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Fascinated by minerals and their geological origins Stéphanie Baechler went about experimenting with hard materials in textile design. Stepping away from rolls of fabric as a primary source of inspiration she delved into the depths of nature to forge new relationships with new materials. Stéphanie desires to construct textiles that emulate the multifaceted objects that exist in human life. She draws brilliance from materials such as the dramatic layers of quartz or the crumpled commonness of a plastic bag. We speak to Stéphanie about her three-dimensional approach to textiles and how she brings her conceptual imagination to life.

You live a fairly nomadic life, between the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. Where did you grow up?

In Switzerland in a small village in the countryside. It is very green, a lot of nature and surrounded by forests.

I believe that you speak a few languages. 

French, German, English. I grew up bilingual; my mother spoke German with me and my father French. I improved my English during the fashion master in the Netherlands. Speaking so many languages gives me a lot of opportunities. I am able to connect and exchange easier with other cultures.

You finished your masters at ArtEz in Arnhem, The Netherlands. What was your thesis topic?

My thesis title was, ‘Is it a dress or a sculpture?’ During my graduation I realised that I was working more like an artist or sculptor on the mannequin. I start with materials that trigger me and then I shape it or give new form to the material. During my studies a focussed on material but also in learning some patternmaking but mainly how I can turn my weakness into strong point. I had no idea of patternmaking before starting my master but the main goal was to be as free as possible and explore, try out and experiment with as many things I can. That is how I discovered ceramics. My goal was also to use a lot of facilities as I was so happy to be able to go back to school after working for 3-years at Jakob Schlaepfer the textile maker.

Then you went on to do an internship at Studio Li Edelkoort, what was that like? 

I was mainly working for the trend books, it was a lot of fabric research, experimenting, cutting and a lot of shopping in Paris so I got to know the city very well. It was a great experience to see how she develops those trend books. The studio is very inspiring and stimulating.

In your current work you explore natural minerals and ceramics, which is very unique! How did you first start working with hard materials? 

While working on the ceramic tent I did for depot Basel, mixing glazes for my ceramics it suddenly hit me: most of the ingredients I used, were mineral in origin. I was very fascinated by their density and colors. I decided to use the minerals as a main inspiration for my collection because they really inspired and triggered me. Through all stages of the process, the mineral metaphor determined the way I worked. The multifaceted and layered qualities of quartz and agate formed the starting point for my investigation of layering different fabrics and expanding the pieces into space. The brilliance and smoothness of some minerals and the matte surface and various tactile qualities of others guided me in my fabric selection. For the designs themselves my objective was to construct dresses that would emulate specific rocks and gems and still retain a sense of elegance and fluidity – without becoming organic.

Do you think this exploration into 3D materials is something you will continue to investigate or will you change each season?

I can’t really say but at the moment I am still very fascinated by earthenware in general perhaps because I was constantly surrounded by textiles now I feel attracted by hard things and strong materials. I really like this contrast of light and heavy, strong but fragile.

Do you remember when did you first become interested in textile design?

When I went to see the open day of the textile department in Lucerne where I did my studies. All the materials and tactile experiments hanging on the wall fascinated me.

What attracted you to textiles as opposed to fashion design?

It’s the tactility of the materials and different supplies. Being able to combine colours and all kind of materials together and the ability to give a new structure to fabric or to the material itself.

Have you worked closely with any fashion designers?

No, not really. I worked closely with patternmakers together and I have to say I have a lot of respect for them because I think it’s a very important and interesting part of a fashion design.

If you could work with a designer who would it be? 

Hussein Chalayan, because I admire how he explores the boundaries between fashion and art. Also, Dries van Noten for his sense of motives and the way he works with print textiles.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

I would like to have my own studio, be able to develop my ideas, working with people on projects or collections.

How do you find inspiration for life and work?

While travelling, taking pictures but mainly while doing and making stuff, experimenting on something. I get even more inspiration because I am constantly checking around how I can develop something and then arriving at new ideas.

What advice would you give to the textile designers of tomorrow?

Experiment as much as you can, try out a lot of techniques, combine these techniques and explore.

WORDS
SAVI KURUPPU

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