René Scheibenbauer is an Austrian womenswear graduate. He muses thoughts to me on garments as a therapeutic space, reconciliation, and emotional texture. Now working on building his business, he is rushing to make a deadline the next day for his Tokyo stockists.
Tell me a bit about yourself – background etc
I’m originally Austrian. I grew up there. I’ve studied fashion for a while, I went to a fashion high school specialising in tailoring. My tutor was a master of tailoring…so the course was very technical. I wanted to continue on a more creative path and go to London because I thought I could do more interesting work there, because of the culture. I’ve just finished my BA and now I’m trying to develop my brand
How much has your background influenced where you are today?
When I went to my BA, I felt like I had a developed aesthetic and my take on tailoring. I kind of had…my own way of working as a culture. When I came to London I was quite surprised. I always felt it was something completely original, but instead it was a class of different draping, which was kind of disappointing for me. Fashion in Austria is quite different. I guess the schools started as something domestic for women. The one I went to… in the beginning it was the first school for women to express themselves and do art, but traditionally there’s not much fashion in Austria. The first couture and designers from Austria are the ones that dress to impress.
Do you think your experiences in Austria and at this school, apart from your physical outcomes, influenced your work concepts and outlook?
I guess I want to do subjects that help me find out about myself …working with themes like an awareness of how clothing affects people and the environment. You’re influential as a fashion centre. Even dominating what people wear when it goes mainstream. So that’s quite a big position because it can be crucial for the people. It can write out the time and how you see the time and then people will be adopt it. With my tailoring, in the beginning, I was commenting more on the industry itself, and kind of not wanting to do the capitalistic approach and fast fashion, so my work embraced these themes. It was more about something that lasts or is changeable, something you can wear different ways so you don’t have to buy a new one. You live with it and find your personality in the way you decide to wear it rather than throw it away…I think general making is a human need, in a way it’s like a craving. Its like human nature.
He then mentioned that in his placement year he spent a lot of time at mediation retreats and that this was very influential to him
Yeah some of my friends have gone to retreats and it’s completely transformed them and their outlook.
It is like a peace of nature… so it’s a space of reconciliation. It changed quite a lot for me. Someone said I was glowing when I came back. I kind of experienced a different way of using my mind and in a more creative way, using my emotional intelligence being able to access emotions and understanding and where they’re coming from and how they’re affecting your actions because you connect more with the inside of you when you meditate. I wanted to try iowaska before final year but I didn’t feel safe enough in any space …it seems like it re-anchors you, and when you’re that confident… it helps creatively.
You can maybe make a more interactive garment.
Yeah, you feel you can bring your own personality into the garment, you don’t feel like you’re being dictated. I worked on in my final years to create a space in my clothes for other people to explore… to allow a space of interaction and playfulness. In the beginning I looked at a lot of aesthetics and how they influence our brain and emotions. A colour or a fabric, they make us feel a certain way so the aesthetic has a big part itself. The sound of the kettle apparently, this sound frequency is calming to our brain.
Yes I’ve looked at this connection between the senses and brain stimulation recently myself. So what key themes do you identify in your work?
In my final year, empathy and reconciliation. I wanted to create work that felt like an erection of themes president in capitalist systems. I ran art therapy workshops and invited people I felt I connected with or wanted to work with. I did a workshop dressing yourself blindfolded, and the idea was to explore your emotions through playing with the garment, connecting your emotions with a garment, because you wear it everyday, and its always on your body. When you’re blindfolded you pick via touch; or where you want pressure on your body; or where you want covered.
So that was in your final year, and what about more recently?
Later I wanted to study how a garment became a tool for exploring yourself. So my clothes replaced the art therapy as a tool, and became the tool themselves. I collaborated with one of these people I selected, and because the clothes are so abstract, I just gave it to them and observed what they did with it when given this space to play with. Then, based on this dialogue, I made an individualised outfit for them. The whole energy of going through this process of dressing and playing became therapeutic. I wanted to give them reconciliation and a space for finding themselves. That was the long term aim.
I know you’re trying to establish your business now you’ve graduated, what are you working on at the moment? Are you still making clothes right now?
I have stockist in Tokyo, so I’m working to stock stuff there soon…Right now I’m working more on the structure. There’s a lot to think [about]: ‘what are the materials?’ ‘What factory?’. And then you need to look at the environmental impact of the materials you want to choose. So I’m researching this a lot. …In a way, my collection became it’s own universe and I can feed into it, and give something back. I have ideas all the time that I follow up on to develop my collection, and keep these collaborative connections going. I didn’t want to jump onto the industry, not overproducing. So yeah, at the moment I’m doing ‘made to order’ stuff. I definitely want to comment on the industry, but maintain a personal way of working, because the season is so dictated from capitalists and I don’t want to follow that.”
Speaking of commenting on the industry, what do you think of the current fashion climate?
At this point we discussed our thoughts on the current overpowering presence of streetwear on runways, expressing ideas that this made fashion feel more accessible, especially to celebrities.
It’s difficult. I mean what is great is that it’s more open for young approaches. Young students and young designers are being looked at more, which are also then adopted by other, more established, designers. It’s important that the industry reflects time and people, instead of just glamorising, which is fine because it is a platform for glamorisation which I respect as a notion…but it has a lot of political catching up to do.
courtesy RENÉ SCHEIBENBAUER
interview KATE BISHOP
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