Interview by Veronika Dorosheva
Oscar Schmitto is an emerging fashion designer from Denmark. He has a very special approach to fashion that is inspired by his studies of foreign languages and Greek philosophy, especially the philosophy of Plato. While other designers work with pattern making and developing silhouettes that then they apply to the body, Oscar thinks and creates differently: his starting point is an abstract idea of incompleteness that completes the ready-made garment. He thinks that a circle that was cut out from the front of a t-shirt shouldn’t be perceived as a missing part of the t-shirt, but rather as something that belongs to the garment and completes it.
While designing, Oscar Schmitto focuses on the human body and its proportions rather than on standard sizes and measurements.
Our contributor from Berlin, Veronika Dorosheva, talked to Oscar Schmitto about his upcoming collection, Danish design, the future of fashion and whose work inspires him the most.
Hello Oscar. Please, introduce yourself. What’s your name? Where are you from? How old are you? What do you do in life?
My name is Oscar Schmitto. I am 21 years old, and I am born and raised in Copenhagen, where I also live now. I graduated from high school in 2012 where I studied Latin, Ancient Greek and French. Since then I have developed a fashion design project inspired by Ancient Greece and the philosophy of Plato. In 2013 I spent half a year in Paris, where I studied French at the University of Sorbonne and worked on my designs. There I did a collaboration with a group of French photographers: they took pictures of my designs and I helped them with their projects as a stylist.
Your starting point in fashion is the philosophy of Plato, the Greek philosopher. Could you please introduce this idea to the reader? How do you connect philosophy and fashion?
You know, my studies of the languages and philosophy were all about reading books and learning grammar rules. When I finished studying, I was fed up with learning. I needed a break. So I decided to spend a bit of time traveling in order to empty my mind and to give some space for creative ideas. While I was traveling France and Spain, the idea for the first collection was born. I was excited by the idea of connecting fashion and literature and of taking literature and philosophy as a base for creation of fashion design. Ancient Greece was a perfect source of inspiration to look at because of its rich esthetics developed through architecture, arts and philosophy. With my designs I wanted to see how you can use raw materials and fabrics in order to express a philosophical idea. In my work I try to bring up both the beauty of the garments and materials and the abstract idea behind the collections, something academic that comes from literature and philosophy.
In the manifesto on your website you talk about the body as a piece of jewelry. What do you mean with this? Do you mean that clothes should not only cover and protect the body, but also accentuate and celebrate its beauty?
The most common approach in fashion design is to use the human body as a piece of canvas which means that first the designer creates the garment and then applies it to the body. I want to include the body into the designing process and to take it as a starting point in my design. The shape of the male body should give the idea of how the shapes and the silhouettes of the garment should look like.
The male body fascinates me, because it is able to express power, strength, elegance and beauty at the same time. I think that masculine lines are simpler than feminine ones, yet elegant in their own way.
How does “strangeness” (a feeling of something strange and incomplete) fit into your design work?
“Strangeness” is shown by adding a touch of something incomplete to the clothes. While designing I try to think about classical menswear. For example, we all know the tuxedo. If I have to design a tuxedo, I would think first about the definition of a tuxedo. What makes a tuxedo look like tuxedo. Then I would redesign and change the classic shape by taking out some parts or changing the fabric. For example, I would create a white shirt with only one half of a collar or a classic blazer jacket made of white cotton that it’s usually used for shirts and not for blazers. This incompleteness is very important in my design: it transforms the designs into ready-made garments. You could describe my approach as reinterpretation of the classics.
How did you come into fashion? What was your first fashion experience?
I was interested in fashion since high school and then I volunteered during Copenhagen Fashion Week. That really brought me into fashion. I liked very much that people I met who were working in fashion were very passionate about their jobs and that the fashion industry is always changing and renewing itself.
The work of German fashion designer Esther Perbandt played also a big role in defining my way in fashion: it inspired me to start designing on my own. I visited Esther Perbandt store in Berlin and it was fascinating to hold a garment in the hands and hear the designer herself talking about her creations.
How do you create? What do you start with while working on a collection?
I start with an idea that usually comes very unexpectedly. This is why I always carry a pen and a piece of paper with me. After writing down the idea I start with drawing the raw sketches. I like to draw with coal pens. They give the drawing a beautiful and natural raw texture. After I have finished drawings, I reassure myself that the designs are fitting into my universe which is influenced by the philosophy of Plato.
Please tell me a little bit about the idea behind your last collection. What is its major theme? What did you want to express?
The major idea behind the new collection is still Plato’s philosophy.
The collection features white cotton shirts that are combined with black skirts made of delicate wool. The collection is focused on the deconstruction of a classic suit. This is why I use skirts instead of trousers, but also classic suiting fabrics and elements.
Where do you see your niche on the fashion market? Who is your ideal customer? Who do you design for?
I think that my designs can be interesting for everyone. Probably younger men will be more attracted to my collections though because of the edgy elements that I often use in my creations. I use high quality fabrics and produce only a limited number of garments. It’s a good choice for someone who appreciates quality and craftsmanship, who is curious and is not afraid of pushing borders.
How fashion and art are connected? Is there any connection at all?
Both fashion and art aim to reach out to people and to touch them. They are also a result of an inner feeling or experience of a single person.
I think there is some art elements in my designs, even though is very hard sometimes to draw the borders between fashion and art. I like the idea of a middle point between fashion and art for my creations.
Could you please describe Danish fashion. What are its main characteristics?
First of all, it’s something useful, simple and very elegant, maybe also a bit conservative.
Danish fashion caught a lot of attention of the world’s fashion industry in the past years, because of many young and very talented fashion designers who came from Denmark and presented their work to wider audiences throughout European countries. The Danish fashion industry is a pioneer when it comes to sustainability, responsibility and green fashion. These are the ideas that are about to change the fashion industry worldwide. I also want to be part of this global change towards a better fashion industry.
Where do you see the future of fashion? In mass production/ couture/ sustainability/ biology/ technology? Anything else?
I see the future of fashion first of all in sustainability. The fashion industry in its current state is destroying the environment with overproduction and consumption. But there are many good things happening at the moment and I am sure that the fashion industry will change soon. It has to change now, because it didn’t change at least for the last 30 years. The modern technology can be a great help on the way of great changes in the industry.
Is there any material or item that doesn’t exist yet and you wish it’s existed? Could you describe it or draw it…
Recently I saw many motorbike drivers on the streets of Copenhagen and I got the idea of designing a better and a more fashionable garment for motorbike drivers. I am thinking of something new and fresh, really cool and very well made, something without all these stripes and logos that you usually see on motorbike clothing.
Is there any designer or artist or other living or dead person who inspires you/your work?
There are many designers, artist and authors whose work inspires me. Also a piece of art, a novel or a fashion collection can make me come up with some new ideas.
In particular, I am very fascinated by the work of the Belgian designer Kris Van Assche. His silhouettes are clean, simple, elegant, and well cut. He uses perfectly selected high quality fabrics.
Also the fashion academy in Antwerp is an inspiring place. Many talented designers were trained there, among the others Danish fashion designer Freja Dalsjö.
You only create menswear. Is this decision the part of your concept? Why not womenswear? Could you imagine designing a womenswear collection at some point?
The male body and its proportions are very important for my design approach. Some of the pieces that I design are quite unisex though. When I dress, I never pay attention whether the piece that I am going to wear is womens- or menswear. Actually one of my favourite pieces is formally a dress.
I think it’s more important to know your own body and its proportions, and also to pay attention to yourself and the special features of your body rather than to the standard sizes and to brands.
Yes, I can totally imagine to design a womenswear collection at some point in my career, but right now I would like to focus on developing further what I started with menswear.
Photography by Laurent Nalin & Pernille Sandberg