Last time Schön! spoke to Laura Petzke, she had just debuted “Confluence” — an otherworldly series of futuristic looks. Today, Schön! sat with Petzke again to discuss her new series, “Elements”, an avant garde-influenced collection based on the four fundamental elements.
Last time we spoke, you had just presented “Confluence”. How do you think you’ve changed as a designer since then?
Even though it’s been just a few months since the last time we spoke, I have gained more clarity towards my design signature and the direction of style. With every collection, I am trying to reflect upon my previous work whilst asking myself – What would I do differently if I had to redo it? Usually, there are quite a few things I would change in retrospect, but that’s not a bad sign; on the contrary, it’s a sign of personal development, which brings me one step closer to where I want to be. Thinking back to my “Confluence” collection, it taught me a lot. It was my first time working more abstractly and experimentally. I especially enjoyed working on the silver kimono, which contained quite an unusual shape and a shiny surface. Thereby, I discovered my passion for expressive silhouettes and special materials, and I then got to present in an Haute Couture collection. However, this time I wanted to try out something new by choosing a mixture of ready-to-wear and avant-garde garments. With that being said, I am pleased to present you my ELEMENTS collection.
What inspired your most recent collection?
The diversity of human characteristics has always fascinated me, regardless of being in a private friend/family group or at work/school. I kept researching to find answers on why some people act in certain ways that others do not. The concept of perception is so unique and yet some specific traits appear to repeat themselves naturally. Through a dear friend, I learned the basics of astrology, which have nothing to do with fortune-telling or anything supernatural, as some might suggest. It is more about analysing human characteristics. The more I dealt with it, the better I could understand other people‘s behaviours and perceptions, which lead me to have a higher acceptance and thus better communication towards others.
So when I thought about which theme to choose for my Bachelor’s thesis, I didn‘t have to think twice. Therefore, the collection’s theme is based on specific human characteristics assigned to the four elements of astrology. Above all, the aim is to filter these existing traits and to transform their habits into wearable fashion pieces. My goal is not to classify people, the outfits merely reflect specific personalities in their purest existence. Usually, every human contains a certain percentage of each element (each characteristic) inside of them. However, this percentage is always different, which makes each person an individual.
How did you approach each element — fire, water, air and earth — differently? What guided your vision?
Overall, it was my goal to represent the existing elements — fire, water, earth and air — with abstract shapes to recreate the pure expression of each character. The collection contains 5 outfits with 15 pieces in total. Every outfit is based on a specific element, while the fifth outfit represents a combination of all elements. Even though every outfit is considered individual, all of them share a similar style regarding abstract shapes, light colours and overall a clean and minimalistic aesthetic. Key elements like gleaming surfaces and experimental patterns are the main focus. In order to be able to choose the right key features for each outfit, I had to deeply dive into astrology to fully understand the feeling that each element is meant to bring across.
The first look embodies the most dominant of all elements: fire. The element of fire is represented in the zodiac through Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. Like fire itself, fire signs tend to be passionate, dynamic, and temperamental. This element symbolises pure energy, power, and strength, which contain both creative and destructive traits. This look is all about expressing confidence. Therefore, to guarantee a dominant and fierce appearance, the shoulders are in focus as they are the decisive part of the body. This impression is additionally enhanced by a slim waist, straight cuts and striking, luminous materials.
Intuitive, emotional, and ultra-sensitive — water signs can be as mysterious as the ocean itself. The element of water is represented in the zodiac through Pisces, Cancer and Scorpio. Like water, they can be refreshing, or they can drown into their depths. Water signs are submerged in their surroundings, often sensing the hidden emotional reality. This element can be dramatic and attached but symbolises purity, empathy, and imagination at the same time. The appearance of this look is intended to be soft and fragile. Similar to water, the fabric is fluid and shimmery with no stability. It moves around and changes its shape constantly.
Earth signs are considered to be the “grounded” people of the planet who embrace hard work, commitment and truth. The element of Earth is represented in the zodiac through Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn. They take pride in their discipline and their reliable reputations. Like the Earth’s ground, these signs embody stability. They symbolise ambition, security, strength, and maturity. To emphasise the strong and ambitious appearance of this look, the shoulders are accentuated, supported by a slim waist and long legs. Precise and detailed patterns with several earth tones are the focus.
Air is the element of the mind, represented in the zodiac through Aquarius, Gemini and Libra. Air signs are all about action, ideas, and motion — they are the “winds of change”. Air signs also require extensive freedom of movement in order to express their ideas and individuality. Furthermore, they embody transformation, lightness, and creativity, which lead them to be curious and open-minded, but simultaneously detached and unavailable. This look is all about transparency. With a loose fit and transparent materials, it matches the air sign’s open-minded and transparent personality. The cuts are simple, yet innovative since the outfit can be worn by women and men to express the element’s mutability.
You also mention a “hybrid”. What does being a hybrid mean, both to you and to this collection?
The general definition of a hybrid would be a mixture of two parties, but for me and my collection I thought of it as a mixture of all elements composed as one piece. Each element presents itself as a part of integrity, whereas the “hybrid” symbolises the unity of all elements, thus all human characteristics. Its dominant shape can be associated with fire, the precision and detailed composition is connected to Earth, the luminous shine is reminiscent of water and the androgynous wearability is related to the changeability of air. Each element plays an important role in nature to create life on this planet. If one of the four elements were missing, life on Earth would not be possible. Only together they can work as a system.
Your looks tend to be rather futuristic. What about this idea of ‘imagining the future’ do you think you find so provocative?
When I think of futuristic fashion, I don’t necessarily picture fashion in the future to look like my designs. It’s the otherworldly feel which makes it exciting for me and the urge to create something new, something unpredictable. It wouldn’t fulfil me the same way to recreate basic pieces that are already on-trend worldwide. I enjoy discovering the unknown and giving my own interpretation of it. I’m sure everyone has a different perception of reality and also of how the future might look. But when I think of the term “futuristic,” I don’t picture 50 years from now, I imagine a time that I won’t get to experience because it will be far past my lifetime. I can only assume what life then will be like, but I’ll never actually be able to predict it and that’s what makes it interesting to me. It’s up to everyone’s own imagination. Nevertheless, our world is driven by technology and it keeps developing day by day. It makes sense to assume that this will continue into the future, which leads my association of futuristic design to the concept of technology. Therefore, it holds a clean and minimalist aesthetic, abstract shapes, and metallic colours. It appears to be striking, yet controlled and overall innovative. What’s so provocative to me is the thought of breaking free from the norm and delivering expression through unusual silhouettes.
What has been inspiring you recently?
Personally, I take inspiration from a lot of things, not just from social media, fashion trends, or runway shows. It’s more about the people that I surround myself with, who share the same positive mindset as me. It’s the energy they pass on, which causes me to feel happy and lightweight. Under this aspect, I feel the most creative and inspired. Nevertheless, everyone has to deal with stressful moments – so do I. In that case, I try to remind myself of my goals for the future and how to achieve them. Speaking for myself, the best strategy to cut out negativity is by focussing on work and a positive outcome. As I have dealt extensively with human characteristics for my Bachelor’s thesis, I have noticed the grand diversity of personalities and the impacts they have on each other. Keeping in mind that nobody is fully in charge of their own personality, it has been inspiring for me to witness the impact that some people have on myself and how it makes me feel.
What’s next for Laura Petzke?
That’s a good question. The next big step would definitely be to apply for my Master’s degree in fashion design. Unfortunately, I feel like making immediate plans can be rather difficult due to the restrictions of the pandemic — so for now I am planning on having a little break from university and spending some time working on my own projects. The free time will be a great opportunity to fully concentrate on my portfolio and to provide a better understanding of my design methodology on social media. Unlike being a student, I will be able to create my own tasks with no actual time limit, which might be beneficial in further developing myself and my own signature. Besides that, I really enjoy creating new concepts and teaching myself new skills in terms of graphic design and photography. Of course, fashion design will always be my main focus, nevertheless, I like to discover different perspectives since I am a curious and inquisitive person. Hopefully, by next year I will be able to start my Master’s degree in presence. Until then I am going to use the time wisely to do what I love most – creating.
Follow Laura Petzke on Instagram.
photography. Marcelo De Souza Moraes
fashion, design, tailoring + retouch. Laura Petzke
models. Jasmin Sonko, Kiliano Lucas Ribeiro, Rosalynd Koch + Vanessa Appiah
hair. Athina-Aphrodite Galanisz
make up. Sophia Schneider
assistants. Rosalynd Koch, Selim Bostanci + Vincenzo Rampino
location. ALL WHITE STUDIO
shoes, jewellery + accessories. Asos, Zalando + La Hera