In her own words, Yojhi Yamamoto taught her to be angry at fashion, and Martin Margiela taught her the power of original thought, while Sofie Back and J.W. Anderson showed her the importance of bringing an element of surprise to your designs. In her East London studio, Faustine Steinmetz creates basics –garments that we all wear with admiration for their ease and elegant simplicity– but with a difference. Steinmetz and her small team spin, dye and weave all of their own fabrics with each piece made by hand. Last night, she was among the select nominees for the highly competitive Emerging Talent Award at the British Fashion Awards. After narrowly missing out, she speaks to METAL about the guidance of Louise Wilson, the power of the consumer in fashion’s sustainability battle and learning to loom on YouTube.
How has your education at Central Saint Martins shaped the path and vision of your brand?
I think the most important thing Louise Wilson taught me was that there was nothing more important than producing something new... No matter how good it looks, it is worth nothing if you are not the first to do it. I guess it also means that a great piece of clothing without a vision will never be anything more than a piece of clothing.
I read that you learnt to loom on YouTube. Is that true and if so, did you learn any other techniques from the internet?
(Laughs) Yes, it is true! I learn a lot of things online... I’ve watched every fashion documentary ever since I started my own label, we're so lucky in 2015 to be able to be like, ‘’I wonder how Raf Simons organises his collection plans,’’ and it only takes a few clicks to find out! But for my textile techniques I mostly learn from vintage craft books written by grandmas – those are the best.
Sustainability appears to stand as a core concept. What do you think it will take to make other brands more responsible in their methods of production?
I think it will take a shift in the habits of consumers, they are the ones that fashion labels are trying to please! If there is no demand for an alternative, why would fashion labels invest in it? At the end of the day, fashion is a business and it is a question of demand.
Fashion presentations are a convenient way for people to view collections among the rigidity of set show timings and schedules. Do you think that the presentation format was a contributing factor to the positive response of your collection at London Fashion Week in September?
Oh my god, I wish I was that down to earth! That has nothing to do with why I chose the presentation format... In fact, I find it really funny, because I feel like fashion people never believe me when I tell them I am not interested whatsoever in doing catwalk. I feel like, within a presentation, you can really be creative and curate your clothes in the way you want, I find it so much more interesting. I would like to explore the possibilities of presenting clothes in a more creative way throughout my career.
How would you define the Faustine Steinmetz girl?
I don't really like to define a girl too precisely. I make very classic pieces in the hope that a lot of different women will find them appealing. I would like to think that an 18-year-old girl could wear them, as well as a 45-year-old woman. I also sell pieces to a lot of men. That is why I choose to work around everyday pieces, they are universal and intercultural.
And why have you chosen denim as a recurring textile in your collections?
It started very early – when I was 14 I recycled my jeans and made pieces out of them (very horrible ones!). I looked a bit like a freak because no part would go to waste. But when I started my label I guess I got specially interested in reproducing jeans because they are a very, very common piece of clothing, usually made industrially, which is the complete opposite of what I do. I think this contrast is what becomes interesting.
Where do you stand on the omnipresent force that is social media and how important is it when building a brand?
I love social media, especially Instagram as I am a very visual person, but sadly I don't get to post as often as I would like. It is such a great tool to be closer to your customers and people who follow the label. It is also a great way to hear their opinion about your work and to see what designs they prefer, which ones they would like to own, etc. I also love that you can curate it yourself, it is the only platform where you can really show your vision of the label without any limitations. Although it is very hard to keep up at certain points in the season when things get really busy.
Which house or designer would you cite as your biggest inspiration?
There are a lot of them... Yohji Yamamoto taught me to be angry at fashion, Martin Margiela taught me the power of original thought and that a fashion label does not have to conform to certain rules. Designers like Ann Sofie Back and J.W. Anderson showed me the importance of bringing an element of surprise in your designs.
French women are admired globally for their effortless style, has being French had any conscious effect on your design process?
Actually, I think you can see in my clothes the duality in between being French and being a Londoner. London is probably a great motivation to push innovation and try things which are original and new... I think, however, that my Parisian side always comes as a moderator towards the end of my creative process and makes me really pay attention to always keep it fairly sober and easily wearable!
What should we expect from Faustine Steinmetz in the foreseeable future?
The label is growing, we are still making our handmade pieces in our London studio but we are also growing the collection. We will be releasing a great collaboration in April. We will also have our new collection coming out in February which I am especially excited about.