AN INTERVIEW WITH STEPHAN SCHNEIDER, PART 1
by Jasper L
Antwerp-based Stephan Schneider’s quiet, sophisticated collections are a No Man favorite. I talked to him about Floating Inflations, his collection for Spring/Summer 2014, and many other things, ranging from fabric design to his place in the fashion industry. It’s a two-parter, so don’t worry - there’s more to come.
Can you tell me about this collection, Floating Inflations?
For this season, what I liked a lot is that I could concentrate on what, to me, Stephan Schneider is like. And that’s, on one hand, a certain casualness, but still sophisticated, nothing ‘streetwear’ point-of view.
So if you ask me, ‘What are you the most happy about?’ That it’s a very, very typical collection for me. And it’s the essence of what, to me, really is Stephan Schneider in Spring-Summer.
One of the things that people who shop at No Man Walks Alone appreciate is most is the thought that goes into the fabric selection. How do you balance the production and hands-on side of your process with the silhouette and clothing design?
I think, on one hand, the most difficult point of my collections is that I never really work on a silhouette. I never draw silhouettes. In the Atelier, we never ever fit a trouser, even with a jacket. I tell you my secret - I shouldn’t! - we only work on single pieces, which means that for the look, a typical look, an outfit, perhaps Stephan Schneider is not really the strongest collection.
On the other hand we can say it’s also the strongest part of the collection, because how many people these days really wear a whole outfit? And me, personally, if I see somebody wearing a whole outfit head-to-toe, in the same season, it looks a bit too…forced, a bit too made, it has not this spontaneous attitude. We wear separates these days, and I think to wear separates is also very charming and interesting.
I have only one month for the garment itself. So, there is more time spent on the fabric design than on the garment design. Which on one hand again you can say “Ah! That’s a pity,” but on the other hand, I have to say the more time you spend on the garment design, the more likely you are going to change this, you are going to change that, you start to work on this detail or that – and the garments become sometimes a bit over-designed. When you have a stronger deadline, the garments get more pure, clean, and useful in a way.
When I graduated from the Academy, I was applying for a job at Sama Sport - they were the producer for Helmut Lang at that time - 1994. And the lady of this producer said:
“Well, Helmut always comes like a week before the catwalk show, and then we start the collection.” And I said “But what do you mean a week, you can’t make a whole collec-” “Oh, ja, ja, we always do it in just a concentrated week.” A good deadline also forces you to focus. And I think when you ask me what’s a good designer, it’s one that focuses.
So much of fashion is about loud, in-your-face design. How difficult is it to stay “quiet?”
It’s very difficult, very difficult. Also difficult for the customer demands, of course. When you think the customer – the shop owner – sees for six months my garments in the store, and the next season – ‘Ah! There is again a jacket with a hood! It is again asymmetric!’ - my collection is a strong continuation. There are changes there, there are differences – but it’s a strong continuation.
In the end, the shop customer is very happy to have this continuation. It’s very difficult to stay quiet, and not to make a fuss and a bit of wah-wah-wah, which in a way the fashion world requests. But if you ask me, ‘How much do you see yourself in the fashion world?’ It’s a difficult question. I don’t know. I see myself as a garment designer, not so much in this fashion context.
When I did catwalk shows – I did catwalk shows from 2000 until 2007, and then you see people are ‘Ahh’ for the catwalks and something that stands out, also something you can describe in three words, like ‘Rock and Roll’ or ‘Sex’ or…and then I was tempted, and there were garments that were just a bit like…those sort of catwalk pieces, but I didn’t feel very comfortable with them, and in the end they didn’t sell. I’m very proud when garments are sold. I’m not proud when garments are just on a picture or in a magazine. For me, they have to be sold, they have to be worn, that’s for me the biggest compliment. And to make those catwalk pieces felt very fake, and I didn’t feel comfortable with it.
Part 2 will follow on Thursday.