Monday, 29 November 2010

Interview: Wouter Baartmans of Baartmans And Siegel

As the latest export of the London College of Fashion's prestigious MA Fashion Design & Technology Course, Wouter Baartmans has a bright future in store. Having wowed the fashion industry with his luxurious final collection entitled Moonshining Werewolves, Baartmans has now coupled his unique design talents with Amber Siegel, a fellow LCF alum. Having met during a stint at Viktor & Rolf, the pair's shared passion for beautiful craftsmanship and imaginative design has led them to create the united label of Baartmans and Siegel. Synonymous with interesting details and menacing masculinity, the brand is fast becoming one to watch, especially as their new latest collection becomes a firm favourite in Harrods this season.

You grew up in Holland. What was it like growing up there?

Amsterdam feels like a close community which is both stimulating and calming. While I enjoyed growing-up there, after university I found it slightly limiting and longed for a wider and more international landscape.

How does the fashion scene there differ to that of London?

Amsterdam has strong links with the German and Belgian design scene,
Holland has many design schools and is very supportive of the arts, and is rather liberal in its culture. Fashion labels such as Viktor and Rolf, Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester have established certain distinctive design philosophies which are all rooted in Dutch and Belgian culture. Effective, striking design, rooted in practicality and innovation, combined with mixed cultural references. Having studied and interning in Amsterdam and Antwerp, and then studying in London, I felt connected to the practicality aspects of my Dutch design training.

What attracted you to the LCF MA course?

London continues to have the reputation of being the epicentre of contemporary design training. London is renowned for its experimental, yet historic and traditional teaching. The London College of Fashion MA’s technical discipline was appealing, as I had always been drawn to strong tailoring and understanding the internal elements, the course allowed me to explore this base of technicality, and then evolve upon this. The course also allowed us the opportunity and exposure to work in conjunction with industry, this I found extremely beneficial and enjoyable.

Your final collection for LCF -Moonshining Werewolves- was inspired by the great depression in the 1920s and the emergence of new cinema. Did you watch a lot of film from this era to gather inspiration?

I have always found early American cinema stimulating and a source to which I can draw characters from. In particular the Grapes of Wrath and its depiction of the Great Depression and the dust bowl, peoples striving to survive and the changing of human character. In addition to dramas, i found early horror cinema exciting, with the emergence of cult classics such as Wolfman, as well as looking at journalistic photographers of the time, depicting cinematic –like images of New York in the 1930s, such as Weegie.

What sort of man would you see wearing this collection?

The collection holds a sense of dominating masculinity which is adaptable to the wearer. Through using interactive, tactile fabrics, the collection focuses on building a relationship with the wearer. The collection is focused on a contemporary, discerning individual, who chooses pieces that interact with their existing wardrobe, and is designed to enhance the best elements of their existing self.

You are currently one of half of design duo Baartmans and Siegel. What made you decide to create a collaborative label as opposed to going it alone?

We first met in a work/ design environment, and then continued to graduate, so we have always worked together in some form, it's all we have ever known. It seemed a natural progression to continue to work together after graduation, and build on our joint vision. Our whole design ethos revolves around creating products that heighten the best qualities of the wearer. We seem to have a magpie-like quality that instantaneously draws us to an aesthetic of heightened luxury.

How does your design process differ now you’re working as a team?

While strong individually, we have always enjoyed working as a duo, bouncing ideas and generating solutions jointly, it has always felt like we were two components, of one machine mind. We learn as we go along, and are fortunate to have the support of many leading names in the industry. We share the work of most aspects of our brand rather equally, but we try not to only stay in our comfort zones, and push each other to grow in areas we might feel slightly shy in. We enjoy the successes and the challenges.

What is the design philosophy behind the Spring/Summer 11 Baartmans and Siegel collection?

While we work with classic masculinity, we also like to experiment with a tactile aspect to our garments, using natural fabrics such as cashmere, wools silks and cotton. We engineer shapes that are accessible yet distinctive, with subtle, yet confident silhouettes.

The upcoming spring/summer 2011 collection ‘Vingt mille lieues sous les mers’ (twenty-thousand leagues under the sea) follows this concept. In this collection, we were exploring the Jules Verne aquatic sci-fi adventure novels, which capture an element of travel, action and excitement. We were inspired by his fictitious worlds and male characters; elements from the novel have been directly translated thought our colour palette and tones, aquatic shades, as well as textural reference through fabrications.

Silk print scarves convey the murky, inky depths and fluidity of the novel. Hand knitted wool jumpers with inverted wave patterns, subtly nod to the novel as do textured velvets, flecked, crinkled cottons and powder blue cashmere shirtings. The heavy use of textured and woven silks adds luxury and depth. All the pieces are extremely accessible and wearable; they’re also very much interchangeable, allowing the wearer more freedom.

Similar to last season, the duo’s autumn/winter 2011/12 collection which they are currently designing will be shown on Men’s Day at London Fashion Week . The collection draws from cubist shapes and structures, initially looking at fabrication construction, then placing these structures in a futuristic city environment. While still wearable and masculine, the collection builds on domineering silhouettes and layering, mainly expressed through earthy tones of greens, browns, greys and blacks. We continue to work in conjunction with Grenson, the renowned bespoke English shoemakers.

Where do you hope to see the future of the label?

For the past two seasons we have been sold exclusively in Harrods, we are expanding our retail points for Autumn/Winter 2011 and look forward to expanding our international recognition. Baartmans And Siegel is fast becoming recognisable by the use of interactive texture and sharp tailoring. We would describe ourselves as modern- traditionalists who’s work focuses on beautiful fabrics that seduce, and shapes that are accessible yet distinctive. While our work subscribes to traditional elements of English heritage tailoring, we combine these aspects with modern luxury. The menswear market has seen a shift, with more discerning and brand educated consumers, we try to feed a corner of the market that appreciates beautiful fabrics, and finishes.


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