4SEE’s Foremost – Isabel Vollrath: Fashion Design as Objects of Art and Why Conscious Consumerism Will Be Even More Important after COVID-19
Isabel Vollrath is a Berlin-based fashion designer who works at the intersection of fine art and couture, and runs her own label, I’VR Isabel Vollrath, since 2015. Born in Freiburg, Vollrath studied fashion at Berlin-Weissensee School of Art, and has received a number of awards, both nationally and internationally, for her designs. Vollrath’s background in tailoring and long-held interest in sculpture combine to form wearable art objects—‘three-dimensional drawings’—in sync with the body, yet precisely structured. Both forward-looking and anchored in craft and historical perspective, Vollrath’s limited-edition designs speak to her desire to steer away from the demands of consumer culture. Her label is featured at Berlin Fashion Week and also operates as a made-to-measure atelier. With expressive forms and materials—from airy yet structural cottons, layered tulle, to textural corduroys and denim—Vollrath’s finely tailored, abstract pieces inevitably display a concern for the figure.
4SEE Foremost spoke with Isabel Vollrath and got some insight into what is behind her current philosophy, and uncertainty in the time of Covid-19.
Describe yourself in three words.
Passionate. Sophisticated. Visionary.
Style Icon(s) and the reason why.
My style icons are authentic and individual, showing a strong vision of their own personality. Current female icons: Vivienne Westwood, Tilda Swinton, Björk. Regarding the past: Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Marlene Dietrich. Male icons: Rudolf Nurejew, Karl Lagerfeld.
Favorite eyewear brand?
My father is an optician, so I grew up with glasses and many eyewear brands. I like the style of Dior, Balenciaga and Versace women’s eyewear—as the “big classics”—but also the filigree Lindberg, Silhouettes , not to forget Ferragamo, Cartier and Bulgari.
What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?
I followed my childhood dream and became a fashion designer.
What is next for you, an immediately upcoming project?
Well, a few days ago my answers would have been completely different. Currently, we are all paralised by Covid-19—with no certitude as to how the next weeks and months will change our lives.
On January 10, 2020 I was turning 40 and I thought: “Great! What numerology! What a date! Let’s start the new decade!” I was full of energy, open to new perspectives and changes—in general, not only regarding my fashion label.
For months I’ve felt a strong need for reflection and have questioned the direction in which society is heading… It is insane to produce and buy large amounts of “everything”; it is insane to feed the world with millions of offers, news, posts, technical innovations; it is insane when your iPhone becomes your best friend. Look into your neighbour’s eyes, not onto your screen! And please keep your app out of the gym!
Why don’t big companies STOP inciting consumerism??
I tried to find peace and answers in my frequent yoga and ballet practice.
I tried to find out where my creativity is really needed and welcome.
I decided to “manifest” my fashion label as “couture and made-to-measure atelier”, away from the pressure of seasonable products that are already considered “waste” when they are on the market.
I decided to “cool down” instead of getting ready for the next Fashion Week.
I decided to open my mind and eyes to what is going on “out there”.
And what happened?
Unexpected projects arrived. I was asked to create the costumes for a theatre production in Vienna.
A film director, two artists and a ballet company wanted me to collaborate.
I felt happy, looking forward to new edges—beyond the struggles of the fashion market.
Too soon. Covid-19 appeared.
Last week: the cultural collapse.
This week: no yoga and ballet classes.
It is nature’s revenge.
We now have to rethink, stick together, help each other where possible, and find solutions for a common future—far away from what we were used to.
…if we need Covid-19 to let the atmosphere exhale and to clean the canals in Venice, then it is more than urgent to act and react.
Your fashion philosophy / Styling tips.
Buy less, buy better. Buy local.
Three words to describe your customer.
Self-confident. Determined. Avant-garde.