Stefanie Tschirky’s design celebrates perfection within chaos. Her Royal College of Art MA Fashion collection entitled Controlled Chaos is a personal and visual reaction to the societal norms of aesthetics. Using a combination of thread and cling film to create a sealed ‘second body’, she experiments with the idea of her work being an extension of her own identity. Although she works with traditional methods of garment making, Stefanie successfully incorporates innovative materials and textiles to find a balance between functional and experimental fashion. In an attempt to question the ideals of what is perfect, she turns to the help of science by working with various theories to create her own version of archetypal beauty.
Where does your primary inspiration come from?
My design world is driven to find the beautiful, ordered, and unpredictable moments of complexity in the study of the field of mathematics. The design concepts are based on the desire for aesthetic perfection in a controlled but chaotic system.
The approach to design at the RCA is very liberal and individual, with students being encouraged to create their own research. How did you do this, and how has it affected the way you interpret a concept?
One of the first questions our tutor at the RCA asked was: “Who are you and what are you about?” From day one we got questioned about our personality and identity, which helps a lot to define your own personal language and design world. We got pushed to create our own research and vision of our world. This approach in research gives your work a deeper and more personal meaning.
As a starting point of my final collection, I questioned if we are able to create the ‘perfect’ dress, silhouette and line with the help of science. So I started to look into theories such as the Golden Ratio Theory and the Chaos Theory. It led me to have many conversations with Maths and Physics students from the Imperial College London, as we questioned perfection and beauty and its meanings in science and art.
Since then I have stopped saying the word perfection. What does it even mean? Does perfection exist? No? If perfection doesn’t exist, does imperfection exist?
We focused the research on the Chaos Theory and its fragile system. You never know when the most ‘beautiful’ moment happens. Do we have to wait a year or is it happening in the next second? This moment might be the most ‘beautiful’ for me, but not for you. We started to create animations of graphs, which we drove towards ‘chaos’. The outcomes were an early starting point for my final collection.
Can you speak about the significance of experimentation and development?
It was important to be experimental throughout the development of my final collection. That was the only way I was able to develop my textiles further and make them more considered and durable. Even in the last week before hand-in, I kept on pushing my techniques and tried new applications on the body. The space and resources at the RCA allowed me to constantly create new textiles throughout the last year, which sometimes got really messy.
My approach changed in the way that I am constantly producing prototypes, which enables me to improve techniques and to quickly realise what is and is not working. I work faster, react quicker, and I am definitely braver when taking risks.
When developing and transforming your collection, how important was working with different creative forms and materials as opposed to what we may think of as traditional garments?
I tend to approach my work with non-traditional materials, but I appreciate the knowledge of traditional garment making. Most of the looks of my final collection have corsets, which are not visible, but important in shaping and creating ‘the body’.
I like to challenge the ‘textiles’, which meant for my collection to create a new ‘material’. With that in mind, I was able to design a second skin, which sealed the body and peeled off the garments. It was a long way to make it wearable.
Prior to studying at the RCA did you gain industry experience? Did this inform your practice in a way that you understand your work as having a customer and operating within a market?
I worked for several companies in Switzerland, London and America, and I did my Bachelor at Kingston University, which had more a commercial approach in fashion. It is far from how I work now, but it taught me a lot about the market, the consumer and the structure of companies.
I always have a customer in mind, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be braver, push the concepts further, and challenge the perception of fashion – especially when you get the chance to do an MA. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to realise your vision with nearly no limitations.
Further thinking about marketing your work, do you aspire to launch your own brand or work for someone else?
If I dream big, yes I would love to have my own studio and focus on interdisciplinary work. At the same time I have the urge to take my techniques further and make textiles, which not only push boundaries, but also are easy to wear. Whether that is going to be with a company or on my own, only time will tell. My plans for the immediate future is to go to Italy, where I am one of the 10 finalists of the ITS 2016 competition in July, as well as doing some freelance work… and then I will see what is next.
Words by Grace Ahn
Photography by Simone Steenberg