Can clothes make you forget the boundaries and clutter of everyday life for a moment? Perhaps, when one slips into the plissé dresses of Julia Heuer or gauze shirts of Ala Sowiar.
While plissé and prints are the hallmarks of Julia Heuer's eponymous label, and multi-layered and transparent textiles are those of Sowiar's brand Halo Labels, what unites them is their approach to fashion and the unusual garments that emerge as a result.
Neither think in terms of classic fashion collections; rather, their way of working is influenced by their past studies at an art academy. The designs follow the zeitgeist, but not trends; their garments are created through the careful research of materials and many years of developing their own techniques.
The poetry between form and function also lies in the lightweight and sheer fabrics. The cuts are simple, too much decoration would only distract from the essence of the piece. It doesn't take much to celebrate the lightness of being.
Julia Heuer: Pleated, fancy and joy
Julia Heuer creates her whimsical, colourful prints herself. In fact, her forte lies in the pairing of patterns and colours. Before founding her label in 2017, she designed prints for major fashion houses at the Swiss textile design company Jakob Schlaepfer. Few pieces of her label are still painted by hand, most prints are digitally printed on slightly sheer fabrics. Based on the Japanese shibori technique, Heuer developed her own method which, in interaction with the prints, gives the garments their appearance and final shape.
“Our strength is that we come from a different starting point. We didn't really develop a fashion collection in the classic sense; we worked with the combination of print design and shibori, which we delved into,” Julia Heuer explains. “By doing this, we developed a product that had an eye-catching feature, which was different from other products. I don't know of any other label that combines prints and handmade plissé in this way."
Heuer first came into contact with shibori during a semester abroad in Denmark, when she was still studying at the State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart. Airy silhouettes featuring prints and pleats have since become her signature style and helped the label grow. The brand can now be found at places such as Canadian online retailer Ssense, as well as at US department store Nordstrom and Frankfurt-based boutique Supermercado. A small team of women in Estonia learned her technique and has been helping her make the garments ever since; only by pleating the garments by hand can they obtain their shapes. Heuer also hopes to grow with her label so that she can hire more staff and have more time to be creative herself.
“I would like to continue to grow - grow in the sense that we can dive into new techniques and expand our collection,” says Heuer. “Also, the technique of shibori itself offers so many more opportunities for development. My goal is to continue to create unique collections in these areas.”
Distribution: Via the label itself
Target group: Women aged 18 to 85
Sales points: Mainly boutiques in the US and Japan, but also in Canada, Germany, Switzerland and Indonesia. Heuer does not run her own webshop.
Retail prices: 330 euros for a sleeveless top up to a caftan for 820 euros
Halo Labels: Transparency, light and textile
A fascination with textiles has accompanied artist Ala Sowiar for a long time. When she studied media art, she projected her digital works onto fabrics. And in her signature gauze shirts, too, the diffusion of light between different layers plays a crucial role. Sowiar discovered the gauze fabric - which is unusual for clothing - at a flea market and tried to imitate the see-through effect, which fascinated her.
“I was always triggered by transparency. I am very attracted to this idea of haziness and fluidity that transparency brings, also the way that light diffuses on a textile, when it’s transparent,” Sowiar explains.
Her tactile shirts need as many as four layers of delicate gauze on one side. Only then does the material, which is otherwise used in medicine or bookbinding, become wearable as a garment. Sowiar dyes the gauze by hand. To work sustainably, she starts with the lightest colour and ends with the darkest. Combining different coloured layers creates the matte shimmer on the surfaces of her best-selling design.
For her other garments, the designer works a lot with deadstock fabrics, and her gender-fluid collections are created intuitively. She designs her collections in her studio in Berlin, and the pieces are made by a two-person team in Poland. She sees her brand Halo Labels, which takes its name from the English word ‘halo’, continuing in the future with boutiques with similar values and herself as an artist.
“I don't see myself running a big business, I'd rather stay connected to the artistic field. And maybe even expand my creation a little bit more into art,” Sowiar says. She would prefer to run several projects, like her fashion line, and make art objects or films alongside it. “I am grateful that having a fashion line also allowed me to do other projects that revolve around this universe, textiles and fashion. I would love to expand a bit more as an artist, I think that are two areas that would always intervene.”
Distribution: Via Ala Sowiar
Target group: Women and men
Stockists: Mostly boutiques in the US and Japan, but also Australia. Two-thirds of sales currently come from its own webshop.
Retail prices: 89 euros for a t-shirt up to 179 euros for a jacket.