February 17, 2019
photographs Silvia Bordin
words Cyril Vinchon
interview Stefan Howarth
She’s got everything it takes to be one of tomorrow’s most influential creators. Having already proved her worth alongside Peter Pilotto (among others), Paula Knorr can now boast having made a sensational entry into the fashion industry in 2015. Her growing fame and sheer talent have not gone unnoticed by the British Fashion Council, who awarded her eponymous brand the NEWGEN subsidy, a prestigious sponsorship program for emerging designers. In the run-up to the London runway shows, Sacrebleu! brings you an exclusive report on the 2019 fall-winter collection by this designer who plays it by her own rules.
Describe yourself in three words.
PK: passionate, hard-working and creative.
Describe Paula Knorr, the woman in three words.
PK: passionate, sensual and strong.
Your parents we very creative, did they push you to be creative yourself? At what point did you realize being a designer was the career path you truly wanted to pursue?
PK: I never actually thought about any other job than one in a creative industry. I realized that I wanted to be a Fashion Designer quite young. I got my first sewing machine when I was ten. In the beginning it was quite hard for my parents to understand that I wanted to pursue a career in fashion. They were art students in the 70s, so they just saw the super commercial side of fashion not the artistic one. But now after following my love for fashion for nearly 20 years, they absolutely understand and are super supportive.
Paula Knorr is renowned for using extremely elaborate fabric draping and cutting techniques that lend her creations their own unique style. In 2017, she presented her first spring-summer collection in the official London Fashion Week calendar, and has come back to what she does best for fall-winter 2019. The collection promises to be as awe-inspiring as Knorr’s signature evening wear, combining casual wear and chic garments for the ritziest evening galas. It’s the association of lavish materials with flowing and elastic fabrics such as lycra or jersey that gives her designs their singular character. Add to that a bold and flamboyant color palette, figure-hugging cuts – even asymmetrical in some cases – breathtaking drapes, and you have the Knorr look in a nutshell.
You studied at the Royal College of Art in 2015 and then worked with Peter Pilotto on different projects, did these experiences change your design esthetic?
PK: Definitely. Working with Peter and Christopher helped me to understand the sales process. When you are studying, especially at a school as prestigious as the RCA, sales and designing sellable pieces, creating a collection that caters to your customer comes second.
You are currently part of the NEWGEN initiative that supports the very best emerging talent, how have they helped you develop your brand?
PK: Immensely. Their support from the BFC surpasses the financial help and mentorship, as they do their utmost to make you feel like you are part of a group of likeminded young designers, who are all at similar stages of their career. There is such a feeling of togetherness and support, something that is lacking in an industry where a lot of designers start out on their own.
Your designs are famed for their innovative draping techniques, was this a conscious design move? Or something that came to you as a natural part of the creative process when you designed your first collections, and that have stayed with you throughout your career?
PK: When I first started my research, I had this Idea of a wet body stepping into a sheet of fabric and the fabric clinging to the body and drapes across. My designs are about the woman that wears them. Her movement and beauty should be the focus of attention. Her body shape helps define the voluminous drape and fit of the garment as she wears it. The fluidity of the fabrics and drapes pay tribute to the movement of the woman's body. This idea has been a guideline for my designs since the beginning.
For this season, Paula Knorr is working with Swarovski to add a touch of glamor to these astonishing materials. Sparkling crystals, elegant sequins, luxuriant lamé velvets and delicate shimmering lurex, hold the premise of a winter at the pinnacle of elegance. As for her previous partnership with Rathel & Wolf and Swarovski for spring-summer 2019, Paula Knorr has another collection of outsize jewelry in store; a stunning selection of wrist- and neckwear to add that extra ounce of opulence.
What is your creation process?
PK: My main intention in my design is to put the woman – not the clothes – in the center stage. It´s all about her body, her movement and her personal beauty. This interaction and balance between the body and the garments is essential. Details, prints, etc. come second. That´s why I never start by drawing my ideas. I have to drape and preferably create them directly on a real body to explore how they interact.
Your designs explore femininity and womanhood, is that a conscious decision?
PK: As a womenswear designer it is absolutely necessary to challenge yourself and what femininity means to you. Your sole field of work is to dress women and as such, you shoulder the responsibility of being progressive, powerful and fighting their cause. In your small area of reach you have the opportunity to contribute and totally change things for women.
Can you give us any clues on your next collection? What can we expect? What is the color palette likely to be? What fabrics will you use?
PK: For FW19 we put my design ethos, that eveningwear should provide as much comfort and ease as leisurewear in the center. Everything has to be easy to wear, comfortable and allow flexibility and movement. As a contrast we worked with the most luxurious fabrics and haptics. All over Swarovski crystals, liquid velvets, sequins in all shapes and sizes and soft silks. As well as an uber-feminine color palette of rich red and wine tones, bright neon pinks and soft blush tones.
The Knorr woman’s wardrobe is an unalloyed amalgam of elements that seem incongruous at first glance. Therein lies the strength of the young German designer: by some unknown and magnificent magic, she transmutes metals into gold and sublimates the most basic materials. The women who wear her designs will feel special; special because she will be wearing not just a unique garment in terms of its cut and composition, but also in terms of the message it conveys: the Knorr woman wears freedom inside and out.
How do you manage to create such show-stopping gowns that are intricately embellished yet extremely comfortable?
PK: The essence of my brand is to create a new form of glamourous feminine dressing that doesn´t cut out comfort. 90% of our garments are made with stretchy back or side panels to allow movement and flexible sizing. We develop unique and new ways of cutting garments which embrace femininity while respecting the female body and giving the wearer the freedom to move and do whatever they want. For me empowered evening wear is a combination of glamour and wearability. My designs are about the woman that wears them. Her movement and her beauty should be the focus of attention.
Do you have any standout pieces that you personally adore?
PK: I love the SwarovskiI embellished pieces. They are very simple draped pieces on stretchy mesh but are a perfect showcase for the essence of Paula Knorr design.
Who is the Paula Knorr woman for FW19?
PK: She is sensual, energetic and very confident. The collection is so bold and intense I imagine a very powerful and strong woman wearing the pieces.
What would you say to all the women out there?
PK: Don´t feel so insecure about yourself : belief in yourself, your inner strength and your capabilities. A lot of women I know are masters in the art of self-doubt and self-deprecation, including me!
With a growing reputation as one of London's most exciting and talented designers, what are your plans for the future of your business?
PK: In the next few years I definitely hope that the brand will grow and develop. I want to push areas like knitwear and accessories, to include items in the collection at a more accessible price. And slowly integrate my own online store, to sell part of the collection directly.
The Paula Knorr woman wears freedom literally through the deft combination of flowing fabrics that free her from constraints, and she wears it figuratively as a message from the designer. These pieces are vectors of emancipated thought, and whatever might be said about these stunning creations, Paula Knorr makes those that choose to wear them the confident and empowered women of tomorrow.
pAULA KNORR fALL-WINTER 2019
Version française ici.