Representing the creative future

At ease: Bianca Büche’s functional elegance

Meet the RCA graduate exploring the marriage of slick formality and cushioned comfort.

Every day, we bare our bodies to a harsh, man-made environment. And that’s the mission of functional wear, to protect us as we go about our day, whether cycling to university or standing in the tube. But can functionality ever really be luxurious? Royal College of Art graduate Bianca Büche is making a case in the affirmative, designing garments that demonstrate the potential for protective elegance, and plugging a gap that had too long been open.

Growing up in Frankfurt am Main, Germany’s capital of commerce, the young designer had always been fascinated by how clothes can support and protect the body. While this might readily bring typical functional wear to mind, Bianca thinks otherwise. During her BA at Pforzheim University, functionality indeed played a major role. It wasn’t until she started her MA in Womenswear at RCA, however, that she began to redefine what the concept meant to her. “To me, one function of a garment can also be that it makes you feel a certain way, that it makes you feel safe. It’s not necessarily a life vest that would actually save your life, but rather something that makes you feel good.” 

Bianca’s graduate collection is an elegant composition of interplaying soft forms and textures, which promise skin-contact comfort at first sight; a sense of shelter emanates from each piece. And this is, in fact, the only purpose the clothes aim to fulfil. These designs don’t communicate their message aloud, screaming out for attention; instead, they embrace you, offering a feeling of peaceful protection. For Bianca, it’s less about the product, more about the actual wearer.

This focus governed every step of her design process. Even before starting on the collection’s first garment, the RCA graduate would cut shapes from soft cushioning and place them on the body. It all came down to whether the forms felt comfortable on the wearer, with their feedback constituting the decision to keep or toss. The biggest challenge, however, came with the fabrics. “I wanted the wearer to feel free but still protected. Thus, the outcome couldn’t just be thick padding,  you needed to be able to move in it as well.” Also, as Bianca explains further, it was important for her to fully integrate the cushions into the garment. She turned, therefore, to technicians to collaborate, marking the beginning of an experimental journey. ”We tried everything! We had so many different ideas and so many different outcomes. Actually, I still have lots of pieces at home that are completely unlike what I ended up producing.”

There were no boundaries when it came to the materials, and just one goal: ultimate lightness. “Part of my research included wrapping things around me and that was another moment where I realised that I wanted the garment to hug the wearer.” Bianca tried a range of different material thicknesses, she taped, glued, sawed; and if the outcome didn’t measure up to her expectations, she started all over again. It was, once more, a method of trial-and-error, though the results were not simply new techniques for the integration of different forms, but complete garments. It wasn’t until she had completed her first piece, and asked people how they felt wearing it, that she was able to find out whether her design worked in practice.

But it wasn’t all too serious—despite the uncertainty that arose along every step of the design process, Bianca managed to embed ease and lightness into the collection, and not only in the choice of fabrics. “When I was younger, I loved animé and I still like video games,” she smiles. “Even if it’s not conscious, the collection is definitely inspired by that.” Another influence was her fascination for repetitive patterns and tessellations, which lead the RCA graduate to play with merging shapes like puzzle pieces, as well as organic forms. The result almost can be read like a comic—it’s created to be enjoyed. And if you’re a fan of doughnuts, for example, well, now you finally have the opportunity to wear them—in the most elegant way, of course.

By creating elegant clothes that protect and support the body, Bianca’s concept has filled a gap many of us hadn’t even known to exist. And though the young designer appreciates the inspiring work of her fellow designers, her perspective on fashion’s function remains distinct: “I think that there’s a lacking understanding of how we live today, of the kind of criteria a garment should fulfil to support us in our everyday lives.” 

The final question of our conversation is, like so often: what do you want to be doing five years from now? “If I could help people to make them feel good, or somehow help to support the body, I would already be super happy!” answers the RCA graduate with astonishing calmness, demonstrating that the young designer not only knows what she wants; above all, she has found herself. And no matter what experiment Bianca Büche will resolve to do next, one thing is for sure: she will master it with ease.