Backstage shot of Wouter Bartmans applying the finishing touches to his models at the LCF MA Show.
Image by Morgan O'Donovan for Dazed Digital.
Image by Morgan O'Donovan for Dazed Digital.
On the 28th January the first crop of fashion design graduates showcased their work with the LCF MA show taking place in the ornate Raphael Hall at the V&A. As mentioned previously, I was fortunate enough to take my seat to watch it all unfold and I was utterly blown away by the menswear design talent on show. From the nineteen students who were showcased it was the menswear design graduates that really shone through. Rather than merely post our favourite show images we aim to speak to each of our favourite students over the coming weeks to learn more about their collections and their experiences at LCF. We kicked off proceedings last week when we caught up with Sarah Williams whose mind bending luggage were the real highlight from the new Fashion Artefact course. Now we turn our attention to one of the exciting menswear students, Wouter Baartmans.
Baartmans' graduation collection was inspired by the great depression of the 1920s and the emergence of new cinema. It looks at an area of menswear history that was very defined but this exciting young graduate certainly had fun creating new characters as he mixed tailoring, with sportswear and prints with furs. There is undoubtedly a strong sense of presence and character achieved by his intelligent tailoring and experimentation with proportion. It has always been important to him to combine old values in a new world and he has certainly achieved that here. I jumped at the chance to inspect Baartman's intricate detailing up close and to chat through the evolution of his inspirations, his experiences at LCF and not least his hopes for the future..
SS: Congratulations on more than playing your part in an exciting MA show (in terms of menswear in particular). How did it feel seeing your finished designs on the catwalk?
Wouter Baartmans: Seeing the LCF MA show at the V&A was quite a dramatic and monumental moment for me, it was the culmination of many months of work and dedication, yet it felt slightly surreal, the grand, imposing and beautiful setting of the Raphael gallery added a classic captivation to many of the collections.It was a moment of pride and relief.
SS: What attracted you to the LCF MA course in particular?
Wouter Baartmans: Coming from Amsterdam, I wanted to enter the broader design and fashion community, I met my partner while we were both at Viktor & Rolf in Amsterdam, she was already studying at LCF and, after researching the different arts universities, I decided that a more technical MA would suit my design style, and where better to cultivate the technical menswear craft than the home of tailoring?
SS: And what was the best thing about your course? And the worst?
Wouter Baartmans: The freedom that you are given as a student to explore different ideas and avenues is perhaps one of the aspects that I found most enjoyable at LCF, however this sometimes proved for me to be it's downfall. When at MA level you don't expect to be spoon fed, however sometimes you reach a point of lack of direction, and it can be difficult to always see the strength or weaknesses of your vision.
SS: Can you talk us through the inspiration for the collection?
Wouter Baartmans: The theme of Moonshining Werewolves evolved through looking at the early emergence of horror cinema in Hollywood in the 1930s and the surrounding culture. I have always been interested in the darker side of that era, and for me this was a period where tailoring and menswear was both conservative and creative.
SS: What was your starting point and how did the Moonshine Werewolf evolve in to the collection we see today?
Wouter Baartmans: I drew inspiration from journalistic photographers of the time like Weegie, where he captured the underbelly of New York society. I wanted to bring this imposing, menacing, debonair quality to the collection, while incorporating the animial/man element through the use of textured mohair fabrics and shades of greys and blacks. The depression of America at that time is also referenced, very literally through the use of blue and white pin-stripe shirting, a nod to the bankers and business men, as well as silver, engraved collar stays, worn on the outside of the collars. The Moonshining Werewolves title combines the illegal liquor consumption and activity of that era and the cinematic aspect.
SS: For me, having seen the collection on closer inspection, it showcases a multi-layering of fabrics, prints and furs while demonstrating a fine attention to detailing with tailored pieces that any modern day dandy would adore. How would you describe the collection in your own words?
Wouter Baartmans: Layering is an element in menswear that is just as vital as in womenswear. I chose an Autumn/Winter as my graduating collection specifically so I could combine tactile textures, experiment with cut, silhouette and shape. The collection is designed so that many of the pieces are interchangeable and the wearer has more stylistic control. It was important for me that each garment was strong individually, while also flexible enough to be combined and interact with the others.
SS: What type of man can you see wearing it?
Wouter Baartmans: Menswear reaches a wider and more informed audience these days. Consumers are much more researched in their purchases and wish to have a connection with the garments. For me a piece of clothing must be beautiful and purposeful, it must draw the best from the wearer and reach them, not just on a visual level. I continuously strive to achieve this through intelligent detailing, and combining luxury elements such as fur, silk printed accessories, individually hand beaded shirts, hand knitted jumpers and carefully refined tailored pieces. While always reflective of the past I would also say that I acknowledge the need for innovation and modernity in menswear. I subscribe to being a modern traditionalist. Supporting new designers is vital for the future of fashion, particularly British based and trained designers. It is important for any collection I design to sit comfortably next to other aspiring luxury brands, I am now in the process of setting up a design company, Baartmans and Siegel, of which I am part of a duo design team. While we are extremely new, we always strive to create quality garments and products that use carefully selected materials and build upon luxury.
SS: You were sponsored by both FurLab and Grenson, how receptive were they to your designs and what did they make of the collection as a whole?
Wouter Baartmans: Working with Furlab and Grenson was a fantastic opportunity, both companies are inspiring and were always supportive in the vision and realisation of the collection. Grenson is a long standing British company that specialises in high quality hand-crafted men's shoes, which continues to define excellence in men's footwear. Learning about the process of the creation of the shoes was such an interesting insight to traditional British industry. Furlab is an organisation which sponsors Dutch young designers. It gives students and designers the chance to work in their atelier and understand the art and beauty of sustainable crafted fur. They both enjoyed the show and thought that the pieces we specially developed and created, showcased the strength in British contemporary menswear.
Wouter's collaboration with Grenson produced these breathtaking brogues. I tried them on and ever since my feet have been crying themselves to sleep, missing the stunning combination of leather and suede.
SS: I know this is difficult question to answer but have you got a favourite, anything that you were most proud of?
Wouter Baartmans: It is hard to separate all the elements and components of the collection and choose a piece that is my favourite, but I feel a certain pride when looking at one specific look, the last outfit of the show. The elements within this look really summarises everything I explored and developed, movement, tailoring, colour, luxury, textured fabrics, atmosphere, tailoring and handcraft. Yellow, wool, high waisted trousers, with a black curly short haired mohair-oversized coat, black mink detachable collar, black slim-fit shirt,hand knitted feather lace jumper, brogues and engraved silver collar stays. For me it conjurs up excitement and after all, that is what designing should be about.
SS: Finally, what would you like to achieve in 2010 and beyond?
Wouter Baartmans: I look at 2010 as a year of opportunity. I am keen to continue developing beautiful and relevant menswear in partnership with Amber Siegel, in our company, Baartmans and Siegel. London remains a hub of creativity for new designers, and we hope to continue to have the support of the industry.
Wouter's sketch of the complete show line up.
Detailing and strength of silhouette is key to Wouter Baartmans' design philosophy and I cannot wait to see the beautiful menswear and new form of luxury which is sure to continue during his design partnership with Amber Siegel. Just remember, you heard about Baartmans and Siegel here first.