Working with a futuristic yet minimalist approach, Laura Petzke crafts clean looks with an otherworldly feel. “Confluence”, a collection created as part of a university project, is an ideal expression of Laura’s work, telling a story of a time traveller going through various times and places and picking up influences along the way. Still a student, Laura used this collection to branch out from her typically wearable, sportier work. Schön! caught up with Laura to explore “Confluence” and hear what she has planned for the future.
You did an internship in the Iris van Herpen atelier. What did you learn from that experience?
Indeed! During my time at Iris van Herpen, I experienced the creative evolution of an Haute Couture collection. I was deeply involved in the sewing and creative process of the SS20 Sensory Seas collection. My responsibilities ranged from material research to stitching toiles, reaching out to various companies, assisting a photoshoot, working on final dresses, and finally assisting and working backstage at Haute Couture Paris Fashion Week.
The internship taught me a lot! Not only did I improve my stitching skills and gain new techniques, but I also figured out that there is no limit when it comes to creating certain shapes and textures. It’s all a matter of research and running tests until you get the final result.
I was given a lot of trust and responsibility since the day I arrived. As I had never worked at a fashion company before, I felt the pressure of fulfilling the team’s expectations and not make any mistakes. However, I quickly understood that the key is to have confidence and faith in my own skills and trust that I was given the position for a reason. Over time my tasks and responsibilities grew, which positively impacted my ability to work in a team.
During those six months, I experienced some intense and stressful moments. Though, with every obstacle I had to face, I learned to be proud of myself for being able to handle them professionally and to appreciate what I was able to create in such a short space of time.
Looking back, I can say that I got a pretty good insight into how a company is built. As a student at university, you’re rather isolated from the tough daily work routine, making decisions and taking responsibility for your team. My perspective on the fashion industry has become much more realistic.
The internship also inspired me to take a look at the artistic side of fashion. Ever since I was a kid, I was very passionate about drawing and everything creative and artistic. When I first started my fashion design studies, I was very focused on wearable fashion but once I saw the innovative pieces at IvH, I remembered why I started – I was in it for art.
You’re currently a student. How have you seen your approach to design change since you first entered university?
When I first entered university in 2017, I didn’t know too much about the fashion industry itself. Of course, fashion always excited me but as I mentioned before, my true passion was art.
During the first 3 semesters, I learned all about the classic pattern making, which led me to start with wearable fashion. Luckily I had excellent teachers in pattern making, tailoring, and concept development, which I am very grateful for. It seemed to be quite industrial and not too creative in the beginning but it was definitely the right way for me to acquire all the basics first.
When I take a look back to my first collection I remember thinking – it would be nice to be able to wear it myself so it has a purpose. The purpose of clothing. However, the more time went by, the further I wanted to detach myself from that idea. If I kept on creating clothes that I’d wear every day, they would never be unique. Even though I enjoyed working on commercial garments I was curious to explore what else was out there. So once I got rid of the thought of wanting to wear it myself, I was able to observe it from a whole new perspective. Finally, I treated it like art. Thanks to my internship at Iris van Herpen I was able to reflect on certain things and to realise, which path is the right one for me to follow.
Ever since I can remember, I enjoyed working with futuristic, yet minimalistic features. Furthermore, I usually go with a clean and not too vibrant colour-palette to keep the focus on the pattern. Everything should match each other to create a coherent picture. This has pretty much been my aesthetic since I started to study fashion design. Of course, my approach to design has changed a bit throughout this journey but the basic components have always been the same. The challenge for me was to break free from the norm and create something different – something personal.
In contrast to my first year in university, I know exactly where I’m standing now. I found my aesthetic in terms of style, colour, and concept by asking myself – how can I improve? Is there a feature I would I use again and what do I not like anymore? What can I do better next time? My goal within every collection is to show a different side of me but to maintain my personal aesthetic. This has been the main realisation of my fashion design studies so far but I’m always looking forward to gaining new inspirations and further development.
You say these pieces are influenced by different global cultures. What research went into preparing these works?
For this semester’s collection, we were given the task to search for traditional clothing features from different cultures all around the globe.
During my research, I came across various interesting cultures and I was very curious to learn about their habits and traditions. After looking at specific clothing characteristics, their colours, shapes, accessories, and also their occasions for wearing, I have made some pretty interesting discoveries.
We were told to choose just a single culture but with all these options in mind, it was hard for me to decide. In addition to this, I didn’t feel comfortable choosing only one country because of the “cultural appropriation” debate. Every piece of clothing, every tradition has its very own meaning. For that reason, preserving and respecting the original cultural identities was something to be taken care of. I tried to avoid copying the obvious traditional clothing features such as embroideries or colourful ornaments, so I wouldn’t turn them into costumes.
Considering that, I decided to pick out two cultures. Not just various ones – but specifically two cultures with very controversial temper and appearing. By doing so, I discovered a way to challenge myself to create something new and at the same time contribute to each party. Today’s world is ready for cultural variety, mixing cultures, sharing traditions with each other, and meeting new people all over the world.
With that in mind, I went with these very controversial countries: Japan and Panama. To illustrate the merging of these two populations, I have chosen the name “Confluence”.
Thinking of the famous Kimono, traditional Japanese clothing is characterised by a clear, straight cut, which does not allow natural body curves and follows a strict line. On the Panama side, we have the traditional Pollera – a wide, loosely cut dress with many layers, which is accentuated at the waist and decorated with many ornaments. The longer I thought about the great diversity of these groups, the more intensively I dealt with the theme “contrast”. Wouldn’t a “Japan collection” be the exact opposite of a “Panama Collection”?
At this point I was asking myself – Would it be possible to unite Japan and Panama and still be able to filter out the individual parties? Meaning to develop a collection with both straightforward, as well as wide and loose cuts, calm but still passionate, settled but still eye-catching. This working process aimed to find a good centre between two completely different clothing groups. Elements from both parties were equally considered and incorporated into the same outfits.
To include their traditions and beliefs besides reinterpreting specific clothing features, I planned on combining the Panamanian accessories with the famous Japanese cherry blossom. Both symbolise beauty and enrichment. My personal goal for this collection was to draw inspiration from different population groups without copying their identities. Due to a detailed research, Japan’s and Panama’s traditional clothing features served as a source of inspiration, and were being newly reinterpreted and converted into futuristic elements.
You mentioned that you’re working toward potentially making your own brand. What else do you have envisioned for the future?
Yes, that’s right. I am working toward potentially making my own brand one day. In this industry, it is very hard to get a job after university so in my opinion, it’s never too early to start working on your references.
Nobody knows what the future holds but at least I want to be prepared. It seemed reasonable for me to invest the time while I’m still studying to work on my social media account, presenting my latest creations. Most people think it’s an existing brand already, but I rather look at it as an online portfolio. You never know who might see it the next day and possibly be interested in a collaboration.
After my BA next year, I would like to apply for another internship. There is still so much for me to learn and I would be thrilled to get a better understanding of how other companies are working – maybe remark some in-house differences to what I have seen already.
Subsequently, I am planning on doing my Master’s degree in fashion design. Before starting my own business, I would prefer to be employed in a bigger company first. Getting a good insight into work life, being aware of the possible risks, and in general being more experienced will be my next destination.
It would be a dream to be running my own label one day but for now, I’m trying to be realistic. We live in a very difficult time, and I feel like from an economical point of view it would be impossible to set up my own business right now. However, I hope that I will have the chance to do so in the future.
photography. Marcelo De Souza Moraes
design, tailoring, creative direction + retouch. Laura Petzke
models. Jasmin Sonko, Kiliano Lucas Ribeiro + Rosalynd Koch
hair. Athina-Aphrodite Galanisz
make up. Sophia Schneider
fashion assistant. Selim Bostanci
photography assistant. Vincenzo Rampino