Victress in Color
German powerhouse designer Sanna Schubert only recently stepped foot from the classroom to the industry – and has since taken her vibrant, gender norm-defying garments to the frontlines of fashion’s emerging talents. Recently, the Polimoda Collection Design alumna took first place in the student category of the Rebelpin Fashion Awards by ACTE, a fashion competition aimed …
German powerhouse designer Sanna Schubert only recently stepped foot from the classroom to the industry – and has since taken her vibrant, gender norm-defying garments to the frontlines of fashion’s emerging talents. Recently, the Polimoda Collection Design alumna took first place in the student category of the Rebelpin Fashion Awards by ACTE, a fashion competition aimed at giving young entrepreneurs and designers across Europe a chance to showcase their creative zeal.
Currently a Menswear Smart Casual designer for Hugo Boss in Germany, Sanna has already brought her talent to the likes of renowned fashion houses Cacharel in Paris and A.F. Vandevorst in Antwerp. We caught up with the young creative to get the inside scoop on the forward-thinking concepts propelling her designs to victory.
First off, congratulations on your victory! Winning the student category of Rebelpin is quite a feat, both for your work as a designer and the exposure this provides within the industry. Can you tell us more about how you were selected for the contest?
Thank you very much.
There were different rounds in order to apply to the contest. I first had to send information about my background and personal view on fashion. Afterwards I was asked to send my portfolio, while in the third and final step I sent my research, sketches, images and the concept of my collection with which I applied to the contest.
What was it like being surrounded by other emerging designers in the period leading up to the finals at Berlin Fashion Week?
It was nice getting in touch with young designers from other countries and with different backgrounds. The diversity of our studies led to interesting exchanges about our experiences and opinions, plus I met a number of international people from the industry with whom I had interesting discussions.
The contest’s theme this year was ‘Light in the night’. What was your personal interpretation of this concept?
My collection is very colorful, and at the same time I used materials that have, in a subtle way, a shiny effect, such as the cavallino with the reflections in its hair or the silk. My interpretation of the theme thus stemmed more from the materials and colors. We live in quite moving times, a moment filled with insecurity. In a way, these are quite dark times, and the colors of the garments bring light to this darkness. I am convinced that we need colors in times like these.
Can you further explain how your designs aim to subvert gendered conceptions of color? How has this founding philosophy evolved since you first started designing?
In my initial works I concentrated more on shapes, keeping the colors in earthy tones and white. I wanted to focus on expression through the silhouette, without disturbing it through color.
In the following collections I focused more on primary colors, only using shades of red, blue and yellow. Color became more and more important to me. Now it has a major impact on my work.
We can express many different things with colors. They have different meanings, which can change in the context of different cultures and with the times. The example used in my “Girls are Hunters” collection is the color pink, which was a masculine color until the 1950s. Only then our perspective of this color changed and now we see it as a very girly, cute color, whereas before it expressed the power and strength of masculinity. I find it very interesting how our perspectives on certain things change over time.
Can you explain the meaning behind ‘girls are hunters’?
Thinking of the past, the roles of men and women were clearly divided into ‘hunters and gatherers’. Women had to care for the children, cooking and gathering berries, while men went hunting for food necessary for survival. It was a dangerous practice where men had to be brave and strong; hunting emphasized the power of men.
But what is feminine in today’s world and what is masculine? If we looked at the 18th century from today’s perspective, would we still consider the men’s wardrobe masculine? And do women still show their femininity today?
The classical roles of men and women have changed. And that is also visible in the wardrobe of both: there is not that much difference anymore, unisex fashion is having a big moment.
What I want to express in this collection is that women can be hunters as well. They are hunting for success, recognition, power, strength, love… My collection deals with a strong, powerful woman – a victress, one who knows exactly what she wants, who fights and hunts for it and always succeeds. But she doesn’t lose her femininity. On the contrary, she can even use it to reach her goals.
Photos: John Phillips and Brian Dowling
You previously studied at Reutlingen University and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. What eventually led you to Polimoda? How did being geographically located in Florence – the cradle of the Renaissance and textile goldmine – impact your identity as a designer?
At Reutlingen University I formed a technical background and deep insight into all the different possibilities we have in fashion through concept, the cut of the garments and the use of material and color. Reutlingen used to be known worldwide for their technical inventions as related to textile machines, such weaving and sewing machines. There was a booming textile industry in the past, thus the university is considered among the best-equipped fashion schools in the world, as it provides a laboratory for weaving, knitting, sewing and printing.
In Antwerp I focused on developing my creative skills. We had many drawing classes as well as theoretical courses, such as philosophy and fashion history. And we worked very conceptually, emphasizing the story we wanted to tell through our garments. I was influenced very much by Flemish artists and Baroque painters such as Rubens, as well as the churches and medieval buildings.
At Polimoda I refined my creative process and output. At the same time, I gained deep insight into fashion business and marketing. Learning from teachers who work in the industry, we were close to reality and thus learned in a practical way. The Italian sartorial tradition also influenced my collection. Florence, the city of the Renaissance, had a great impact on me – being surrounded by beautiful architecture, frescoed villas and museums full of Renaissance artists greatly inspired my work. When we had classes in Villa Favard, I was often distracted by its beauty, and walking back home through the historical city center after classes further awoke my imagination. At the same time, Florence has a long history in fashion, notably in leather manufacturing and nearby Prato, who boasts hundreds of years of experience in weaving. It opened many opportunities for me.
What is your impression of the fashion world as you’ve experienced it in Florence compared to Berlin?
Unexpectedly, I think that Berlin is an interesting city. It was a very important cultural and fashion city in the 1920s. Given its German history, a lot of it was destroyed and I have the impression that they are still rebuilding their fashion status, whereas in Florence the tradition of textiles and fashion never left, something you can feel throughout the city.
Do you feel like there are sufficient initiatives to aid emerging designers and entrepreneurs?
There are many initiatives which aim to support emerging designers. But it is still not easy, though not as difficult as I expected it to be. In my experience, the biggest struggle is to get in touch with good production companies that can provide high-quality standards and also be open to small productions.
Any specific plans for the future right now?
At the moment I am working in Germany for Hugo Boss to gain insight into a huge fashion company after having worked for the famous fashion houses Cacharel in Paris and A.F. Vandevorst in Antwerp, both smaller, exclusive ateliers. And who knows, maybe I’ll launch my own label some time…
Portrait photo by Andrea Buccella.
Photos by John Phillips and Katarina Krizanová.