When one thinks of Faustine Steinmetz, one thinks of blue. She is one of a number of designers in London who have transformed how we see denim - turning humble blue jeans into intricate, unexpected pieces of craft. Blue was out for A/W 16. Well, it was there in flashes, thanks to a run of inky cobalt looks, but it was the jewel tones - the acidic yellow and the bright tangerine - that stood out. Steinmetz is moving forward; keeping her ethos of ‘slow’ fashion - in other words pieces that sit outside of trends, require effort and toil to make and speak to a lover of craft perhaps more than a lover of shopping - while expanding her repertoire. That ‘slow’ mentality, and perhaps a more general desire to do things differently on a schedule full of cookie cutter catwalk shows, informed the layout of the installation, another collaboration with set designer Thomas Petherick. Models were grouped in large white boxes, like precious works of art, and guests were required to peek in through slits and holes, grouping together, iPhones in hand, in a scrum that reminded me of the selfie-festival that now exists in front of any great artwork in a museum - if you’ve ever made a pilgrimage to see the Mona Lisa you’ll understand. Guests had to stretch their necks, or bend down - it was hard to see these clothes, they weren’t just served up on a plate. But that’s apt, Steinmetz' whole ethos is about commitment - commitment to the work and hours that go into her pieces and commitment from the wearer in terms of buying into something special, rather than just trendy.
The Tate Britain was a worthy location for such a show. Steinmetz has long thrown down the gauntlet for fashion as art. Her pieces are one-off creations. Extending an idea she’s played with before, for A/W 16 bags and cotton rib clothing were mould-able sculptures ready to be played with and shaped by the wearer to suit their body and whims. Thinking of art, those bold hues and punchy metallics called to mind Koons' sculptures.
While these clothes were so strong that they didn’t need elevating, Steinmetz had made further attempts to suggest that this was an art show, not a fashion show. Guests were offered an audio guide to accompany them as they walked around, which encouraged people to consider the collection and drew attention to the care, detail and craft that had gone into the show. With Steinmetz it’s not just about looking good - though for a designer who thinks about depth not exterior, this had a healthy amount of instant surface appeal.