Finding New form

Graduate designer Anna Roggenhofer is draping the men’s silhouette in abstract romance
By Ella Joyce | Fashion | 30 June 2022
Photographer Bruno McGuffie

“As I started working on my final collection, I asked myself, “What is the essence of what I am doing as a menswear designer?” Put simply, I’m adorning the male body with cloth.” From this initial question, Westminister BA Fashion graduate Anna Roggenhofer began to strip everything back and create new. Deconstructing the traditional male silhouette, she considered the ‘archetypal’ male physique carved by Greek sculptures, and the opposing abstract shapes of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Bridging opposites, the binary of womenswear and menswear becomes distorted and subverted as traditional tailoring processes are softened through draping, and delicate, handstitched fabric layering creates the illusion of soft folds that shift in the light. Loose weave knits hang lightly across the body, while black denim is bonded with leather scraps sourced from a local recycling centre to create a contrasting multi-media surface. Following internships at Givenchy and Kenzo, Roggenhofer’s craft is taking shape, and she’s loosening the menswear seams.

Ella Joyce: Congratulations on a brilliant graduate showcase. What first sparked your interest in fashion design?
Anna Roggenhofer: My mother was the one who taught me to love fabrics, as a child I loved dressing up and beautiful objects. She then started teaching me how to make things, after school we would knit, embroider, paint, and build things. As I got older, she taught me how to sew, it’s a passion we share – it connects us. As a teenager I started making fashion collages, sketching outfits and then slowly making my own clothes while doing fashion projects for school. During my art foundation at Kingston, I discovered my love for menswear. I became very passionate about tailoring, I liked its rules and traditions but also its amazing craftsmanship – the ability to create sculptural shapes and silhouettes. With menswear, I found I could follow the rules, and then break them.

EJ: What’s the story behind this collection?
AR: As a designer, most of my work begins with a mood, or visual references combined with a technique I’m interested in exploring. I start working from this and then intuitively follow where my aesthetic and curiosity take me, then the concept emerges almost all by itself as I slowly start to curate my work. This collection is about contrasts and opposites. As I started working on my final collection, I asked myself, “What is the essence of what I am doing as a menswear designer?” Simply put, I’m adorning the male body with cloth. This made me think even further back to one of the simplest forms of dressing: a piece of fabric draped over the body. I wanted to combine the traditionally female ‘drape’ with the hard and static traditionally male sculpture. The male form and the drape became the two key components of the collection. The sculptural references include classical Greek sculpture representing the archetypical male ideal form, while more abstract shapes by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth also fed into my ideas. Archetype really is about bringing together opposites; masculinity and femininity, sculpted and flowing, sharp and messy. It explores the ideal male form through tailoring and how it can be subverted through textiles and draping.

EJ: Can you talk us through some of the techniques in the collection?
AR: I wanted to develop my understanding of tailoring further and also combine it with something new by draping on the stand, which traditionally is a technique used more in womenswear. Apart from the draping actually becoming parts of the design, I developed a drape-like textile, for which I hand-stitched a piece of lighter fabric onto a base fabric to create the illusion of folds and wrinkles. The idea behind this technique also became a print – I pinned a finished garment onto a piece of cardboard into draped and scrunched shapes, then painted over the top I also wanted to explore the visual language of draping further with lines that wrapped themselves around the body in the form of knit and hand-woven strips of jersey.

“With menswear, I found I could follow the rules, and then break them.”

“Luckily masculinity is becoming broader and more diverse, I think as a woman and artist I can use the female gaze to portray masculinity in a new light.”

EJ: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
AR: I think my aesthetic is subtle, clean and classic, but interrupted by texture and something more organic. As a designer, I find the making process of my work the most exciting, there is something so satisfying about creating something with your hands. I get really excited by a very simple idea which then turns a design into something interesting, for example, the creative pattern cutting used in the sleeve and shoulder detail on the tailoring.

EJ: The simplicity of the colour palette contrasted with the intricacy of the clothing is a really striking combination, it really allows the technicality of the garments to shine?
AR: This colour palette came partly from my research, for example, the colour of the marble sculptures and the faded black and white photography. However, many of the fabric choices were informed by the fabrics I already owned. I was very fortunate to have been gifted at least a third of the fabrics by Kenzo after my internship with them, so the colours were a bit of a lucky coincidence. The palette is one of my favourite aspects of my collection. I love colours but I think the simplicity and stark contrast between black and cream really emphasised the shapes and texture within each look. I really enjoy working with tone-on-tone colours as it creates a very subtle visual difference. The leather scrap jeans from Look 3 are made from black leather scraps found at a local recycling centre, bonded onto black denim to create a pattern that catches the light due to the different surfaces of the material.

EJ: You mention taking a great deal of inspiration from artists and sculptors, which artists in particular do you find yourself drawn to?
AR: I don’t believe it’s possible to have fashion without art, especially if you focus on the craftmanship aspect of fashion. I am always in awe of the incredible skills that have often been developed for hundreds of years which enable clothing to exist. The designer is only the tip of the iceberg, pattern cutters, tailors, embroiderers, knit and leather specialists are all artists in their own right who enable the designer to create their vision. Nowadays, consumers are so disconnected from what the garments they buy actually represent: layers and layers of expertise and techniques that should be considered art. Some of my favourite artists to take inspiration from include Christo and Jean Claude, Henry Moore, Reineke Dijkstra, Steven Parrino, Yves Klein and Pierre Soulage. Film and music are also a great source of inspiration, especially when it comes to the mood and aesthetic of a project, Le Grand Bleu by Luc Besson is a work I often revisit for its beautiful cinematography and visual language.

“The designer is only the tip of the iceberg, pattern cutters, tailors, embroiderers, knit and leather specialists are all artists in their own right who enable the designer to create their vision.”

EJ: As a female designer in the menswear space, what does masculinity mean to you?
AR: Menswear is a place that has many rules and is rooted in strong traditions. As a designer you can use and reinvent these in multiple ways, but you can also break them. This is something I find exciting about menswear, there is still space to explore what masculinity means, there is space to change and disrupt it. I see masculinity almost like a concept I use to inform my designs. Luckily masculinity is becoming broader and more diverse, and as a woman and artist, I can use the female gaze to portray masculinity in a new light. I am aware the fashion industry, however associated with women it may be, is still a very male-dominated space. Especially as a female menswear designer, I often have to explain why and prove I am capable of designing for men. This feels ironic as many iconic womenswear designers have been male and men have been dictating what women wear for centuries.

EJ: How do you feel menswear will continue to evolve?
AR: I think menswear will continue to loosen up and merge with womenswear. In an ideal world, fashion should be genderless and it would be wonderful to see people embracing who they are and wearing what they want. However, I think menswear will continue to be anchored to its traditions and history, and that people, including me, will still value this but not be dictated by them.

EJ: What’s next for you?
AR: Finishing my degree feels quite scary. It is hard to go from working seven days a week on something that is so personal and intensive to suddenly having nothing to do. I’m still exploring my identity as a fashion designer, I think only time and experience will show me where my place is, so I am keen to get going. After spending my year in industry interning in Paris at Givenchy and Kenzo, I really enjoyed living and working in Paris – I would love to return.

Follow Anna on Instagram.

Photographer: Bruno McGuffie
Stylist: Dominik Radomski
Hair and makeup: Lauren Jeffery
Stylist assistant: Alex Trillo
Models: David King and Joseph Larvin at models1

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