Bea Szenfeld’s fantastical designs are couture masterpieces – made of paper. The Swedish designer’s “Haute Papier” designs are created by cutting, folding, and stitching pieces of paper together by hand – a technique she insists anyone can do. Clearly, Szenfeld is incredibly humble and she is also incredibly sweet. I was lucky to meet her at the Decades X Bea Szenfeld private preview where LA’s fashion elite fete’d the cutting edge designer and her Spring ‘14 collection. Stylist B. Akerlund hosted the event at Decades boutique which drew celebrities Rose McGowan, Fergie and '60s icon Peggy Moffitt as well as denim guru Adriano Goldschmied. The event kicked off a month long window installation which will display Szenfeld’s original art works through Jan. 2. It’s a rare opportunity to view this not to be missed, collection as this is the first time her work has been viewed in the US. Szenfeld, who could easily be touted as one of the world’s most innovative designers, has an impressive resume to boot. She has worked with Stella McCartney and Swarovski and her one-of-a-kind abstract paper creations have been worn by musicians and performers – most notably Björk. While attending the party, I caught up with Szenfeld to learn more about her work and her visit to LA. Scroll down for the Q&A and more pics from the event.
Q&A WITH BEA SZENFELD:
How did you learn this technique of working with paper?
It’s something I did as a child. I was cutting and folding paper, but it wasn’t art it was just a childish thing. Then one day I got bored with fashion - it’s so boring. Everything has to be expensive. Everything you have to hang it on the hanger because otherwise you cannot sell it and stuff like that. It was so boring. I felt so trapped. I thought if I take away the fabric, maybe something else will happen to my designs. So, I tried different materials and then paper and I thought yes, this is it. This is us.
What do you call the technique?
Haute Papier. But the techniques are different because it’s folding, it’s cutting, its putting things on the string - paper crafting. It’s so simple, everybody can do it. They can come here and copy my stuff.
Are all of your clothes made of paper?
If I can decide and wish I would do everything by paper. Yes, that’s my favorite way to work.
What was your inspiration for this collection?
The inspiration was to do the clothes or garments, but not to think about fashion so much. I didn’t want thin waists or to show how beautiful a woman’s body is. I wanted to make sure that I thought about the sculpture and surfaces and to think outside the box - to do something different. Also, the handcraft was really important. Everything is done by hand - there’s no machines. Also, the inspiration was [the process]. Normally a designer will do a lineup with 40 looks or 30 looks or whatever it is. For me, I did three garments at a time. Then, I was like “Hmmm ok, what else can we add?’ And then [I added] three more and so on. I built up the collection that way.
Who are your customers?
Mostly they wear it for music videos or red carpet stuff. And some people they order like ‘I want this garment, but in this and this color,’ and then I start to make it, folding it and so on. So, mostly custom, but sometimes people are like no, I want this as it is right now [and they buy it].
What was it like to work with Björk?
She is the sweetest person on earth. She is really, really nice. And she has a good ear. If I said to her, ‘This is really fragile,’ she was really very careful when she wore it. Because some people don’t care. But she was really, really sweet. I’ve been a fan for such a long time. [since] when she started singing Icelandic songs... She has given me so much inspiration. So it was my turn to give it back to her. It was amazing.
Did you work with Björk on her latest tour?
No, I wish. [She had] the big hair and stuff. She doesn’t follow one person. She really takes whatever feels… I like the way she works with different artists and upcoming fashion designers.
What inspires you in general?
I like when things are simple and sweet. So I can’t say this is this, this or that. My biggest inspiration is Martha Stewart. Nobody believes it. I love her. I’m on her blog and stuff everyday. She’s amazing. She’s a strong woman, been in jail, done that, but still folding papers. I love it. And everything can be done with your hands. There’s no fuss, no craziness… just do it.
Who are some of your favorite designers? Do you look at fashion for inspiraiton?
Yes, yes, I do of course. The biggest guru is Margiela. I love. Whatever he does, it’s amazing and we are loving it. Every piece he does it’s like, 'It’s so good, why didn’t I come up with this?' Also, Jeremy Scott and Vivienne Westwood.
What have you been doing on your visit to LA?
Crazy shopping. Oh my god, we’ve been shopping so much. But mostly vintage - that’s what I’m after.
What were your favorite stores?
American Rag. And we went to this crazy place called I think Lemon Frog Shop on the way to Pasadena in Echo Park. Small place. And I was like oh my god, it was so much vintage and good prices. Ooooh I love. Also, we went to Pasadena on Sunday, [and] we went to the Fairfax Swap Meet - lovely, lovely. I bought, what do you call it? Police trooper boots for my boyfriend. Ooooh, yeah, leather. We don’t have that in Sweden.
Have you ever showed your collection in the US?
No, this is the first time. When I had my commercial collection, I sold in Opening Ceremony in New York, but that was back in the day. But this is impossible to hang on a hanger, so I cannot sell it in a store.
Are they are selling these pieces at Decades?
Yes, yes, one piece has already sold. The lion stole. It’s crazy. I mean who is going to have a paper lion? I’m clapping my hands. You want a lion stole? Good for you.