Melitta Baumeister’s Hyperrealist Design

New York Fashion Week has come under speculation during recent seasons for being somewhat flatter than its European couture counterparts. The city often gets bogged down with descriptions of being grossly commercial in its fashion offerings, while Paris, London and even Milan (where a business-minded approach to fashion appears to have consumed not all, but indeed, many designers) are placed—albeit probably all by themselves—on a pedestal of creativity and cool, unrivaled on the other side of the Atlantic. However, this assertion dismisses the many gems that are making their mark in the Big Apple.

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German-born graduate of Parsons’ class of 2013, Melitta Baumeister, showed her debut collection with VFiles a few short weeks ago and is one of the NYC gems that should definitely not be missed. Her conceptual designs embrace materiality, which lies at the core of her work, as she skillfully revises the determinants of a garment, playing with notions of shape, fabric and pattern. Her structural pieces provide a graphic vision that manifests itself in beautiful, interesting clothes that raise pertinent questions on fashion and style through intelligent design.

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I caught up with Melitta after her show and asked her a few questions, the answers to which denote an impressive young force with a potentially great future lying ahead.

How did you feel seconds before your NYFW show?

The seconds before are magical. The girls stand in a row; the work is completed; what seemed impossible a week ago has come together. You finally look at the collection more as a whole [body] of work, rather than looking at particular pieces too closely.

How did you feel seconds after the NYFW show?

The seconds after felt very relieving. Everything went smoothly. Then you give answers to interviews, show the pieces backstage, and move on. I find endings always motivating to start over again—though a fashion show is more a beginning than an end.

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Could you tell me about the inspiration behind the AW14 collection?

I am interested in the aspect and thoughts of hyperreality—when it becomes hard to distinguish reality from non-reality. I was [also] looking at sculptures and became fascinated by a moment being [captured and] held in place. I liked the idea of the “trace of a movement.” That led me to the thought of fast-forward technology and mass production, objects being three-dimensionally printed by machines for mass use. Stacks on stacks—endlessly the same. Imitating handcraft. Liquid material (for example, plastic in its early state) being used to replace what would have been hand-engineered before.

The brutality of mass production is, in a way, attractive to me. That’s where the making of garment casts and the sculptural elements in the work came from.

[Then you have to think about how] to develop the idea and concept—the construction necessary to interpret the idea. This in another dimension and is important for the visual representation of the mood of the work. It was important to me to give away a feeling of purity, something that has a character of what tomorrow could be.

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What was the significance of the banana motif?

“Real-fake” rotten bananas.

I was looking for an object that we know changes its appearance over time—something which is in process, alive and in an ongoing state. And then [I wanted] to capture a certain moment. It is the way I work with cast garments: a movement I capture. I could describe it is a three-dimensional photograph or a three-dimensional print.

Another thought behind it is my obsession with hyperreality and looking at something and not being sure whether it is real or not. I find the idea that advanced technology is able to simulate and repave reality extremely interesting and, in a way, mystical. Arthur C. Clarke formulates it really well: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

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Could you describe your aesthetic?

There’s a certain aesthetic that I have developed which is something more communicable in a visual way. To find words for it… It might be something between bold quiet, sculptural and contemporary weirdness. This might be different depending on the context you place it in.

How has your education helped form you as the designer you are today?

After going to tailoring school and receiving my BA in Fashion Design in Germany, I felt that there was still much to learn about what you are as a designer and what your language was, and the strength of it all.

The fine arts master program, Fashion Design and Society at Parsons in New York, under director Shelley Fox, went beyond how to be a fashion designer, and pushed [you] to explore the questions of what it means to be a fashion designer and artist in the industry.

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What does New York mean to you?

It’s a place to dream bigger than everywhere else.

How would you describe your role and your responsibilities as a fashion designer?

[My work is] communicating, reflecting and participating in the world, which for me is a way of observing an everyday life and the system we live in. Fashion is a medium by which to communicate, or so to speak.

My focus is on new ways of looking at fashion. I try to push ideas of what could be tomorrow, using new materials and new ways of making. As the journey continues, I look to create my own universe of my own vision of hyperreality.

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If you were to devote yourself to anything else, what would that be?

I would love to create sculptures, which I do in some way with clothes already. Although creating sculptures that might not depend on the body would be something different and very interesting.

All photos courtesy of Paul Jung

text by: Ben Sharp










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