Parisian-born Faustine Steinmetz did the almost unthinkable: she eschewed setting up her own label in the city where her birth right almost guaranteed her a fast track to the important behind-the-scenes parts of the world’s fashion capital and, instead, planted roots in London.
But, even before she set up her own brand in 2013, Faustine proved herself something of an anomaly for a French fashion entrant. They have always been taught – whether vocalised or not– that sticking closer to home and its unequalled fashion traditions is a smart move for anyone wanting to carve out a place in the competitive world of high-end fashion. Contrary to this tried ‘n tested route, Faustine took a different direction. She chose to complete her post-graduate education in London and almost all of her earlier jobs were for brands that stand as almost the antithesis of classic French fashion, labels such as Henrik Vibskov and Jeremy Scott.
Looking at her designs, this all starts to make a coherent sense. Faustine’s garments are produced from fabrics that are handwoven and dyed in her London studio. The design literally begins with the materials from which they are made.
Now if all of this smacks of the kind of neo-folk, cottage industry chic that has abounded in London and other northern design capitals in the last decade, then most of the similarities stop there. Sure, there is a certain rough-hewn quality that many of her garments have, taking their cue from the handcrafted fabrics themselves. But hers is a design language that flirts with lots of images of femininity and conceptual influences.
In her SS16 collection, for example, there’s an undeniable spirit of American jeans culture and classic sportswear; casual, comfortable and almost understated. Yet these are no cheerleader outfits or garments likely to pop up on the latest US teen soap opera. They may nod to these influences, but sculptural and deconstructive approaches are equally present. Sweatshirts are pulled apart and reconstituted, skirts seem to be coming apart at the seams and jeans morph into dramatic wraps over a dress that wouldn’t be out of place at some formal event. And everywhere, intentionally or otherwise, the aura of Issey Miyake and the Japanese designers who shot to fame in the 1980s hovers over a plethora of Fortuny-esque permanent pleating.
Faustine Steinmetz is one of those young designers who hasn’t taken long to plot a signature path. It’s almost certain that there are thousands of women who will look at what she does and shake their heads in confusion. But for the loyal band of fans and fashion pundits who instantly get what all this is about, there are some stunning garments that offer the additional promise of fabrics willfully germinated with the destiny of actualising unique clothes.