A sunny Saturday at 2 pm in Soho. It doesn’t really sound like the best day and time to interview someone, right? Wrong. Stefanie arrives at the café we have agreed to meet each other in. She has so much going on in her life that a Saturday afternoon seemed the best option to meet to talk about her life, her career, and her achievements.
Stefanie Tschirky is a 26-year-old Swiss fashion designer who has just graduated from her MA in Womenswear at the Royal College of Art last July. She has twice received the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Womenswear Design (2014 and 2016) given by The Council of Fashion Designers of America, and was a finalist at the International Talent Support (ITS) in 2016.
Stefanie is from a small village called Heiligkreuz, where the fashion industry is not much developed. Even though she had no fashion influence at home, she has always had an interest in the creative field. “I do not know how I ended up in fashion, but I was always the strange one at school. I would change my clothes or ask my mom to sew something together,” says Stefanie. “I have a passion for the three-dimensional shapes and I think that is what fascinated me about fashion.”
She decided to move to London after being advised by her Swiss work colleagues to study in one of the main fashion capitals: Paris, New York, or London. She then applied for a foundation course at Central Saint Martins, which she started in 2010. From there, she did her BA in Fashion Design at Kingston University, graduating in 2014. Afterwards, she entered the Royal College of Art to do her Master’s Degree in the same subject.
Being a student at Kingston University and the Royal College of Art gave her an insight in both the commercial and conceptual sides of the fashion industry. “At RCA you have more freedom, but it’s important to know the commercial side. It was good to have a combination of both methods,” she explains. At Kingston University she worked with major brands such as Nike and Topshop, while at the RCA she was pushed to develop her own identity as a designer.
Modern architecture, mathematics, and physics are some of the main inspirations for Stefanie’s work, which is quite unusual. “I was always drawn to maths; I have always loved the corners, lines, buildings. It was a big fascination,” she says. “I questioned myself: should I study maths or physics, or should I go to arts? Somehow arts were the right decision. I thought I should give it a shot.”
As her final project for her MA, she designed the Fragile Chaos collection. “I really wanted to go deep into the question of finding the perfect line, the perfect silhouette. Would you be able to create the perfect line in the body with the help of maths?” she says. She decided to dig deeper, using both the golden ratio and the chaos theory to support her project, which led her to work with students at Imperial College London. She received help from maths and physics students, but also from a contemporary dancer who had a strong view about beauty and movement. “We had several discussions about all these aspects and how to apply them in fashion. There were a lot of questions about perfection and what does it mean,” she explains. “In an equation, you have the perfect solution because it is the only one that can solve it, but perfection does not exist.”
For this collection, she used cling film and also developed a soft material that looks like a second skin, which helped hold everything together and was used in every piece, but in different ways. “I have always liked to use different materials. It is all about courage to find something new and develop it. You cannot control creativity, you need to follow where it leads you,” she says. Her designs have a strong and powerful image: dresses and bodies that outline women’s shapes creating sculptures. The garments are far from traditional. It is so unique and different from everything else, even the colours have particular tones and brightness due to its material. Her collection was very much well-regarded, being featured on several websites such as Vogue Italia and Dazed, and presented at London Fashion Week this past September at ‘Tomorrow’s Talent’.
Stefanie has recently started to work as assistant designer for Mary Katrantzou and does not really plan her future, “as long as I have freedom of creativity and I am doing what I love that is what matters”. Although she thinks about having her own brand in maybe a few years, she is also realistic about its difficulties. “I would love to have my brand, but at the same time, it is very unstable and it involves so much money”, she states. It does not matter if it is part of a major fashion brand or her own label, Stefanie Tschirky is definitely a name that will be much talked about in the near future around London, since she is not planning to go anywhere else. “I am definitely staying in London for at least one year because of my job and besides that, London is the right place for me now. When you start your new brand, it’s good to be here, you have support and connections, you meet people, and I already have it here.”
Words: Manuela Rio Tinto
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