Whilst attempting a degree in chemistry, Kristian Steinberg realized his true passion lay in design and so made the bold decision to leave Sweden for the British capital and Central St Martins. With his final collection being chosen to represent St Martins menswear at Weekend Le Vif in Brussels, it was only a matter of time before Kristian secured a working spot alongside London’s greatest including Alexander McQueen and Marios Schwab. Today he is the creative director of his own eponymous label, producing lines that feature traditional tailoring mixed with futuristic silhouettes. Chasseur caught up with the designer to discuss his intriguing road so far and the endless possibilities he dreams of for the future.
Despite being in the scene for a good few years now, you’ve only recently went on to create your own brand. What made it all happen?
I spent a long time learning things, and when I felt that I had worked enough on different elements, I started putting together collections again. Anybody who attempts to create a label from scratch knows how many hats you have to wear, and personally I felt I needed to know how things work before I get too far down the line. For example, working as a creative pattern cutter has taught me to ‘read’ materials and being more precise when selecting the fabrics that I’m using in a collection.
Prior to your career as a fashion designer, you undertook a course in chemistry at the Royal University of Technology in Stockholm. What made this transition happen?
As a child I used to draw cars and build endlessly out of Lego and I actually even organized a fashion show when I was 11, so my interest for design was always there. Academically I really only flourished at grammar school. During the 3rd year of my studies, as I was about to start specializing in polymeric chemistry, I decided to attend some art courses and see if I still loved designing. I was able to take a break from engineering for a year to study textile art and decided after that to change course and learn tailoring and cutting and subsequently apply to St Martins menswear design.
If we would consider fashion to be one big chemistry experiment, what ingredients would you consider to be the most important?
Just like in a chemical reaction, fashion is all about balance. Every designer has their way of shifting it by using tools like color, texture and silhouette. I’m probably the mad scientist who sometimes blows up the laboratory, but who knows, I might accidentally create gold one day!
Having travelled the world extensively, it really makes no wonder why each and every one of your collections are inspired by culture and heritage. What are the elements you seek out the most from each city and how do you wish to incorporate them in your clothes?
Culture absolutely fascinates me and having lived in three countries I try to understand the balance between our identity as people and the geo-cultural identity that we often use to describe ourselves. I do find the architecture of a city very revealing in terms of local aesthetics, history and future ambition. In my AW11 I explored the abandoned Soviet military bases in Estonia and the way these resembled ‘scars’ in the coastal nature reserves. I used the bright and alien colors of the dampened barrack walls as a contrast to the natural beauty of the old forests, and it helped me to re-tell the story of my country and its past.
I spend a hectic week in Rome trying to see everything and finally came across the old World Exhibition area ‘EUR’ (Esposizione Universale Roma). It was the brainchild of Benito Mussolini who summoned some of the best architects of the late 40’s to start building the most grandiose complex of buildings, boulevards and monuments all in modernist style. The result was an interpretation of Antiquates Rome, but in a futuristic key, and it revealed more about Roman past and present than any museum or monument could.
Apart form applying architectural features into the silhouette of the AW14 collection, I also continued to question menswear and its strict framework as much as I questioned the buildings of Rome and the ideas behind them. The one shoulder waistcoat and tank-top/knitted jumper are pieces that rebel against tradition but are still wearable garments, just with a different attitude. The idea of turquoise marble and copper are directly using the elements of Rome too, but I created a color clash not by mixing contrasting fabrics, but rather a fabric and the color of the metal trim.
I’m far from alone in loving the hyper wide trousers in Italian wool. They really make you behave like you’re a member of the ‘Stones’.
Military references have always played an important role in your designing process. The new collection however introduces a slightly different look, more focused on futuristic silhouettes with a particularly dark aesthetic. Should we assume this change is the first of many to come?
The way I have constructed collections so far has actually focused on a specific technique which featured certain materials, classical tailoring and knitting, with the military silhouette developing season after season. It’s true that I’m moving away from this way of working now and the SS15 will have a very different feel again. I love reinventing my self, and changing not just my work but also the way that I work, and so you should expect more twists and turns in the future.
Regarding color and your decision to move away from a bold aesthetic towards a significantly darker one, should we consider it a creative choice or is there a link to your current psychosynthesis either as a designer or a man?
The darkness in the Rome collection is very reflective of its history but not so much of the physical look of the city. Personally I couldn’t be happier in my life right now, being in a wonderful relationship and being able to handle stress better thanks to martial arts training. Overworking is something I’ve struggled with previously and I had to do many adjustments in my life to be able to continue pursuing my goals.