Melitta Baumeister Breaks the Mold

Published July 21, 2014

MELITTA BAUMEISTER AT DOVER STREET MARKET NEW YORK, COURTESY OF DOVER STREET MARKET

“I think  sculpture has always been my main point. I’ve always worked with fabrics that hold their shape and are more sculptural,” says New York-based designer Melitta Baumeister. “I think it’s funny when I’m in the studio working with plaster and then somebody asks me what I do and I’m like, ‘fashion.'” The Parsons MFA grad gained visibility after debuting her Fall/Winter collection with user-generated web platform VFiles last February (not to mention, Rihanna suited up in one of Baumeister’s oversized neoprene bombers during Paris Fashion Week). But Baumeister’s design ethos has remained constant. The 28-year-old, who has been studying design since she was a high school student in the south of Germany, has made an ongoing exploration of shape, material, and silhouette part of her practice.

It’s a natural fit, then, that Dover Street Market, the high-minded eclectic retail brainchild of Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo, picked up Baumeister’s collection to add to its stable of designers. With a clean palette of black and white (references included “a matte black car” and “frozen-in-time Greek sculptures”), Baumeister’s line-up of boxy vinyl motorcycle jackets, wide-leg culottes, silicone casted cable-knit sweaters, slim-fit pants, voluminous dresses and skirts, and cropped tops adorned with clusters of casted bananas, utilize unexpected materials and experiment with structure and proportion while addressing the tangibility of passing time. The materials speak to the idea of preservation at a distinct moment. “The silicone molds and the garments, for me, play with time. You have a garment: it’s just molded, a cast.  It doesn’t move anymore. It stays in that moment of time. Bananas change their color. I thought: what if it just stays in that moment of a black banana?”

This past weekend marked “New Beginning,” DSM’s seasonal transition, which engages its designers to create an on-site installation to complement the upcoming season’s wares. Baumeister conceptualized her installation, now on view in the fourth floor event space, to include the detritus of her plaster casting process—the used molds in which the garments were cast, as well as plenty of cast bananas, and fluorescent lighting to evoke the feeling of a laboratory. Two of the collection’s looks—the long t-dress and oversized moto jacket, hang in the space. Baumeister may have cultivated an ode to being trapped in amber with this collection, but her own laboratory-like creative process is another story. She says, simply, “I like to have things evolving.”

MELITTA BAUMEISTER’S FALL/WINTER 2014 COLLECTION IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE AT DOVER STREET MARKET NEW YORK AT 160 LEXINGTON AVENUE.