“The clothes are there to feel good, to perform a task but also to celebrate a woman’s body,” says Anna-Marie Grüber of her Parsons graduate collection. In an industry where the word ‘functional’ is often associated with aesthetics of utilitarianism or a particular idea of sportswear, Grüber proposes an interpretation that is something quite different. Through meticulous fabric experimentation and projections onto clothing, enforced by her research into body map studies that show where muscles need most support, she came to create something that’s less ‘minimal’ and more functional than it looks.

“You are not expected to go to the gym in it.”

What stands out about your thesis work is the focus on functionality and ergonomics. So can you talk a bit about that? Was that something you knew you wanted to focus on when you went into the program?

Not really. We have a few different projects before we get into the thesis year. One was sponsored by Swarovski so we got to use crystals; the brief was that we had to make the crystals work functionally. So I guess in that sense I started thinking about function, but not in a sports sense. Then we had another project that was called the Kering project, where we were given a brand that’s part of the Kering group. I was given PUMA, and I think that going from Swarovski into PUMA, I started getting a lot more into the sports element.

Around that time there was this video that went viral on Youtube in Australia – it was making fun of people wearing gym clothes and active wear, but who are not doing any sort of sport activity.

I found it hilarious and all these things were coming to mind, so I decided to look more into it. I went to make clothes that were functional not necessarily for the gym, but functional for everyday life so you don’t have too… You are not expected to go to the gym in it.

In your way of looking at sportswear, I get the sense that there is an idea of making clothes in general perform better for the individual? 

Yes, exactly. I come from a sports background: I used to do tennis and row a lot. And yet the uniforms we had there weren’t particular to the sport itself. I wanted to dissect that all and look at what we want in everyday life, like a dress. But we also want clothes to celebrate our bodies, which is where the sheerness and the different layers come in. The clothes are there to feel good, to perform a task but also to celebrate a woman’s body.

“I really do want clothes to go into another level, where they are even more supportive, and it really does help someone in their everyday lifestyle.”

What about highlighting the functionality of these clothes – do you think that is a benefit to the individual?

There are a lot of body map studies that showcase where you should have lighter fabric so that you can perspire; what sort of areas need more compression so your muscles hold better. I took those and created my own knit fabric to help those areas; and putting them on the right places, so that the wearer will then have benefits in those areas.

Do you think that this could help us in movement in everyday? In your thesis it seems there is also a futuristic idea where clothes could go.

When I started, I really wanted there to be a lot of research in it, but I felt like I was so limited in how much I could fit in with the time frame and the resources I had. In the future I really do want clothes to go into another level, where they are even more supportive.

Where it really does help someone in their everyday lifestyle – just like how sports clothes would help a boxer, a tennis player, or a runner

Was there something about the thesis project that surprised you?

What the final result is now, is definitely not what I saw in the beginning. There were so many twists and turns during the way. There were a lot of compromises that had to be made, which ended up being for the better. But it were things like yarns not working in certain sections, or things being too fragile so that I had to switch the yarns. It really taught me to start making those compromises faster and knowing what decision is better. In the beginning, I was so anxious if I had to change anything. “I designed it this way, it has to be this way,” would be my thinking, but then I learned that it didn’t have to be like this!

Words Diana Golde Images Courtesy of Anna-Marie Grüber