We sit down for a lengthly chat with the Austrian menswear designer who has deftly been paving her way through tactile collections.
The unorthodox grandeur of Austrian designer Ute Ploier’s most recent collections has not only confirmed her meticulous eye for form and fabric but her status as a designer who moves beyond the creation of merely serviceable clothing. Dealing with male archetypes – boxers or gentlemanly craftsmen – Ploier’s assuredly masculine garments are made, and her stories told, with the utmost respect and precision. Ploier spoke with Dazed Digital in Paris regarding the psychology of her clothing, their providence and the processes of their creation – and meeting the designer was not entirely unlike discovering a long-lost member of the family.
Dazed Digital: So there are these important developments that I can see in your clothing – from the beginning, there seems to be this increasing attention to tailoring. Is this just because you are able to create a collection, study it and develop again?
Ute Ploier: I really like sculptures, I’m really into art, and I think it’s so beautiful if you see a suit jacket that is so well-made that it stands by itself – so that it’s like a small sculpture itself – and I think that’s fascinating. I mean, they say that to become a perfect tailor you need about twenty years, so I still have some years ahead of me but I’m trying as best I can.
DD: Understanding the human body in that way seems almost unfathomable to me. Is tailoring as important for you as the textiles and their development? I’ve always had the impression that is a key part of it for you.
Ute Ploier: I think it’s equal. I’m really always taking great care with the selection of the fabrics and also I think that to understand by collection you have to touch it, because I think it’s like a second skin, a piece of clothing, so I go to great effort to make a man who wears my clothes to feel comfortable and sensual.
DD: Well, it’s important because you’re sculpturing things around us. Well, men.
Ute Ploier: No, actually – Andrea [Ploier’s press agent] has one of my jackets! What you wear around you is an environment and I believe it has a psychological effect. Whatever you put on in the morning will make you feel different things and for me, the psychology is a very important factor.
DD: With this collection, what were you trying to make a man feel?
Ute Ploier: For me, it’s the sensual-man-machine.
DD: I’m sure in German there’s one word for all of that. Such a succinct language.
Ute Ploier: [laughing] Not really! Nowadays men spend a lot of time working and we say that a man is married to his work. And on the other hand many people’s work has become so abstract. They’re just part of the process, they just produce some small part of the product or they work with numbers. So for the research, I went to look at tools that men used to use for crafts like glass-blowing or when you form iron.
DD: When it comes to the tailoring, was this idea of craftsmanship and producing something with your own hands part of this idea?
Ute Ploier: Yeah, exactly – it was not about one specific craft but it was about craftsmanship as a whole.
DD: Tell me about the materials – I’m so curious to find out what that white mesh scarf fabric is made out of. Is it mohair?
Ute Ploier: Yes, yes – it’s mohair! We had a manufacturer in Scotland. I work a lot with fabrics in the United Kingdom – this mohair but also a lot of the wool. Everything in the collection is from the United Kingdom and Italy and some of it’s from Austria, actually.
DD: Do you feel like you had an aesthetic before you studies that is still part of the clothing, or was it something that developed after?
Ute Ploier: No, I think it was there before and now it is refined. University was more for the practical side and seeing how to get your point across. The way I think about a collection hasn’t really changed.
DD: Do you think that creating these sculptures for the body is the main way you push ideas and expressions out of yourself? Or are there other things that you do? Are you secretly a painter, Ute?
Ute Ploier [laughing]: No, no – maybe an abstract painter but I’m very bad at painting. To me, it’s a lot about creating images. It’s very close to making movies. I work a lot with male archetypes that I mix or analyse or deconstruct and recreate, but the psychological sculpturing: that is the second thing that is important for me.
DD: Who do you think the Ute Ploier man is – the one who is in every collection?
Ute Ploier: I think it would be somebody who definitely has a sense of humour and who would be happy to step out of a dress code or cliché with the clothes he wears. That’s also an idea behind my collections – I try to liberate with my work and give a wider choice. With my clothes, you don’t have to belong to one group.
DD: Are you creating for yourself with your menswear, or are you not seeing something that you want for them to have?
Ute Ploier: I think it is this approach – maybe it is a kind of service. But then I also have my own fantasies and I wouldn’t design clothing that I wouldn’t want to see men wear. That could be very, very bad.
Ute Ploier has designed a collection for Topman that will be available this September.