As the doors of the Parisian metro open, a diverse queue of models wearing loud and eclectic designs stomps down the platform. It’s the work of Andra Dumitrascu, turning the Rambuteau metro station into a catwalk during Paris Fashion Week. The designer’s guerrilla show, astonishing Parisian citizens and bringing out the cops, set high expectations for Dumitrascu’s career. Her approach to design is a mix of stubbornness, self-love, strong resolutions and confidence. Drawing from memories and projections, Dumitrascu affirms that “life is fluid—situationist”, and in that way her collections encourage people to quit trying to define themselves and rather be who they are—as she herself has learnt over years as curator of Berlin boutique Salbazaar.
How would you define “Pain”, the theme of our current issue? And would you say pain is a feeling that seeps somehow into your work?
Very much so. I think pain is probably pretty much the equivalent of love—in both an opposing and enlarging way. Hate is rather an intellectual result, pain is more physical, immediate. I can relate to that, work-wise by a rather boring mix of failures and long shifts. But there is also an emotional component, essential to good garments: at times they manage to relieve your pain. Bodies are painful, egos, circumstances. Clothes can shelter you. I’m rather interested in people’s fragility and pain; less in their ego tools. So that’s a part, yes.
Would you say that pain, in whatever shape it has come, has somehow mediated some of your professional achievements? How about the personal ones?
Probably throughout my entire biography, yes. Life is always about ruptures, failures, the occasional pain you feel. It makes you grow, evolve. Like an attempt to heal. I broke my back two years ago (finally!), which was insanely painful but also beautiful in a strange way. It was a moment of ultimate fragility, and overcoming. I decided to start a label, against all odds and medical advises. It was an essential revelation of overcoming the physical pain by devotion. That’s probably also related. Pain and devotion. Not only in a sexual way, but existentially it’s an intense experience: overcoming pain by devoting yourself, not taking it personally. It’s kinda religious.
What is it that you cherish most about being a fashion designer?
Besides the pain you mean? Joking. It’s an intense game, it requires some stubbornness and lots of resolution, but it also teaches you love and trust, so that’s big.
How would you describe Dumitrascu’s overall aesthetic?
Eclectic. Its not about this one particular vibe or thing. I like the idea that it can guide you through a process of becoming yourself rather than telling you what you are. Not so much into emoticon messages.
Is there any particular philosophy/narrative behind the eclectic aesthetics that your collections feature?
Sure, there is a reality attached to it. But it’s thriving from memories as well as projections. Life is fluid, situationist.
How does your experience as a store curator play a role when it comes to designing clothes and debuting your collections?
The subconscious is interesting. People’s bodies have memories and a narrative. The owners might be unaware or disconnected at times, but things still have an impact. I realized sometimes people have to grow into their own courage. That’s an interesting intellectual catch-up with an emotional body state. I don’t design so much specifically for my immediate shop audience. Berlin is a specific city with limited possibilities and needs. What sells great in New York might end up being ignored. Etc.
We loved the guerrilla presentation at the metro station in Paris. How did you come up with this idea? And what are, in general, your sources of inspiration?
Thank you! Me too! It hit me by surprise as well—we didn’t really plan for this until I saw the location. It was supposed to be on the Pompidou rooftop, the entrance was right at the metro, the metro was far better and less restrictive. It was an instinctive decision. We loved it and changed location two days before the show. Intense, but worth it. Inspiration is rarely something I go looking for. It comes along, very real and abstract at once.
On a professional level, do you think there is anything that’s obscured your way?
Yes, sure. But that’s part of it I guess. It’s not a linear process.
As a rising talent, what is it you fear? And how do you overcome your fears?
They morph as I go along. It’s usually less intense when you let things happen. I also don’t believe in fear so much. Anxiety, yes, but not fear per se. Rather excitement.