“There are these jeans 501, forgot in your dad’s wardrobe, except they are handyed, handspun and handwoven. And what about that tracksuit you wore when you were fifteen? It is made of 100% handwoven wool.”
When Faustine Steinmetz opened the door of her Hoxton studio for Jorinde and me, the situation was as follows: a sink was just being drained from hand dying, the spaniel Lily was jumping at us for attention, pomeranian Buzz was vigorously barking against us entering and Valentina, an intern was just finishing a hand-woven jacket collar “It takes about 3 days to make the collar because it’s all hand-made, each buckle goes around the rod and you need daylight for it” explains Faustine with the most therapeutic French accent I have ever heard and gives us an idea of the hard couturish work going on in there.
In January this year the Faustine Steinmetz label was, well, a pair of jeans. A remake of a classic Levis 501, to be exact, made out of hand-woven mohair, hand-everything really, sourced, dyed and spun. Faustine was still working on her portfolio after graduating from CSM MA Print when the almighty word of mouth reached stylist Robbie Spencer who asked to shoot those jeans for Dazed & Confused. “When I saw he liked it I thought okay maybe I should give it a go, its my dream after all.”
Faustine works around the theme of iconic pieces, the kinds that everybody has or has had in their wardrobe, like the 501 jeans I am wearing while writing this interview or the classic Eastpak bag shape. She likes it when things are not what they seem to be. The current 10-piece collection includes mohair jeans and “denim” mohair jackets, a bomber, merino t-shirts and a reproduction of a classic Sergio Tacchini tracksuit in hand-woven English wool. The jewelry is an exact reproduction of the silvers that Saïd and Vinz (characters in the French movie La Heine, immgrants living in suburban Paris..i mean why not?) are wearing but interpreted through Faustine’s love of trompe l’oeil. They have been flocked with grey velvet creating a confusing and cool piece that is soft and fluffy but occasionally sparkles like metal when dangling on your neck.
“Reproducing entirely a piece of clothing that anyone can buy anywhere was a really important process for us – it makes you realise how much craftsmanship has disappeared from fashion as we wear it everyday.” Faustine would like it if in future people approach her with their favourite pieces and she gets the chance to replicate them with her unique hands-on reflection on them.
It’s an interesting piece of fact for all of us that still haven’t found their path in life that Fasutine only learned weaving after graduating from her MA. Diving into her fascination with French haute couture, she got herself a hand-loom and really thought about what she wanted to say with her garments.
“I am really pissed off at fashion. Everyone is copying the other and it’s an industry where it’s totally fine to just take from each other and in the end nothing seems new and original. It’s always about ego and it’s never about whether you do have something to say. Even with me, sometimes I have a great idea like today when I was dip dying and I was like woaaah it looks nice but for me nice is never a reason to pursue it. I discard most of my ideas cause they don’t mean anything.
I am not interested in the fashion part or in making nice garments but in the craft, into good beautiful objects that have a nice touch and good finish and you can feel that someone really took care while doing it.
I guess I’m more like a grandma that is knitting for her grandchildren.”
What about the inspiration behind the current collection in particular?
“I don’t draw. I don’t really research. I just think of what I want to say. I wanted to reproduce pieces that are already there and exist as classics and this is a bit like what is fashion and what fashion could be. This is extremely more sober than what i have done in the MA because this is answering the question what do I wear? What would my limit be? In college sometimes you step back and say “I wouldn’t wear my own clothes.””
When asked about how she coped with the tough love of Louise Wilson during her MA, Faustine says Louise had some proper competition in the face of her BA tutors in Paris’s Atelier Chardon Savard. “My school was very focused on pattern-cutting. In France fashion schools are very tough because your teacher is a lady from Chanel and you pattern tutor is a pattern cutter at Jean Paul Gaultier and when there is 0.5cm that is wrong with your toile they write that you are disgusting on your clothes and this kind of stuff that is just ridiculous, so it actually went much better when I came here to Louise.”
Faustine Steinmetz’s first collection will be sold exclusively in Hostem, East London, their womenswear floor opening in September. They are made for women, but inspired by men and kind of unisexually cool.
The Mohair Jeans and a long-sleeve and sleeveless jacket however could be ordered at Faustine’s online store and are done per order. It is not an Asos experience at all. An order takes about a month to fulfill but what you get is a step by step update on the process and imagery of how your garment is getting on. It is a personalised archive of the making, couture jeans basically.
“We want to record each and every piece, it is a very individual process. Everything is sourced out in England – for quality and control and then hundreds of hours of work are put into it. I think it’s important that some young designers are in this branch and we try to find a way to preserve all those crafts. I realise that industrialization and mass production are necessary because lots of people can’t afford having hand-weaved jeans but we should find a way to preserve haute couture crafts. I think it has to do with me being French why I am into that stuff, I really feel for it, exhaustive work, I have always been reading about the lace made with little stitches that only 3 people in the world can do and so on. We need to keep that.”