NOT A QUESTION OF GENDER
Take top notch fabrics like alpaca or wool, then take different shades of orange and red. Add to this a passion for surrealism and you will get Ute Ploier’s AW15 womenswear collection, a collection which promises the perfect outfits for cold weather. Yet Ploier hasn’t always been creating women's clothes. The Vienna-based designer was active for more than a decade in menswear and her collections sold in selected stores everywhere from Europe to the USA and Japan. The designer admits that the transition from menswear to womenswear was full of challenges. We asked Ute about how she sees femininity nowadays and why the Asian clientele is a step ahead of the Europe fashion scene.
Alexandra Vaduva: Why did you choose to be a fashion designer?
Ute Ploier: I was interested in fashion even as a child. After graduating from school I wanted to do something artistic, so I went to London to take courses in graphic design and fashion design. It took me only one day to figure out that it had to be fashion. Afterwards I returned to Vienna as my boyfriend was based there and I started studying at Die Angewandte. I founded my label when I finished my degree.
AV: How did you realize so quickly that you wanted to be in fashion?
UP: What I love so much about it, is that it’s very connected to people. I’m also interested in the psychological aspect of fashion. For me, creating a collection is like staging a theatre play or making your own movie and it’s really fascinating to see your designs in motion. I think this strong, immediate connection between clothes and human beings is why in the end I chose fashion instead of architecture or graphic design.
AW13 “Post Punk”; Photo: Maria Ziegelböck © Ute Ploier.
AV: What is the concept behind your brand? Do you have a main source of inspiration?
UP: I started with menswear and again I believe the psychological effect of fashion is what enticed me. For me, fashion is not about dress codes or rules in our society. My concept is to question these rules and to push them a little bit further in a very subtle way. I prefer subtle twists, both as a private person and as a designer. I’m not a loud person so this is also how I work as a fashion designer.
AV: AW15 was your very first womenswear collection. Can you describe the transition from menswear?
UP: It all came about when I got married. I couldn’t find a wedding dress that I liked, so I thought I should design it myself. At that moment I realized I had been active in menswear for more than 10 years. There are many rules in the pattern construction specific to menswear and this is very challenging, as everything has to be perfect. When creating womenswear, you are more free to work with shapes and draping and for me it was very relaxing. Furthermore, designing womenswear makes me question what I wear so it’s also a personal journey.
AW15 “Ornament and Crime”; Photos by Irina Gavrich, irinagavrich.com
AV: Did you have any difficulties when switching to womenswear?
UP: There are various aspects that need to be considered: it’s a different market, you have to find different manufacturers, also to some extent you have to work with slightly different materials and you need to find different ways of finishing garments. It’s challenging.
AV: From now on, do you plan to design both women’s and men’s clothes?
UP: Yes, I would like to combine both. But I’m also working as a teacher and freelance designer so I will have to stay very focused in order to do 4 or 6 collections per year.
AV: Both your AW15 and SS16 womenswear collections make use of different shades of red. In your view, is this a colour that defines femininity?
UP: I like to use exciting materials and colours. In the AW15 collection there are fluo orange alpaca skirts among lots of greys and browns. I’ve always been interested in surrealism and for me, the juxtaposition of these elements is very surrealistic and also sensual. I think this womenswear line is about finding a way towards sensuality and intellectuality. It’s made for women who don’t like to adapt to every clichéd society.
SS16; Photos: Irina Gavrich
AV: Along these lines, how do you see the woman of the 21st century and what are her needs when it comes to clothing?
UP: I think women nowadays are fast and very mobile. It’s different from the image we had in the 80s, where women tried to dress like men or to imitate them. Women are finding their own way between femininity and masculinity. It’s a question of how each of us chooses to balance it.
AV: A few years back, you mentioned in an interview that most of your clientele comes from abroad, especially from Japan. Is this still the case or has the market changed?
UP: Yes, it’s still the case for menswear. I still have to test and see how Austrian women will react to my womenswear collections. But in general, the Asian market is still the biggest market for this category of design.
AV: How would you describe the Asian market?
UP: They have a very different approach to fashion. Japanese men are willing to spend more money on fashion and they are more interested in clothes Especially what materials are concerned – they appreciate 100% natural fibres that feel good on the skin. They don’t believe so much in rules saying which clothes are feminine and masculine. There’s more cross-dressing there but unlike in Europe, it doesn’t have a sexual aspect. Most of the times, clothes in Japan don’t say anything about the sexual orientation. People are just more liberal and I think this is why a lot of European designers have a bigger clientele there.
SS13 “Lost Angeles”; Photo: Maria Ziegelböck © © Ute Ploier
AV: Where do the materials come from and where do you produce your clothes?
UP: I produce everything in Europe. Knitwear is produced in Italy, Serbia, or Austria. Shirts are made in Hungary or Lithuania. I use many Austrian materials, especially for winter. Scottish mohair and waxed cotton come from the UK. The digital printing is done in the Netherlands and I also use many Italian fabrics because they usually have great textures.
AV: What do you like about Vienna? What inspires you here?
UP: Vienna is a quiet city, very green and tolerant. It has a good atmosphere in which my daughter can grow up. In comparison, Paris is too crowded and noisy. Vienna has an interesting mix between old culture and new trends, also the music scene and theatres are more interesting here.
SS11 “Nightswimmer”; Photo: Jork Weismann © Ute Ploier
AV: What do you like to do in your free time?
UP: If I have time I usually meet friends for dinner or go to a bar. I used to go out clubbing but I don’t have time now anymore. What I enjoy now is a calm evening with friends, sometimes in a traditional Austrian restaurant.
AV: Do you have any future plans?
UP: I am focusing on a long-term project. I want to set up a showroom here in my studio and also to open an online store.
Ute Ploier's creations can be purchased in selected stores around Europe, USA and Japan. For more information about Ute and her collections, visit her official website.