Rebellious, innovative, and undeniably talented, Faustine Steinmetz is acknowledged as the 2017 Swarovski Collective winner for her visionary crystal application in fashion, enhanced by her defiant and dynamic use of denim in the luxury sphere through sustainable and responsible practices. In addition to the year-long crystal product and financial support provided by Swarovski for Steinmetz’s SS17 and FW17 seasons, the designer will also receive a prize of €25,000 to advance her research and efforts in technique, production, and material for future collections.
Swarovski visited the creative’s work space for a glimpse into the design process which rendered a series of stand-out pieces that struck a chord with the future of fashion. From breaking the boundaries of unisex clothing to justifying the impact of her designs on the environment, Steinmetz bares all.
How does it feel to be the recipient of the Swarovski Collective Award 2017? How has the partnership been beneficial for your brand?
It feels amazing, especially to have these voices in the industry who are acknowledging that my work and what I’m doing is valid. On a personal level as a designer you must believe in your product and your brand, it’s not always easy, so to have that validation is amazing- that the brand trusts and challenges designers to push the boundaries of crystal in fashion is inspiring.
We have quite an unusual positioning, because we were probably one of the first labels who treated denim like a couture brand would treat a dress. Denim is such a democratic product so it is really difficult to validate within the luxury sphere; it's quite a new concept to have luxury denim. Working with Swarovski helped us to use the codes of that very elevated universe and incorporate them into denim.
How were Swarovski crystals incorporated into your collections? What has this added to your collections?
Handcraftsmanship was really apparent in both collections. For Spring/Summer 17, I wanted the denim to feel like it had been there for hundreds of years and crystals had grown from it. We hand painted and applied the crystals in a very sculptural way so that they resembled massive rock structures on the trousers. This idea also extended to the shoes in the collection which we wanted to feel like rocks of crystal on feet.
Autumn/Winter 17 continued these ideas, we hand embroidered thousands of beads to a full denim suit. It took a team of seven people three weeks to complete- the process was incredibly exciting. The piece contrasts the beauty of the crystals with the destroyed aspect of the hanging threads.
Your work continues to innovate and expand on the abilities of denim. Why has this become such an important medium for you?
With denim, I can be as creative as I want but at the end of the day it’s a pair of jeans, it's what everybody wears across the world. For me, it reflects so much about our society, denim is the suit of the 21st century so I feel it is an iconic piece that I can rework again and again, it allows me to explore that parallel between fantasy and reality.
How have you altered your design process to further push your brand towards an ethical business model and why is sustainability important to you?
I want to make sure that I am not creating something for the sake of it. As a designer, it is important for me to make sure that what I create is special, that I am not bombarding people with pieces that are only going to last one season. I believe in trying to extend the life cycle of a product, creating something that people can keep. There is an element of mindful of consumption.
As a designer, understanding sustainability in production is crucial, this includes making sure that pieces are created as ethically as possible and materials are sourced correctly. It's important for designers to be accountable, for the conditions in the factories and to understand the provenance of materials which go into creating the piece.