Originally a student of economics, Tobias Schubert has since made waves in fashion as an emerging designer, blending virtual and fictional worlds to produce pieces that play with a range of materials and graphics to construct sci-fi looks from another reality. Mostly body-con, athletic and tailored with sculptural accents, this designer takes care of the silhouette in a way that builds on sci-fi history.
He has presented his Autumn/Winter 2023 collection during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Prague, with models being sent down the runway in prosthetic elf ears as a nod to his appreciation for the art of cosplay; numerous space-age props were also integrated into more conventional designs to create innovative combinations that fuse together his capabilities as both a costume engineer and designer. Here, we talk to Tobias about progression into fashion, the avant-garde inspiration that emboldens his designs, and his A/W23 collection, The Seeker.
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Hey Thobias, thanks for speaking to us. Could you start by introducing yourself? How did you begin your design journey?
Thank you for reaching out. I would introduce myself as both a designer and a craftsman, I don't really distinguish between the two. Originally, I had no desire to work in fashion at all; I studied economics at the business academy and was interested in reselling sneakers. After graduating, I decided not to pursue economics and took a year off to develop my art skills. I sought out the designer Martin Havel, with whom I started preparing for the admission process at UMPRUM. A year later after my second attempt, I was accepted, and I would say that my journey began there.
What propels your motivation to design? Why are you drawn to the world of fashion?
I always looked up to people who, with their diligence and perseverance, created something admirable. The fashion world in particular gives space to work creatively, think economically, create art and at the same time express an opinion. I think it's quite a challenge. I don't think I'm drawn exclusively to the world of fashion. It draws me to a world where work speaks for a person.
You recently presented your collection during Mercedes-Benz Prague Fashion Week. What was the experience like?
Essential. At such an event, it is no longer enough to make a good collection, it involves a lot of production work and planning for the future. I would like to create a story with my work and I try to support it with all available means and, as a bonus, people can buy a piece from my collection.
Many of the looks seen in your A/W 23 collection, The Seeker, feature looks that could be from another space and time entirely – right down to the styling, which saw models sporting prosthetic alien ears. Can you tell us more about the vision behind this collection?
I spent way too much time sitting behind a computer when I was a child. It is without a doubt one of my favourite periods to draw from in my work. Everyone creates their own little mini-game in their head, and I try to materialise mine in the form of shows. The Seeker collection brought together everything I learnt during my studies and am constantly striving to improve. I spent time not only in sewing workshops, but also learning about 3D printing, and working with metal and wood. Connecting these crafts is essential to me.
Much of your work is founded in references to futurism, with your portfolio being flooded with everything from nods to alien imagery to intricate costume work serving as a recreation of extraterrestrial life. What inspires you to experiment with futurism when designing?
I love the work of film and cosplay creators. Costumes and props that are created in film studios are works of art in themselves. A lot of crafts are combined here and it's a big inspiration for me. There is no material that cosplayers cannot imitate, or even create a more unique result. For their creations they use materials that I find extremely interesting, such as PVE foam or worbla, which is my favourite lately.
You also create from an athleisure angle, with boxing shorts and other sports-focused pieces featuring in your collection. How do sportswear and athleisure influence your design choices?
To balance out playing computer games, I also played sports from a young age. I think that is why it is infused into my work now. I have a lot of friends who are footballers or athletes. I consider sport to be an important part of life. At the same time, I like the discipline and endurance that sport requires.
I understand that you have experience as a prop and costume engineer; how do your experiences in this field translate to the process of garment creation?
I think that's the main thing that sets me apart from other creators. At least 50% of time is devoted to props, which I also present at the shows themselves. They give me the opportunity to expand the experience for the viewer, and my goal is to connect props and costumes with clothing in interesting ways. I do not believe that only wearable clothing should be presented at shows. I try to convey an atmosphere and an experience, and at the same time show what can be transferred from fictional worlds to the real world.
Your designs are laced with intricacies whilst working with a primarily muted colour palette. What role does colour play in your storytelling?
Symbolically, I call my clothes armour. The armour itself is mostly silver and dark in colour. I like to use bright colours inspired by magical jewels. That's why sometimes a flash of colour is seen in the show.
What designers inspire you? Who do you admire most?
I prefer avant-garde creators who try to use new materials. But at the same time, I admire well-designed and seemingly simple products. I am mostly inspired by students' work, specifically from Antwerp. I would name, for example, Windowsen or Didu.
What are your hopes for the future of your brand? Where do you see yourself in five years?
The project that I called Tobias Equipment will end with the upcoming third show, like a proper Trilogy. Then there will be big changes for the brand, which I will keep to myself for now. Anyway, in 5 years I would like to sleep more and have things functioning more stably, with better time management.
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