How many times have we heard of the loss of glamour and elegance that once prevailed in everyone's dress code? With the arrival of the so-called ‘athleisure’ trend, where the tracksuit became the new suit, some designers aim to do the opposite by dressing people elegant again. Sarah Effenberger is one of them, however, she keeps in mind that comfort is an important quality that almost everyone seeks for in a garment. The young founder of Fomme wants to offer men body-conscious fashion, as well as giving them an elegant yet relaxed look.
You launched your own line just one year after graduating from a MA degree. How has the experience been so far?
It started with a very nice support of Vogue Germany, who offered me to show in their Vogue Salon during fashion week. It is a small platform where they provide space for chosen young designers they believe in. It was a good starting point and an extra push to really make the label happen. I am happy to say it gained me great supporters who embrace the label very naturally. Still, there is a lot of work to do and a lot to learn about what it really means to build a brand. I have graduated with an MA, but I feel I have learned so much more since I am doing Fomme. University helps you finding your own personality as a designer, but reality demands you to understand what's the right market for your brand and to develop a suitable strategy to pursue.
Even if it is hard sometimes, and pretty exhausting, I have to say – I enjoy being on this track without quite knowing where it leads. There are no rules to follow anymore, no professor who tells you the requirements to get a good mark. It is more of a trial and error and the final boss is you. But on the other hand, there are all these undefined authorities you may not be able to catch and understand at first. I am very curious about finding out the right parameters of my brand and the perspectives of the fashion world out there towards Fomme.
In your webpage, you say, “Fomme is celebrating the decoration of the male body”. How do you like to decorate it?
For Fomme the decoration happens in a very quiet and subtle way. It is the little cuteness I am adding to the male fashion with those silhouettes. And it’s the joyfulness of the fabrics I am using. The decoration takes place by changing the typical men's silhouette towards a softer picture by adopting fragments from women’s wardrobe. By doing so, I am decorating a man’s body by allowing him to celebrate some funny and maybe even weird moments in his silhouette.
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Fomme’s philosophy aims to create “a new image of contemporary men’s fashion”. What does this new image look like?
Fomme appears like a couture brand, with a street wear approach. My aim is to bring back some elegance to the male fashion with garments that are still comfortable with an easy fit. Fomme works in both worlds and I think it is this combination that is special about my brand. There is drama but also some coolness behind that brand.
How would you like men to feel when wearing your clothes?
The first word that pops up in my head when you ask me this is: precious. I would like them to feel elegant and chic, but in a more playful way. In general the word chic mostly connotes with stiff silhouettes and plain colours in men's wardrobe. I would like them to have fun and have special charisma in elegant clothes.
Your S/S 2017 collection has a very loose, comfortable and relaxed fit and most of the looks seem ideal to go to the beach. What was the main inspiration behind the collection?
Got me there! The main inspiration was the bathing clothes of the mid 20th century. The collection brings along a strong symbolic image to the wistful memories of the summer seaside. The silhouettes and fabric choices were mainly made so the wearer feels thrown back into the memories of nostalgic summer days. References of mid 20th century are mostly the starting point of my inspiration. They were the times when the daily wardrobe became more simple and easier to wear, but still aiming for an elegant appearance at the same time. My muse is a mixture of both female and male representatives from that time, but transferred into today’s fashion. The female tenderness and fragile elegance is something the male silhouette lost over the times of industrialization, so I try to give him back the awareness of the body and fun in playful garments without taking his masculinity away. This season I was just asking myself: How would this man that I have in mind dress when going to the beach in summer? That is actually the story behind it. The nostalgic and elegant man I created as Fomme’s signature look will always be the starting point of all seasons. So I basically ask myself: How would Fomme look like when he is doing this or that. Next season, for example, he will go skiing.
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Why did you choose a locker-room as place for the look book?
It was the changing room of the swimming pool where we shot the campaign with the photographer Elizaveta Porodina. I thought it would be both a perfect link and a good cut to the dramatic scenery inside the swimming hall, as they were actually changing the clothes there. For the campaign, Elizaveta and I decided to shoot inside that amazing swimming hall from the 90s because, for us, it was too obvious to shoot in the exact same scenery where I took my inspiration. It was about giving the clothes more of a modern twist. A beach would have been quite obvious, and sometimes I also try to get away from my starting point in order to see from another point of view the things I am doing.
This is also why I did this shooting with Sarah Staiger now. She always gives me a fresh and young perspective on my clothes, since I am showing them in a rather couture and dramatic way. What I love about working with Sarah is that she has a different and very contemporary approach to my concept but, in the end, the result meets exactly my vision. The same happens with the inspirations for my clothes: they are also twisted into something modern without losing their nostalgic connotation. So I am happy that the clothes turned out to look as they were made for the outside even if we shot it in the locker room (and this brought up this question). So I guess this is what I wanted in the first place, not being too obvious and still allow space for other interpretations.
The silhouettes, jumpsuits and several of the sleeveless tops reflect a new approach towards masculinity. Do you think Fomme offers men an alternative to the always-repetitive masculine garments?
I am quite sure I am offering a niche product. Surely, compared to average menswear, my designs seem to be quite outstanding at first sight. But in the end the patterns are quite basic and wearable – unless a few exceptions like the overalls or the bar jacket, which are rather unconventional. Fomme is aiming to offer an alternative and to change the perception of men’s appearance, which, of course, is also supported by the wonderful work of my colleagues out there! I would be happy if this more feminine and playful look for men would be perceived less unusual at some point and could been seen more on the streets in daily life too. I am content in contributing to that.
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