“I felt very intrigued by the idea of getting to know one’s mind more and analyse your reactions to experiences,” says René Scheibenbauer of his cerebral approach to fashion design
- What is it? Central Saint Martins graduate René Scheibenbauer, whose label explores the psychological relationship we have with clothing
- Why do I want it? Scheibenbauer works directly with dancers and performers to establish what they feel comfortable and attractive in; his beautifully cut pieces are made accordingly
- Where can I get it? Zen Source Clothing in Tokyo or made to order through his website
What is it? When Austrian designer René Scheibenbauer moved to London to study at Central Saint Martins, the stresses of big-city living began to get to him. “I started to experience a lot of anxiety, especially around the industry,” he tells AnOther. To deal with it, he began meditating and found the practice to be invaluable. During his placement year – a year of study during which you are required to work within the fashion industry – he decided to explore meditation more thoroughly, and to meet others who practise regularly. “I felt very intrigued by the idea of getting to know one’s mind more and analyse your reactions to experiences,” he explains; in the months that followed, he set out to explore this concept through his own practice of designing and making clothes.
In 2017, when researching for his final collection at Central Saint Martins – titled Empathy, Connection, Play – he held workshops with friends in which they were blindfolded and asked to dress themselves without being able to see what they were doing. The focus was on how they felt in the clothes rather than what they looked like. From this he designed transformable, playful garments, like the ‘Interactive Suit Jacket’ which, when unzipped at the back, reveals an abstract shape which can be worn as an accessory or a skirt.
For Scheibenbauer, the purpose of his work is to understand himself and the world around him more clearly. “I was interested in working with something like an interconnected consciousness,” he says of his communal approach to design. “I don’t want to take my own single vision as absolute but want to be attentive to my surroundings.”
Most recently, Scheibenbauer has released a capsule of his second collection Phase II – Empathy, Reconnection, Play – first shown at London Fashion Week in September 2019 – which continues the ideas he was exploring when creating the mainline collection. The capsule features images of the sky which he has been working with since 2017, using them as references for the collection’s colours. To Scheibenbauer it’s all metaphorical: “The sky can act as a strong reminder of being part of something much larger, so I decided to actually bring these images onto the surface of my work.”
Why do I want it? Although Scheibenbauer has a cerebral approach to design, his eponymous label remains accessible. He was formally trained in pattern cutting and sewing at the Fashion Institute Vienna, meaning he understands the process of making clothes, and fitting them on the body, more than the average recently graduated designer. In fact, when he began his degree at Central Saint Martins in 2013, he was surprised at the lack of technique among the other students – in the years that followed, though, he learned to loosen up and combine his formal training with Saint Martins’ more improvisatory approach.
Now, with his own label, these two approaches are combined: his work is both intensely creative and beautifully constructed. For this capsule, Scheibenbauer has started exploring materials in more depth. In part, this came from necessity: he works from home in Lewisham in a studio-cum-conservatory which began to leak as he was making the collection. “I had to move my stuff around all the time so it didn’t get wet,” he says. Finally, he got fed up. His solution was to work with a beeswax-coated, water-repellent Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton. As well as being eco-friendly, the beeswax preserves a sweet scent similar to that of honey.
In this fabric he’s designed trousers which can be altered to become shorts, prolonging the life and doubling the purpose of the garment; several other pieces can be similarly transformed to be worn in different ways. He says that each collection emerges from the world around him, and his own experiences – as well as the various dancers and peformers who try out his designs. The lookbook for the capsule, shot by Matt Moran, features each of Scheibenbauer’s performers in front of their own home, reminding us that the most important part of the work is the human element. “I don’t really work with direct references,” he says. “I’m inspired by human connection, everyday experiences and observation.”
Where can I get it? Zen Source Clothing in Tokyo or made to order through his website.