Machines and Lights: An Interview with Designer Sarmite Ostanevica

Last Thursday I attended a fashion exhibition showcasing Sarmite Ostanevica’s A/W ’12 collection called Automatic. The show was held at Testbed 1, a big ex-factory building in Battersea. It was organised by the designer herself and supported by my friend Melanie at the World Photography Organisation. The exhibition was very unusual, with the whole collection displayed in amazing pictures on the walls all over the venue, and a few sample pieces hung on a rail under multicoloured neon lights. I had the luck to interview the designer about this exhibition, and this is what she revealed.

Designer Sarmite Ostanevica

Neon lights

DfD: How did you come up with the idea to hold a fashion show in such a different, innovative and exciting way, rather than having a simple catwalk show?

SO: I quite often get contacted by photographers who want to shoot my previous collections, so I thought why not use my newest material to create an exhibition with it! And what’s the point in having all the work in a portfolio which you only show to certain contacts and not to the public? You know, around here tonight we have real public. So much work goes towards it and it’s worth sharing it.

Photographs by Carine Ottou

Photograph by Gina Amama

Photographs by Johan Paul Hion

DfD: Does this exhibition include just your Automatic collection?

SO: Yes, it does.

The Automatic collection

DfD: And are you enjoying it here today?

SO: Yes, I am, because I hadn’t seen any of the photographers’ work until today so it’s very exciting for me.

DfD: I know you’re from Latvia. Can you give me a bit more background about yourself? Where did you study and why did you decide to move to the UK?

SO: I moved to London because I wasn’t sure what to study, and once here it didn’t take me long to realise that I should study fashion. And that was an adventure for me, to see how I’d get to study and learn in a foreign country. I worked with a lot of people for free to learn the trade. I studied at Kensington and Chelsea College, and took some courses at St Martin’s College.

DfD: Where do you get your inspiration from?

SO: In terms of this particular collection, the inspiration was quite unusual. Automatic comes from motors and engines, but inspiration can come from anywhere. It is something that comes from your mind, something that you want to discover and at this point I decided I’d discover something about mechanics and machines! (laughs)

Sketches for the collection

DfD: Why not! All the luxe and metallics recall that theme.

SO: Yes, I tried to keep colours and tones quite neutral, look on the obviously metallic colours and tried to play around with the combinations. But I think cuts and shapes are the most important aspect of this collection.

A few samples

Organza top

Bronze silk top

DfD: How do shapes relate to the theme?

SO: As a designer it’s quite difficult to explain how I got to the final products. You see some images, like I have, and they will reflect in the designs. I studied and looked at motors for many days, and to begin with it was really complicated to see something out of it but then after a week or so you choose some shapes from it which you’d like to use in your designs.

Round-neck sleeveless black top

DfD: Do you retail anywhere?

SO: I do retail in Latvia at the moment. I’m sourcing for retailers in Europe but I understand especially now with this economic climate that it’s not going to happen overnight. But I’m open to suggestions.

Detail from a silk top

Detail from a wool and silk top

DfD: What other projects are you planning to work on soon?

SO: Oh I have so many! I’m going to keep it as a bit of a secret. The fact is that I am social, I have hundreds of ideas and contacts and it’s hard to choose the right one. But at least that means I never find myself in a situation where I’m stuck and I have nowhere to go. I have hundreds of options and connections.

DfD: Are you interested in other forms of art and design?

SO: I do paint a little bit. I love various art directions. This time I chose photography to express the collection.

DfD: So we just need to watch this space really, right? You might use painting to showcase the next collection!

SO: Nice one, we’ll see…

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