Representing the creative future

Work in Progress: Antonia Schreiter

The Institut Français de la Mode MA Fashion student shares how the pandemic has been fuelling perplexity among higher education design students

It’s noon in Paris, and Antonia Schreiter is sitting in the living room of her flat wearing a black hoodie and a dozen gold hoops clipped on her earlobes. In our Zoom conversation, we start talking about the lockdown situation in Paris. As she fixes her fringe on the camera, it is evident from her subtle sighs that these have been frustrating times. “When the first lockdown in Paris started, I was stuck in my flat for three months just feeling stupid doing fashion when there was a pandemic going on. It was surreal,” she says. How did she overcome this moment of self-doubt? “It made me rethink a lot. It made me question my own relevance as a fashion student and future designer. It was devastating. I felt like I lost all my creativity in one go. I luckily found it back as there was time to kill,” she shares in response.

After completing a BA in Fashion Design from the University of the Arts in Berlin in 2018, Antonia Schreiter left the capital to pursue an internship in New York, at the runway office of German luxury fashion house Hugo Boss. “It was not as commercial as the brand looks,” she says of the environment. “They used to have showpieces back then and it was an amazing experience. The team was so cool and they would let me do anything. It provided me with an essential toolbox and it boosted my confidence,” she adds with a proud smile. It was thanks to this series of nurturing educational foundations and inspiring industry experiences that Schreiter was announced semi-finalist at the H&M Design Awards in 2019 before joining the MA Knitwear program at the Institut Français de la Mode in 2020. Soon after graduating from higher education in April 2021, Schreiter will be embarking on an internship at Givenchy.

Work in Progress: Antonia Schreiter
Antonia's studio
Work in Progress: Antonia Schreiter
Fittings: Antonia Schreiter
Fittings
Fittings: Antonia Schreiter
Antonia's design development

Despite France’s 6pm curfew, the design students at IFM have been luckily granted access to the university’s studios, as they prepared for their final collections showcased as part of Paris Fashion Week in early March. Schreiter’s palette for the collection is strict; a deep, melancholic blue with pops of neon yellow here and there is present in every piece of her lineup. “Blue is my absolute favourite color, I love the intensity of it. It makes me wanna jump in it. It’s so soothing. And when I blend it with toxic yellow, the contrast makes me go crazy,” she enthusiastically explains.

Oversized bucket hats covered in thick layers of colorful yarn with some dangling strings of beads complement each look, and they’ve been maximised enough to cover the wearer’s eyesight, a kind of pertinent social distancing message for our times. The entire collection has been upcycled from old scraps that the designer brought back from a recent visit to her family in Berlin. Men’s tailoring was a big interest of hers from very early on, yet after realising how meticulous the construction of tailoring was, she began experimenting with knitwear which, in her view, gives more room for comfort and freedom. “I come from a background in woven, but I wanted to find a way to bring knit and woven together with a weaving-into-knit technique. It allows me to create a hybrid material – you can call it soft tailoring. This way I am able to combine the art of shaping in tailoring with minimized waste, and the creative advantage you have in knitwear, which is that you can create your own materials and color ranges,” she says.

Design development: Antonia Schreiter
Antonia's sketchbooks
Design development: Antonia Schreiter
Fittings: Antonia Schreiter
Fittings
Fittings: Antonia Schreiter

With the ever-increasing competition and an overwhelming number of fashion design students, in what ways are you differentiating yourself? 

How to stand out as a designer today? It’s tricky but I have to trust my intuition and creativity. If I want to find my place in the industry, I have to place trust in my own work. I originally did menswear but it is not just about that anymore. My clothes are for everyone, every age, and every gender. I don’t want to dictate any rule on how one should dress. I suggest my own and let you choose.

“I think most of us are aware that you are able to make it to high positions in fashion houses without a degree.” – Antonia Schreiter

How would you define your taste? 

I love tweed and old-fashioned fabrics which many declare as not modern or boring. But I like bringing them into a new context or giving them a new soul which can survive the current trends and the digital age. I am attracted to the ‘cybergranny’ look. I constantly want to find the balance between the old and the new. I see my work as a huge generational clash. When I see my grandparents, I just love what they wear – they don’t care about trends. It is amazing to see how they continue dressing as they always did. On the other hand, you have the artificial world of youth culture as showcased in social media, celebrating ‘the ugly’ and ‘the weird‘. I love that mix, but I do also miss the authenticity that got lost on the way. Everyone looks the same, it’s scary.

Antonia's sketches
Fittings

Based on your experience, is a degree in fashion absolutely crucial to ‘make it’?

I think most of us are aware that you are able to make it to high positions in fashion houses without a degree. Still, the experience and knowledge you gain at fashion school are very important for me. Not only to your own creative process and technical knowledge but also to have the time for creative exchange with professionals, and eventually find your way into the industry.

“Living in a throwaway society you sometimes feel unnecessary as a fashion designer. On the other hand: we are here to shape the next generation.” – Antonia Schreiter

Fittings

What is fascinating about knitwear to you?

I always loved knitting but never questioned what the technique had to offer. It is absolutely fascinating how unique knitwear is. When I applied for the MA I was advised in some interviews to switch to knitwear, which I finally decided to do at IFM. I was honestly afraid of not having any knowledge and skills before I started the MA, but it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. I just love to create my own fabrics, textures, and materials. I always tried to manipulate fabrics with embroidery, screenprinting, or sewing. Knitwear already presumes that you have to create your own material. It offers endless opportunities and you can control the material from the very beginning. You have to choose the threads and this is how the story begins. It is liberating not having to search for the perfect fabric; I can just knit it myself. However, I learned that it takes much more time, patience, and concentration. The yarn can rip or the whole panel decides to fall off the machine so you have to start again from scratch. If you make the wrong count or use the wrong yarn for the next row, it can drive you crazy. I had to learn a lot about how to deal with mistakes when they happen.

Do you feel dutiful or pressured to take sustainability into consideration when you are designing and making clothes? 

As a designer, I have a responsibility to do so. Covid revealed that this system failed, and living in a throwaway society, you sometimes feel unnecessary as a fashion designer. On the other hand: we are here to shape the next generation. I don’t see thinking sustainably and minimizing waste as a limitation, I see it more as a challenge.

 

1 Granary

Magazine Issue 6

With unprecedented honesty and depth, 1 Granary Issue 6 dives into the work and lives of fashion designers today. As a response to the construction of desire and personality cults that govern our industry, the magazine steps away from the conventional profiles and editorials, focussing instead on raw work and anonymous, unfiltered testimonies. For the first time ever, readers are given a truthful insight into the process, dreams, fears, hardships, and struggles of today’s creatives.

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