also said that “You could wear my stuff on a freezing mountain or to the opera — you could run out to grab milk without anyone looking at you like you’re an alien.” An What do you mean by ‘alien’?
Again, it’s about being comfortable in any contradicting environment. Like the coat I was mentioning, it has a really elegant shape to it, there are options to wear it in a very grand way, but as it was made with the same material and method of fabrication for hiking attires, it is also very functional. The coat has a sense of familiarity that won’t make you feel like you’re coming from another planet or like an alien, where everyone in Tesco will be shocked by your presence. So it will hopefully serve the two extreme situations and conditions that we go through in this modern life, where you can be on a mountain today, at the ballet tomorrow, and getting milk in between. I just love when things are multifunctional, like a Swiss army knife.

Are notions like democratization, sustainability, putting people at ease, important to your work?
Definitely. There’s a lot of observation in my work on how we live, how to stay fluid and have freedom.
Your clothes can be transformed by the wearer – they can adjust, adapt and adopt your design. Why is it important for you to give these diverse possibilities to the wearer? Fashion is about the end-production; as prêt-a-porter says, clothes are designed to be disposable.
I have clothes that I have loved since I was ten and I will never throw away. I guess for me that’s how I see good clothes: as something I want to treasure forever. Disposable clothing is something that I really don’t understand.
You've likened the practice of fashion to DJing: “A DJ takes a song that you might’ve heard before, and he puts it in his mix, and it becomes entirely new”. I wanted to know what period silhouettes, and what designers’ influences you have put into your mix for this Fall/Winter 2017?
Yeah, I also feel that being a designer is like being a chef. You explore new kinds of ingredients from different cultures and apply new ways of cooking to the most traditional and classical food. And when it all comes together, there you go, an exciting dish comes up!
I would say I admire Jean Paul Gaultier a lot, and this season I looked at the way he mixes his references and takes them to a different place. I was also looking at how shapes can actually create a gesture of grandness throughout times and cultures, not necessarily coming from a particular time or period.

Doria Arkoun
Ryan Skelton

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