IN CONVERSATION WITH MAX ZARA STERCK

What made you want to embrace this career path and what were the main challenges at  the start of your journey? 

The reason for starting my own brand came from the recognition that I needed to pursue my  own creative vision. I had gained design experience with brands that I loved and admired.  However, I still held the desire to forge my own narrative. Since childhood, it has always been  natural for me to see garments in the shapes of the things that surround me and over time it  became increasingly evident that fashion is what I had to pursue in life. Even nowadays when  I have a moment of doubt I know that fashion is my calling because I still see dresses in 

everything! Starting my own brand is, therefore, allowing me to bring these creations to life in  ways that would otherwise not be possible. 

As a designer, what is your mission to achieve for your artistic vision?

I want to elevate women by letting them experience embodiment and expressions. Exploring  and discovering themselves in the space of freedom. In order to let women experience their  power. I give my devoted attention and appreciation to form, as the purest expression of  oneself. I envision a world where a woman dares to live life differently, in her own, unique way.  Exposing it. Owning it. Authentically embodying her highest self. 

How do you describe the vision of your designs or brand? 

You wear clothes on your skin every day, so it is important that the clothes you wear are  comfortable, made responsibly with (positive) attention and quality, so that you feel good in  them. I see clothing as a natural extension of the body, for movement and expression. That’s why I make clothes, because I believe that clothes are a tool to embody and express your  authentic expression. 

What is the criteria in choosing fabrics? Why do you use certain fabrics? For me, the creative process starts with choosing or developing the material, as the fabrics  ultimately come to define the shape of the designs. I love to understand the properties of fabric;  how it is constructed and how it moves. Ideally, I would start every collection by developing  new material with sustainable properties. For instance, my previous collaborations with the  Textile Lab and iNDUO, have enabled me to put textiles innovation at the starting point of the  creative process. In doing so, I have been able to contribute to the textiles development  process and reduce waste by not having to order swatches from across the globe. 

What is your collection about? 

This collection is an ode to sensuality. I explored a very modern dilemma of how we express  human sensuality and ‘touch’ in the digital age. 

Garments need to be worn, handled, felt and treated like a second skin. SHE IS YOUR SECOND SKIN is a collection in which I want to invite the other to explore your  body, emotions and energy. Through my designs I emphasise the sense of ‘feeling’. Do you know your body? Are you sure? Come a little closer, touch her. 

Feel her. Your body wants to tell you something and speaks up. 

Do you listen, silently, profoundly? What does your body express now? What does it want to  express? How does your body fully express? 

How would you describe the labor process of your clothes? 

I always work with life models that move around in the studio space to observe the interaction  between the body and the fabric. I want to make sure the fit is correct, supports the body, I  even do a test fase wearing the garments during the day myself. 

In addition, I seek to harness a sustainable design philosophy by presenting small collections  of wearable pieces that showcase only the best designs. I also realise more and more that the  diagonal silhouette I developed is a limitless source of inspiration for the years to come. 

What do you think about circularity , and do you incorporate it in your productions , if  so what is your take on that? 

To me circularity starts with harnessing the responsibility as a designer towards both people  and nature, while simultaneously creating pieces that do not compromise on design.

To this end, I aim to transcend the fast consumption mentality by offering high-quality garments  created using responsible technology and high-quality craftsmanship. Rather than following  trends, my designs follow the contours of the body and naturally incite a sense of timelessness. With the sense of timelessness in mind, as well aas durability, the garments can be passed  down from generation to generation. 

If not, the garments are made from natural materials, so by the end of their use they can be  safely and easily used to make new clothes. 

Are there any other designers you look up to that maybe share your same creative  perspective? 

I am inspired by creative visionaries who work with and reinforce the movement of the body,  in fashion and the arts. 

For instance, in the world of fashion, I am influenced by Azzedine Alaia’s way of sculpting  around the body. His knitwear does not only create beautiful sculptural shapes, but they’re also  incredibly soft and wearable, making them feel like a second skin. I am further inspired by the  innovative pattern cutting technique of Gabrielle Channel, specifically how she constructed  sleeves, wherein a fitted silhouette was created which still enabled the wearer to move around  freely. 

What is freedom for you ? 

Expressing yourself fully, purely, and authentically. 

For me personally, that comes with a dynamic lifestyle. 

What made you want to embrace this career path and what were the main challenges at  the start of your journey? 

This is going to sound so cheesy, but I have always wanted to become a fashion designer. My  mom told me that even before I could talk I would point at the clothes I wanted to wear instead  of what she had picked out for me. When I grew older I would ‘make’ clothes for myself and  my dolls on a miniature plastic sewing machine from the HEMA that I got for my birthday. And  now after finishing my education I am just sure that this is what I should be doing. I can’t see  myself doing anything else but this. I love design in general but fashion design is just it for me  because you work around a body and a human being. One of the things I enjoy most about it  is playing with the body’s proportions. 

I think for me the most challenging thing is not having enough time or money ever. Fashion  became so fast and is becoming even faster by the minute thanks to social media. People  expect huge collections (fast!), which when you just start up on your own, without wanting to  make use of unpaid labor is kind of impossible. I dare to say that everybody in this field is so 

passionate about what they do, otherwise nobody would do it, I swear. But some of my friends  and I are setting up this (I hate this term, but) collective called Patchwork. So we can determine  our own rules within this industry and lift eachother up by sharing our networks. 

How do you describe the vision of your designs or brand? 

I have a weird relationship with glamour. I am obsessed with it and I hate it both at the same  time. I think what I love about it is that it is so dreamy, usually despite my wishes, doesn’t exist  by daytime and it is just an overall vibe. I love all the exterior but I dislike ladylike behaviour  that in my eyes exists alongside it. I don’t love it when somebody draws within the lines, it is  way more fun if one doesn’t. Perfection is a bit boring right? I feel like today’s dutch couture is  all that and I am tired of it constantly repeating itself. I aim to adopt the good things of couture  such as the beautiful constructions and silhouettes but to add the right amount of friction that  it in my opinion needs. I think to understand in what way I add this friction you need to know  that I am obsessed with history’s mythical and non-mythical archetypes such as pirates, 

cowboys and witches as portrayed in popular culture. I would describe what I make as non conformists couture. 

What is the criteria in choosing fabrics? Why do you use certain fabrics? I tend to only go for fabrics made from a 100% natural fiber or natural fiber/polyester blend,  such as cotton, wool, silk and viscose. Because of their looks, they’re easier to work with and  they feel better on the skin since they breathe. And also they can dissolve naturally over time,  which is a shame really, because a ugly polyester market fabric will exist forever. My favourite  fabrics/materials are cotton/silk satin, cool wool, shirting, Jersey and leather. I specifically love  these fabrics because you immediately associate a satin with for example; luxury, a cool wool  with a suit and Jersey with a T-shirt. I like to mix these associations around. 

How would you describe the labor process of your clothes? 

I usually start by searching images, to create a story outline. I make some drawings, usually a  few variations per look that’s in my head. But I start draping on a mannequin almost  immediately. Which for me is like drawing but then in 3D, I like that I can decide on the  proportions right away. I always look at my drapes from every angle and distance (for quite a  moment), people make fun of me for doing this but I really need to do this!! The proportions  just have to be right. Once I have determined a shape, I dive into the details. I make fabric  samples that I then pin onto my drape, to envision what it would look like, decide on what yarn  I want to use in what stitch length et cetera. I put the pattern I draped into paper, do a few  fittings on different models in order to perfect it and then it’s finally time to start producing it.  It’s a journey!! 

What is your collection about? 

My latest collection called The Endwas mostly inspired by Hollywood actress Marylin Monroe.  Her life and person got so glamourized by the public, whilst in reality she was very depressed.  I thought this was such a interesting and tragic contrast, I wanted to translate this into  garments. I used 50’s couture silhouettes and techniques as a base and aimed to de 

glamourize these by implementing material and shape swaps. Whereas you would expect a  silk on this quite classical draped gown I would use a nasty green thin leather with rough  looking edges to visualize Monroe’s unhappiness. 

What do you think about circularity , and do you incorporate it in your productions , if  so what is your take on that? 

I try to reduce as much waste as possible. I try not to buy any newly produced fabrics/materials  but solely from deadstock. I also use discarded clothing for looks whenever it seems fit, such  as old Jersey T-shirts, leather biker jackets, lingerie and parts of corsets. Also I find it important  to only buy quality fabrics that, if taken care of, will survive the test of time. Once I will start  selling I will only offer made to order, so that there will not be any overproduction. I love this  method, because impulse buying doesn’t exist this way, it’s worth the wait because you deeply  desire the item. After you have waited a long time for the garment to be produced you will take  care of it. And if it happens you’re done with the style, the quality should be good enough to  sell it to a new owner who will cherish the garment as you have before. For me circularity is all  about that. 

Are there any other designers you look up to that maybe share your same creative  perspective? 

Absolutely, I am a huge fan of Thierry Mugler throughout the decades and I think Casey  Cadwallader is doing a fabulous job making it really contemporary. And John Galliano for Dior. 

He made all my dreams come true and more. He made a pirate collection and even a Empress  Elisabeth of Austria (Sisi) collection in A/W 2004/2005. I have been obsessed with these things  ever since I was a child, even my guinea pig was named after Empress Sisi. Besides loving  his subjects I also admire his insane draping techniques and how he brought back the bias cut. Forever thankful. 

What is freedom for you ? 

Being able to express myself creatively without restrictions. 

CREDITS

DESIGNER @MAXZARASTERCK

PHOTOGRAPHY: @DIONBAL 

CONCEPT & STYLING: @MICHAEL_GEERTZEN 

MAKE-UP: @BIANCAFABRIE 

VIDEOGRAPHY: @YOUNG.YELL 

SOUND DESIGN, VOICE, MUSIC COMPOSITION AND INTERVIEW: @__JOIAH___ 

PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANCE: @TESSA.BOSMA 

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: @TIMILETONJA 

LOCATION @PARQSTUDIOS

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