About Mr Schneider
The Belgian designer Stephan Schneider has long been a favourite of ours at OTHER/shop, but little is known about the elusive man behind the brand. We spent an afternoon with Stephan talking about his work, and to find out what those candles are all about.
The collection this season is called ‘At Both Ends’ What does this mean to you and where did the name come from?
The starting point for this AW13 collection was the idiom ‘Don’t burn the candle at both end’. It is like a motto for my work. To me the most important job as a designer is to focus, concentrate and select the essence … it’s so easy, in fashion, to get distracted from creating garments by collaborations, licenses, catwalk and media fuzz, shooting, etc. It took me some years to come to realise that I should invest my energy in the actual product.
Each season you seem to choose one very strong motive. This season is the candle, what does this symbolise for you?
I am inspired by everyday life. I neither draw inspiration from history nor from the future. I have a fascination with the mass that surrounds us, though fashion should stress individuality and the unique. Everybody I know, once in their life, had bought the Ikea tea-light. To me it is the symbol for overload, but at the same time the candle reflects our hunger for rituals, tradition and celebration. For this season I chose to use this contrast to create a mystic atmosphere of homemade esotericism. To me a garment should reflect humour and spontaneity, and with those characteristics a dead piece of cloth becomes alive. I do not think of fashion as a luxurious status symbol but as garments with an emotion, a story and an atmosphere.
For this season’s look book you teamed up with London-based stylist Robbie Spencer and photographer Ben Toms, choosing to shoot at a typical British council estate location as opposed to the cleanliness of a studio. What was the story behind this and do you identify this collection with London?
The London designers of the eighties, like John Flett and Nick Coleman, made me study fashion, so London is an inspiring city to me. For the shoot, I was searching for a location that contrasts a strong ‘at home’ atmosphere with anonymous roughness … the ‘Eastenders’ classic.
It’s a very concise collection, the menswear and womenswear both sharing fabrics and motifs. When designing the men’s and women’s collections, do you approach them differently or do you see it as a whole?
I see both collections as part of the same design story and approach them with the same basic human aspects like humour, curiosity and vanity.
Although showing the collections in Paris you are based in Antwerp – a relatively small city with a very strongly creative history. What do you think it is about the city that breeds this kind of creative environment?
Belgium is split, with a Flemish speaking and a French speaking part. Antwerp is the cultural capital of Vlaanderen – the flemish part – and has historically attracted all sorts of creative individuals who enjoy authentic quality in food, furniture or fashion. Therefore the level of quality in shops and restaurants is extraordinarily high. At the same time, more than 40 nationalities live in this tiny city. It’s just an hour and a half away from Paris by train, or two and a half hours from London.
The combination of a village size where you can concentrate on your work with a cosmopolitan atmosphere gives a strong energy to the city. In this environment I do not have to convince any sponsors or investors. I can work fully independently without having to make compromises in my design. Designers based in Antwerp are only of a few in the world who can build up their internationally operating companies while keeping their original signature. The phenomenal success of the Antwerp Six proves that there is space in the fashion world for creators with a vision next to all the brands from the luxury industry.
Who is the Stephan Schneider boy/girl, where do you they live, what was the last film they saw and book they read, and what’s in their bag?
The Stephan Schneider boy/girl is 31 years old, drives an olive-coloured vintage Mercedes 200D, has seen all Wes Anderson’s films, reads Heat Magazine when on holiday, carries a half-broken historic Blackberry, and is intellectually gifted but socially inept.
We’re obsessed with all forms of plant life at OTHER/shop right now. What’s your favourite plant?
I have an eggplant bush and a green pepper plant in my apartment which keep on growing. Every weekend it’s harvest festival: this Sunday it was eggplant gratin, next Sunday it’s breaded!