EINE is a sensual range of luxury apparel and accessories that allows modern women to embody their own erotic domain. Founded in 2013 by MA Central Saint Martins graduate, Petra Metzger, the brand aims to capture the essence of the female erotic scene and to provide womenswear beyond the constraints of traditional fetish wear. STYLEFAN got an exclusive insight into Petra Metzger's creative and erotic world, at the EINE studio in Dalston Kingsland, London.
'The reason why I started the brand is not just to start another fashion label. I want to create a three-dimensional brand with an aesthetic and mindset for women who desire to be strong and erotic but not in the typical kinky manner and being an object for men.'
Tuck Muntarbhorn: Tell me about the past five years of your life.
Petra Metzger: In early 2008, I returned to London from Paris having worked with Haider Ackermann. Later in the same year, I decided to conduct an internship with Hussein Chalayan before I completed my BA in Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins in 2009. It took me a couple of years before I decided to conduct my MA at Saint Martins and established my own personal design style. After my graduate show in 2012, it took me another year to define EINE and launch the brand.
TM: What inspires you?
PM: Modern women inspire me: their self-expression, sensuality and confidence.
TM: Is this feeling more towards womenswear than menswear?
PM: I am not a man, I don't know what men want to feel like when wearing certain clothes. This is one of the reasons why I could not be a menswear designer. Although recently, a photographer from Germany visited our pop up store and tried my clothes on. It looked great on him, just slightly too small. He suggested that I should consider to do menswear which was really surprising.
TM: What inspired you to become a fashion designer?
PM: As a young child I always loved to draw, make things and I loved to play with fabrics. My grandmother had an old Singer sewing machine and I started to make dresses for my dolls before dressing my friends and myself. After I came back from Australia I decided that making garments would be my profession.
TM: How would you relate the concept of 'fashion' to that of 'style'?
PM: Fashion is something that is directed from trends, which come from other people and are presented seasonally in magazines and media mainly to consume. Style is personal and a form of self-expression in a unique, personal appearance, which builds over years.
TM: Which adjectives would you use to describe your style? Why?
PM: There's an element of androgyny in my way of dressing. My style is more silhouette and texture orientated, less decorative. A balance of femininity and masculinity. With my long hair I feel feminine but I like to contrast it with masculine elements such as wearing garments with emphasised shoulders, tailored trousers or braces.
TM: Why did you name your label EINE? What's your vision for the brand?
PM: EINE (pronounced 'ai-ne') means 'one' in German. It reflects the whole, the singular and the bond between femininity and masculinity but still represented in a 'female' word. The reason why I started the brand is not just to start another fashion label. I want to create a three-dimensional brand with an aesthetic and mindset for women who desire to be strong and erotic but not in the typical kinky manner and being an object for men. I believe women are often seen as a sexual object rather than being the active figure and I want the brand to be in-between this. EINE is split into different dimensions for modern women. EINE is the tailoring side of the brand; EINE Studios is a place for collaborations with other artists, designers and craftsmen; and, EINE World is the voice of the brand.
TM: Could you describe EINE World in more detail?
PM: EINE World is not due to be launched until next year, so I'm afraid I can't tell you too much, but it's a platform for EINE-woman to explore and challenge their pleasures and sensuality. EINE World is the lifestyle element of the brand and aims to connect our audience to both the brand and like-minded women.
TM: Why do you think women see themselves as a sexual object? Is your clothing a rebellious act against this?
PM: I cannot speak for general womanhood, but I feel that in the media women are often portrayed as a sexual object, which is often a quite narrow cliché. With EINE, I want to give women an option to explore and express their femininity in different ways and define their own sensuality.
TM: Describe the EINE-woman. What's her lifestyle?
PM: She is open, curious and has her own direction in life. She has her personal style and is not directed by the media or fashion magazines. The EINE-woman is self-confident, open-minded and owns her sexuality. A modern, independent and lively woman.
TM: What's your earliest memory of fashion?
PM: I grew up in a really fashionable household. Both of my parents travelled a lot to foreign countries and collected souvenirs and clothes from all over the world. My grandma, who was an opera singer back in Berlin, used to dress up in beautiful dresses and wore amazing hats. On her LP she wore a little brown felt hat with a flower on the side, which I still remember vividly today. She organised art exhibitions in our house and little concerts. It was a meeting point for lots of many artists and other creative people. It was so exciting!
TM: Where are you from originally?
PM: The Black Forest in southwest Germany.
TM: What was it like growing up there?
PM: It was beautiful! Our house was in the forest with a huge garden. Me and my sister spent a lot of time playing outdoors. I was very close to nature growing up.
TM: Is there any chapter from your childhood years that has marked and influenced your creative development?
PM: Our parents encouraged us to learn things like playing musical instruments, ballet dancing and horse riding. My dad showed us how to build tree houses and my mum taught us gardening, how to make pottery and many other creative things. My parents showed us the world - taking us to places like Mauritius and America. Through this, we developed a curious eye which allowed us to gain inspiration from all kinds of things.
TM: What were your teenage years like and where were you living?
PM: I was quite a late bloomer. In my early teens I was still in Germany and then I moved to Adelaide when I was 17. This time gave me the opportunity to explore and become independent.
TM: What was it like growing up in different cultures?
PM: It gave me space to define what's me. It was so liberating and encouraging to define my own way in my life.
TM: When did you understand that fashion would be your future?
PM: It was when I created EINE and established the brand's aesthetic that I really saw my future in fashion.
TM: What did you gain most out of studying your MA in fashion at Central Saint Martins?
PM: One thing for sure, I learnt how important it is to stay true to yourself.
TM: What was it like to be taught by Louis Wilson?
PM: It still is a great privilege to be taught by her. She is such an inspiring and unique person, but so brutally honest! I learnt how important it is to take feedback on your work and to not to take it personally which encourages you to continuously improve your work. Honesty takes ego out of your work, which I believe it is important to create something special. I learnt about seeing. Seeing what's in front of you and not seeing what you want to see - often we make something and we have in mind what it should look like but it doesn't look like that in reality. I also learned about clear communication, appropriate presentation and a lot about myself.
TM: What aspects of living in London do you draw on for inspiration in your collections?
PM: Definitely the people and of course certain scenes [laughs]!
TM: This leads us straight to the next question...you seem to be heavily inspired by the contemporary fetish subculture in your collections. Are you a part of this scene? How do you bring this inspiration to your collections?
PM: [Laughs] Yes! What I find extremely beautiful is that people in the fetish scene do not dress to appear in some way, they do not dress to be part of a certain class, but they simply dress up to express their soul. That's something I find really inspiring, beautiful and strong. Realising who you are and having the courage to express it. This is what I am trying to bring to the EINE-woman.
TM: What would you say to those who frown upon this scene or are simply missing out?
PM: People have an image of what this scene is like, but a lot of people don't really know for sure. To get a picture of the scene you need to get a taste of it in order to judge. It seems quite scary and loud to outsiders but it's actually quite fragile, personal and friendly and extremely respectful. Much more respectful than any normal club in London I would say.
TM: You talk a lot about the fact that your garments offer women the chance to indulge their secret desires. What are your secret desires? How are they reflected in your designs?
PM: If I told you my secret desires it wouldn't be a secret anymore [laughs]! I think it comes back to what I relate to, but I don't really design for myself, I design for other women.
TM: Who would you like to see wearing your garments?
PM: I like to see unique, confident women wearing my garments. Not even big stars - for me I love to see women putting my clothes on and styling it their own way. It's amazing and makes me so happy!
TM: What are your thoughts on celebrity endorsement in fashion and how fashion is represented in the media?
PM: It's actually something that really doesn't interest me much. I think that the whole fashion machine is so dusty and bores me in many aspects. In publications, people get told what is to wear presented by some hyped celebrities. There is so much commerce behind it. I try to keep my distance from this whole fashion machine.
TM: What rules in fashion do you find most annoying? Do you choose to break them?
PM: There are just too many! I think the whole consumption side of it - this extremely fast moving wheel with four seasons a year. Also, the certain steps you need to take: showing at fashion week, showing in a showroom, getting a stockist, and then finding the right PR company to develop a strong press portfolio and maybe you'll get some money back or maybe not. These steps are costly and you also lose touch to the client, and to me the client is so, so important. Instead of giving the money to big PR companies, I prefer to have small events for my clients and get feedback from my clients directly.
TM: Do you feel you need to be a part of this fashion chain to be a successful fashion designer?
PM: I don't think you need to. I think people want you to believe you need to, because they want you to be part of the system. It might take longer to succeed but you'll find your own way if you are being true to yourself.
TM: What is it about the female form that you find inspiring?
PM: Oh the curves [laughs]! The female form is more sensual especially the hips and the waist. In my designs, it's the play of exposing and covering which is sensual such as a covered jacket with a really long slit in the back, or a certain look where she wears a long coat with just suspenders and stockings.
TM: Do you incorporate other art forms into your designs let it be art, photography, film, music or literature? If so, how?
PM: Definetely film and art - The Night Porter. It's a film about human desire, darkness and roles. The mood of films, photography and art, creates a certain unique story which I develop further in my designs and make them relevant for a modern woman.
TM: What's your approach to designing? Do you start from e.g. research, sketches or draping?
PM: I definitely start with research to establish a key idea and aesthetic. There is then this continuous dialogue between sketching and draping (I call this 3-D sketching) before coming back to research again and tying the collection together.
TM: What are your favourite fabrics? Why?
PM: I love wool gabardine. The liveliness, the bounce and the smell when you steam it is just amazing. Wool is best for tailoring and it adds a certain shine to the garment.
TM: Comfort or beauty, what comes first?
PM: I think its beauty, but there is no real beauty if you don't feel comfortable in something - you can't look beautiful.
TM: All of your past work experiences has been with male designers. Do you think that the womenswear industry is dominated by male figures? How do you feel about this?
PM: Part of it is a biological reason. They're not just male designers, many are gay male designers. For women, it is quite tricky to bridge the gap between having a child and work - you need to compromise. I find it a bit odd to be honest because the reason why I design is because I know how women want to feel.
TM: What is special about a female designer designing for other women? What inspires you to design for other women?
PM: It's this feeling of empathy. There's a sense of solidarity because I can relate to women in many different ways instead of doing something I'm completely distant to.
TM: Why do you think women ask men for fashion advice?
PM: Because they're probably not secured enough to define for themselves what feels right. I believe many women often don't trust themselves or how they want to feel. Coming back to the point I made about women being an object for men. I think that many women think that they always want to be attractive for men.
TM: What drew you to conduct work experience with Haider Ackermann? What was your role?
PM: I chose to work with Haider because I really like his tailoring, and his sensual and androgynous aesthetic - which I find beautiful. Also at that time he had a really small team in Paris which meant that I could help him with all kinds of useful things. I was his direct assistant at his atelier for his Autumn/Winter 2008 collection. I helped design part of the fashion and accessories collection, sourced fabrics and developed patterns and toiles.
TM: What did you gain from working with Haider Ackermann that was not taught in your educational degrees?
PM: That working in the design field involves a lot of many small things that needs to be done. There are a lot of small tasks to set the ground of a glamorous collection. When you order fabric it may not come right, you then have to call fabric suppliers, send it back and order it again. The process of creating a working garment takes a lot of really precise work.
TM: Do you think young designers could start out independently and maintain that independence even while growing to a global scale?
PM: I don't think I can tell you as I'm about to find out myself [laughs]! I think if you have the will and the strength to keep on going independently, then maybe.
TM: Will you be independent forever? If so, why?
PM: I really want to be independent. I think ownership of a brand is really important in order to feel completely connected to it. The reason why I started EINE is a slightly different reason than a normal fashion brand that's why I feel I really need to connect to the brand. I need to have ownership in order to drive it to the right direction.
TM: Do you consider having your own boutique one day?
PM: I think no. I prefer to have events, pop-up stores and open my studio to clients for them to see how the clothes are made and create a private atmosphere. The pop up store is a good way to have projects and collaborate with other artists (at our recent pop-up store I collaborated with interior designer Derek Hardie Martin). As a long term shopping possibility, I have my online shop.
TM: What kind of knowledge have you acquired from the beginning of your career till now?
PM: I think through my in-depth education, I have gained many experiences from sitting on a sewing machine, seeing production lines and understanding the whole production of fabrics through to finishing garments. I have also realised that fashion is not just something flashy, the craft behind garments, that pure making aspect of garments and attention to detail is very important. Through working with designers, I have learnt that every design house works differently and how every team works differently. My education at Saint Martins has also taught me to be very self-directed in terms of how you direct your creative process and enabled me to explore and really define my style. Based on all this, I am continuously changing and improving my design process.
TM: Finally, how would you like to be remembered?
PM: Maybe as someone who opens doors for a new perspective, probably that. Or maybe as someone who creates this space for women to explore and define themselves. I hope people think of me with a smile.
EINE Autumn/Winter 2013 Campaign:
EINE Autumn/Winter 2013 Look book:
Interview: Tuck Muntarbhorn
Photographer: Thang Le