In my latest Bubble and Speak (seriously...the name still tickles me...) column for Business of Fashion, I profiled the French-born, London-based designer Faustine Steinmetz who is about to hit us with a new wave of trompe l'oeil. Pah! New wave of trompe l'oeil indeed... Haven't we mined every trick of the eye there is in fashion? Well, scroll down and take a look. Denim that isn't denim. Recognisable but different. Uniform pieces of clothing shifted into another textural dimension. Steinmetz, has been playing around with ideas of trompe l'oeil ever since her 2011 Central Saint Martins graduation from the MA fashion print course, where she overturned ideals of a "rich" woman's wardrobe by painting fur coats with acrylic paint and making up Chanel-esque backpacks in cheapie fabrics and then making Tesco shopping bags out of leather.
Whilst they may have been rooted in Maison Martin Margiela-esque workings, with her first proper collection, Steinmetz reworks a familiar, bordering on-mundane wardrobe, inspired by the Matthew Kassovitz film La Haine (The Hate) about living in Parisian suburbia. To use some less-than-savoury terms, the French equivalent (if there is such a thing) of chav attire come to mind. The tracksuit top and bottom. The secondhand 501 Levi jeans that don't quite fit right. The natty denim jacket. The chain jewellery. The rucksack. In Steinmetz' hands they are entirely constructed out of textiles she has hand woven and hand dyed in her Shoreditch flat, using four hand looms and a couple of interns. Without setting out to do a collection, she started off with a pair of pale blue jeans and a t-shirt, completely reinterpreted with this unexpected fluffy mohair texture. Then piece by piece, she built it up, creating a woven narrative for this reconfigured wardrobe. Every texture is subverted. Hard and rough denim becomes soft to touch. A Jansport rucksack is rendered in soft lambswool. Thin and disposable t-shirts are strengthened with merino wool and raw felted seams. Lightweight polyester tracksuits are done up in heavy woven wool and lined with cotton jersey. Gold bling bling jewellery is dulled with grey flock. She was even tempted to create a Nike trainer entirely out of warp and weft threads. Particularly with the denim, the effect of the trompe l'oeil is extremely effective, especially when you touch the soft texture of the woven mohair. The contrast between these made from scratch fabrics, which are a labour of love and time-consuming craftsmanship, and the almost disposable and freely available garment choices, is what makes Steinmetz's work so compelling. So much so that she has secured an exclusive stockist this summer with Hostem in East London, who are launching a womenswear store. She'll also be launching an e-store to meet what is unsurprisingly a high demand for her unexpected take on denim. It might be trompe l'oeil but there's no deception here. Steinmetz is just out to create meaningful clothes that are at once precious and tangible at the same time.