Melitta Baumeister Spring 2017 Ready-to-Wear Paris Fashion Week
After three years of constructing innovative garment shapes from industrial materials, Melitta Baumeister has finally made a collection that no longer feels so intimidating. This season marks a turning point for the New York–based designer, whose steadfast approach to stiff volumes has quite likely restricted her from achieving a level of recognition that reflects both her technical skill and her strong point of view. Baumeister stopped short of crediting her retail-friendlier offering to her experience as a short-listed nominee for this year’s LVMH Prize, although she allowed that the feedback was duly noted. Her motivation came from her own Tumblr page upon realizing she could materialize the bold title and the photos (taken by longtime collaborator Paul Jung) into a meta-print. Arriving at a “signature coat” based on her digital presence showed savvy control of her identity.
Creating pieces that no longer put up a wall between wearer and the world was the key to her evolution, though. As she singled out all the newness, from a puff-sleeved sheath that she described as “very lady” to her interpretation of a gray sweatsuit (boxy hoodie, rounded front-pleated pants), her designs seemed simultaneously more accessible and mature. She attained her familiar volumes—oversize T-shirt dresses, A-line trousers, deep double-V smocks—using comparatively lighter materials such as starchy taffeta, bouncy jersey, and poplin, so that her visual vocabulary remained unaltered. A raw cotton jean jacket with flattened sleeves that coaxed the arms toward the chest offered further proof that she hadn’t betrayed herself, even while she flirted with surface detail for a slinky white double-sided sequined dress (the pattern turns black when the dress is reversed). As for the ubiquitous grayscale tattoos, she photocopied and reworked an old flower image—and, yes, they’re temporary. But Baumeister plans to produce them like an accessory as “a way of using print to dissolve the boundary between the garment and the body.” Previously she had avoided all branding; now she’s branding herself directly onto you.