Rewind several weeks and Paula Knorr’s SS17 collection is making its first appearance in Trieste, Italy, as the German born designer makes a return visit to the International Talent Support showcase, an event at which she picked up the fashion award in 2015. Fast forward a month and the same collection will be making its debut proper at London Fashion Week, as the full line up marks Knorr’s NEWGEN initiation, hers having been the lone addition to the BFC backed bill in June.
Right now though, the designer is answering half a dozen questions Clash sent over via email, starting with the basics: mum and dad. “My parents are both artists and illustrators,” she writes of her entry to the creative industries, “most of their friends are artists or freelance designers, so as a child I thought these were the most normal jobs in the world.”
Inspired early on, she talks of a childhood spent sketching and creating outfits for her younger sister; the dream job of fashion designer set on as soon as the notion was confirmed as a realistic prospect. Which is how she ended up in London, studying on the MA at the Royal College of Art, an experience she defines as “one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
“I learned so much about myself, my creative vision and what I want in life,” she says. “The artistic and visionary support I received at the RCA was the perfect addition to my more skill and industrial based Bachelor education in Germany. Zowie Broach – who started as Head of Fashion in my second year – was an amazing inspiration too. She proves how energetic and open minded you have to be (in fashion) to move things forward.”
Two seasons in (September’s offering will be her third formal collection, following ‘Her Wet Skin’ and ‘Collage of Herself’), Knorr’s interpretation of moving things forward is to produce work concerned with the female psyche and women’s emotions. “To support and illustrate female identity is the core idea of my fashion,” she explains, confirming her influences as abstract ideas, the female gaze as her benchmark. “At the moment I find it interesting to explore new ways of sexiness from a woman’s perspective. For a long time ‘sexy’ clothes were not considered high fashion; I would like my designs to reveal a new, realistic idea of sexiness.”
“I find it really important that the clothes don’t overpower the wearer,” she later remedies of a question on aesthetics, which is perhaps not the easiest of tasks for the Paula Knorr fan: hers are exotic creations of excess, the sort that flaunt rich fabrics, dabble in floor length hems and demand an armour of confidence. They’re not strictly overpowering – a pair of trousers from the AW16 collection, pictured above, would be a comfortable partner for a simple white vest for example – but they bear the characteristics of decadence. One imagines Riri would be at home in a full Knorr look, something not unlikely to happen, given the singer’s affinity for London’s young designers.
Away from the CFDA award winner though, the designer’s wares have already been granted approval by the music industry, with Björk claiming fandom. Explains Paula, “Björk’s stylist contacted me and I lent pieces for her tour last year; then she ended up buying some. I am extremely honoured, for me, Björk is not only a wonderful artist, but an immense inspiration of how to live out femininity. It gave me a confidence push, that my design concept of supporting and illustrating female identity, is understood.”
Professional triumphs in the form of the ITS win and sponsorship from NEWGEN have only harboured such convictions, with Knorr asserting the former as an incomparable personal feat that changed her career completely; the importance of the latter she stresses “brings back a lot of support that young designers lose when they graduate, but desperately need.”
Finishing up somewhere not dissimilar from where we started, Clash draws on her native Frankfurt and the contrary features of being a designer in London. “Living in London is completely different,” she assures us, “I come from a village nearly 45 minutes away from Frankfurt. The big difference I witness at the moment between Germany and the UK fashion system is that the UK is so on point in integrating graduates into fashion business; new brands and upcoming designers are taken seriously.”
Words: Zoe Whitfield