The first collection for her eponymous label for Autumn-Winter 2013 drew Faustine Steinmetz immediate attention. Her insistence on using denim in new and wonderful ways was received as both conceptually driven and a mode of play, thereby touching the fashion industry’s intangible sweet spot and earning Steinmetz’s collections a secure seat on London’s fashion schedule. “It started, to be honest, as an artistic project,” Steinmetz says.
Since then, the brand has grown and continued to experiment with unconventional and often recycled materials, woven directly into the denim, including mohair, silk and even copper. “I’m actually a denim mill at the same time as being a designer,” says Steinmetz. “We make all our fabrics as well as making all the shapes and the actual clothes.” And it was the International Woolmark Prize for 2016/17 that encouraged the designer to add wool to her repertoire. “Merino wool is one of my favourite materials because it’s one of the rare materials that you can wear raw. And that’s my favourite thing: going from absolute scratch. I’m working Merino in different ways – weaving it, felting it, dying it by hand,” says Steinmetz.
As well as using recycled materials, Faustine Steinmetz has looked for ways to make her garments in a way that not only give back to the environment but also to people. Fabrics that aren’t made in the designer’s East London studio are often produced in Africa, where women particularly in Burkina Faso who previously haven’t been able to work, are employed for Steinmetz to hand-weave her iconic denim. “We don’t want to just do fashion, we want to be a nice company and have different aspects. We try to stay a little bit out of fashion and not follow everything. We try to not be a fashion brand,” says Steinmetz.
The young designer’s headstrong commitment to denim is indeed both inside and outside fashion’s codes; it seems like a simple idea though is laden with concept and is fundamentally about “taking something and talking about what it represents in society,” says Steinmetz. “It’s a study of denim throughout the years. It always goes back to typology.”
Faustine Steinmetz entered in last year’s International Woolmark Prize and in fact won the womenswear award for the British Isles region, advancing the brand onto the finals held in Paris in early 2017. The collection presented by Steinmetz was praised for its experimentation with Merino wool and despite not winning the overall prize, captured the attention of buyers from around the world. “I try to be innovative but I also try to justify what I do, and not do something crazy for the sake of it,” says Steinmetz, and it seems to be working. This week, garments by Faustine Steinmetz have hit the shopfloor at Lane Crawford, one the most important luxury department stores in the world, dispelling the myth that creativity, commerce and ethical fashion are three opposing forces.
Faustine Steinmetz is now available at Lane Crawford Hong Kong and Shanghai.