Fashion in Vienna:

FAIRTRADE FUTURISM

Interview with ROEE
December 3, 2015

ROEE stands for avant-garde garments where cuts and colour ranges seem directly imported from science-fiction movies. Rene Pomberger, the design mastermind behind ROEE, met Michael Mairhofer at a party by chance and the two started working on their label just one year later. Yet the cold, neutral tones that usually encapsulate their collections don’t have very much in common with their personalities. We met in the early morning hours at WIRR and the two Vienna-based creatives were already energetic and radiating positivity. Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast? Certainly not!

Alexandra Vaduva: Rene, how did you discover your passion for textiles?

Rene Pomberger: It was a long process that started when I was a child. I loved drawing comic figures and the more I drew, the more elaborate their costumes became. That is what led me to fashion design. Later on, I studied at the technical school for fashion in Wiener Neustadt (Höhere Lehranstalt für Mode). I am originally from Styria but I decided to come to Vienna after finishing my studies, because if you want to do something creative in Austria, there’s certainly no better place than Vienna. I worked for three years for a fashion company, Pionier, before deciding to become self-employed.

AV: What were the first steps when founding your label?

Michael Mairhofer: At the beginning, it was merely a free project of ours, but somehow we slid more and more into this world of fashion. Many credits go to Jenny, a good friend of ours who used to help out during photo shootings. She knew a photographer from Barcelona and at one point, he came to visit her in Vienna. After seeing some of Rene’s pieces, he asked us whether he could have them for an editorial. Up to then, I had not actually realised how creative and talented Rene is.

RP: He didn’t believe me at all when I told him I can design clothes (laughs).

MM: Indeed, I knew he could sew and stuff, but I didn’t imagine how incredibly talent he actually is. So somehow, one step led to the other. Rene quit his job and I understood how important it was to focus on our label. The first collection was a massive success. Right afterwards we participated in the first design fairs and in 2014 we registered our company.

Fashion ROEE, Photographer Isabella Abel,

Fashion ROEE, Photographer Isabella Abel, hair & make up Jenny Bladek, models Thomas Amon, Sigrid Renner 

AV: Michael, how would you define your responsibilities at ROEE?

MM: I am in charge of the office work, mostly sales and coordinating our presence at fashion and design fairs.

RP: He is also in charge of setting certain limits to my designs when they become too avant-garde. He’s constantly reminding me that we don’t only need showpieces, we also have to make basic pieces that we can actually sell (laughs).

MM: He would sometimes show me drafts and all I can think of is how difficult it would be to sell them. But we almost always meet halfway.

RP: It works like this: you have to create clothes that catch the attention of the press, but you must also serve the masses. People need everyday clothes they can wear at the office. Cutting-edge pieces are mostly used for editorials.

AV: I find your clothes rather unisex, although at the moment you sell them as womenswear. Do you plan to design menswear as well?

RP: Indeed. The SS16 collection will also feature very unisex cuts. I find creating avant-garde menswear a bit more complicated than womenswear, because wearability is even more limited than for women’s clothes. But we will surely bring out a men’s line in the future. 

Fashion ROEE, Photographer Isabella Abel

Fashion ROEE, Photographer Isabella Abel, hair & make up Jenny Bladek, models Thomas Amon, Sigrid Renner 

AV: What is the one piece you have in your wardrobes that every other man should have?

RP: It’s all a matter of taste because we mostly buy our clothes in women’s departments - and I don’t mean dresses, but rather loose, oversized basic shirts. I find men’s departments boring.

AV: The description on your website mentions ROEE stands for “extraordinary” cuts. How do you achieve these “extraordinary” patterns?

RP: I have broad experience in pattern making and this is actually my favorite part of fashion design. I draw and I experiment a lot, so that is how these extraordinary, elaborate patterns are born.

AV: Did you learn any of these skills during your studies at the technical school for fashion or did you discover most tricks while working alone?

RP: First of all, you have to fulfill some premises, like being extremely creative and having good geometry skills. Of course, one can learn it, but for me it was always very easy because I was always good at geometry and I have a highly developed sense of spatial awareness. Also, I have always found pattern making very easy and could always imagine how the patterns will look like when transformed into pieces of clothing.

Fashion ROEE, Photographer Isabella Abel,

Fashion ROEE, Photographer Isabella Abel, hair & make up Jenny Bladek, models Thomas Amon, Sigrid Renner 

AV: What are the fabrics that characterize ROEE?

RP: I am convinced that natural fabrics work best for our basic pieces because of ecological reasons and also due to their comfort. However, our showpieces are usually made of more special materials.

AV: Aren’t these special materials usually synthetic?

RP: Indeed, but showpieces are usually single items and I believe this justifies using synthetic fabrics every so often. Synthetics have a much higher shine than natural fabrics and that makes the outfits an eye-catcher on the catwalk.

AV: Your collections seem almost teleported from science fiction sceneries. Do you see any parallels between SF and fashion design?

RP: Definitely, I am very much into Star Wars and Star Trek and it also has to do with having drawn many comic figures as a child. I loved experimenting with different outfits for the figures in my drawings, so this is what initially led me to do fashion design.

MM: We always leave our imagination run riot at fashion shootings and we like to make everything look very futuristic.

AV: How do you imagine the future of fashion design?

RP: There will be many new materials created, also biodegradable synthetic fabrics, which will change the clothing industry a great deal.

MM: Somehow, it is very hard to define where fashion is heading to at the moment. If you look at it from an international point of view, there are no more trends nowadays. Fashion repeats itself very often these days and all in all it has become faster. This is characteristic for the way we live our lives in the 21st century.

Fashion ROEE, Photographer Isabella Abel,

Fashion ROEE, Photographer Isabella Abel, hair & make up Jenny Bladek, models Thomas Amon, Sigrid Renner 

AV: Where does the production of your clothes take place?

MM: We do the prototypes ourselves, but because Austrian law does not allow fashion designers to produce the clothes themselves – you need to have passed a special exam (“Meisterprüfung”) to do so. We outsourced the production of our clothes to a small company in Bratislava. There are only 8 seamstresses who work there and the owner takes care that they do not have to deal with work overload. That means they are even allowed to cancel certain projects if they are too busy. The whole process works great and we are happy to know that ROEE clothes are made by happy seamstresses.

AA: Where is ROEE heading to next and what are your future plans?

MM: Our plan is to become known internationally and to show our collections at the New York Fashion Week. One has to set high goals. (laughs) We also plan to create a bridal line.

RP: We have many different plans, but usually things change during the process. We either meet new people with which we start new collaborations, or we just find new ways of doing things. In the end it all works out.

AV: Should we expect wedding gowns in the typical avant-garde ROEE style?

RP: Yes, we will stay true to our style. Of course there will be an accessible segment as well, but we will go all the way up to offering customisable, high-end wedding gowns. I believe one is free to experiment more when it comes to wedding dresses.

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As of next year, ROEE will be offering made-to-measure items as well. Until then, you can find their collections online or in Vienna’s 7th district in Dock 7 concept store.

 

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Dock 7
Kirchengasse 43
1070 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 5220109