The hills are alive with the sound of Christoph Rumpf, an Austrian architecture dropout-turned-menswear student at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, who recently won the Grand Prix du jury Premiére Vision at the 34th Hyères Festival. Judged by the likes of Natacha Ramsay-Levi of Chloé, Michael and Mathias of M/M Paris, and Charlotte Casiraghi of Monaco (as in Grace Kelly’s granddaughter— eat your heart out, Mika), Rumpf triumphed with a poetic collection of formidable cuts and tailoring risks, miscellaneous fabrics and a hermaphrodite-like essence.
An ex-Craig Green intern, Rumpf showcased a curated mélange of styles that draws upon his magpie eye: he ransacks flea markets for “precious things which need a new life”, and puts “existing things into a story” with new embellishment. From Persian rugs to automobile foam, Rumpf is proof that cutting-edge fashion can be born from the forgotten or discarded.
The designer hopes to one day open his own brand—“a little one, but one that makes people feel something, and has impact on a longer run”. With a recently bagged cash prize of €20,000 and collaborations with Chanel’s Metiers d’Art and Petit Bateau under his belt—not to mention a runway show at Berlin Fashion Week coming next year—it seems that tarnished silver can indeed shine bright with talent and hard work.
You grew up in the idyllic state of Styria in Austria. Could you sum up your childhood in 5 words?
Lots of freedom and love.
Like a modern-day Pierre Cardin, you originally plotted to study architecture in Vienna before having a change of heart to fashion design. What sparked that eureka moment? And how do you look back on it now?
I just wasn’t good at anything fashion related, I couldn’t draw, I never used a sewing machine, and I had no clue what a pattern is, but I loved watching the shows. I applied with a very last minute portfolio at my university where I study now, but I did not get accepted, so I studied architecture for a few months and I hated it, so I sat down and worked on my portfolio for two months and I got better and better, and in the end it worked out for me. I still like the womenswear collection I sketched for it, maybe I will do it one day.
What do you look for in a fabric? Do you work with the fabric or manipulate it?
I work with a lot of flea-market fabrics, I look for precious things which need a new life. I mostly buy really old and cheap stuff and clean it until it looks great again. I do not really manipulate my fabrics, I do not work with my fabrics like it is canvas for a painting. Rather, I put existing things in a story and change the feeling of the fabric with my patterns and finishings. I get very obsessive with colours also, sometimes I just sit for hours and try to visualize each garment in every possible colour.
What’s the garment or look your most proud of? Why?
I answer this question differently every time. At the moment it is the blue gold bomber jacket, because the result is exactly what I wanted it to look like.
You’ve repurposed oriental rugs into formidable wearable structures, what gave you this idea? Are rugs insulating?
Because I buy a lot of fabrics on flea markets I decided one day to make bags out of rugs, because you find tons of them, and then I decided to make a full structured outfit with the fabric. I have seen other designers using it before, but I wanted to create a garment which is not just living from the fabric, but a look that is so eye-catching because it is really fighting against gravity with its underconstruction.
You like to creative a narrative behind your collections. What are your favourites stories to read and use as inspiration?
I loved everything Disney when I was young. Later I loved Harry Potter. But I barely use books as inspirations, I am more drawn to movies and videoclips, and finding my own story and doing its visuals.
What are the stereotypical elements of Austrian style? What’s happening in Vienna right now? And how would you describe the city’s creative scene?
I am not sure if there is such a thing as an Austrian style to be honest. The fashion scene in Vienna is very very small, that is also why nobody is staying in fashion except very few brands.The creative scene is doing well I think, especially in fine arts, but Vienna is too comfortable, it is cheap and life is great, but that also means people don´t aim for more somehow.
What are your hopes for the future? Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I hope I have my own brand. A little one but one which makes people feel something and which has impact on a longer run.
Your IG handle is @theglasspunk. What’s the story behind this name? And how do you approach social media as a young designer?
I used it as my internet alias since I am 15 I think and I never changed it. Maybe I will do it one day. The meaning was being transparent even when you are posting wild things or something, as far as I can remember. I mean, Instagram is so important nowadays, and it is nice that people can see your work without paying a lot of money for advertising.
What’s the ultimate Christoph Rumpf life motto?
More is more in every sense.