Masculin Féminin

Designer Stephan Schneider finds the common ground in fashion.
By Kirsten Fleming
stephanschneider_portraitStephan Schneider, the designer who once emblazoned the image of his mother on his clothing for a show, thinks fashion is too serious for its own good.
"In this industry, you hardly see designer's families," he says. "And most of them come from normal middle-class upbringings." Perhaps it is the absence of airs that shapes his utilitarian method—using one canvas to turn out distinctly feminine and masculine pieces.
"I am not using a unisex look. I use the same fabric, but I never do the same style for both," says the German ex-pat, who's been in Antwerp since attending the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
Unlike many designers, Schneider doesn't pluck his canvas from a bolt in a factory. He designs each fabric himself. "I spend half of my time with the textile and half with the silhouette," he says. "When your textile is strong, you don't have to invent trousers with three legs."
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And you'd never catch this low-key Renaissance man tinkering with such quixotic ideas. While reinventing staples with a subtly off-center button or playful pleat, Schneider sees himself as a niche designer who neither caters to the couture crowd nor the active-wear aficionados. The beauty is in his unabashed simplicity. "It is a certain quality to be consistent. I don't want to make clothes for the red carpet. I make clothes for day to day," says Schneider, who works mostly with basic natural fabrics such as cotton along with some linen and wool blends.
His collections are always chock-full of texture and graphics, including a sumptuous plaid low V-back top and a slouchy women's snakeskin printed trench for winter/autumn '06. For spring/summer '07, he followed suit with a myriad of prints that worked themselves into trousers, trenches, and everywhere in between. A hooded plaid men's coat conceals a clever gray lining while the contrast of blue plaid with a light stripped gray trouser creates the sort of contradiction a man could live with.
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A few seasons after the mother incident, Schneider used freezers as a catwalk, but the designer is better known for gimmicks in his presentations rather than in his togs. "If you change a lot, the quality changes," says the designer who—despite some shifting patterns and color palettes—is content to freeze his elegantly cool aesthetic for some time to come.
Stephan Schneider is available at his flagship boutique, Reyndersstraat 53, 2000 Antwerp; ++32 3 226 26 14. For more information, go to www.stephanschneider.be
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Designer Stephan Schneider finds the common ground in fashion.
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