roberta einer makes clothes for girls who are too pretty to work
She’s the young Westminster graduate who’s putting a lush pink and blue filter on the fashion world.
With an Instagram full of Clueless quotes ("Do you think she's pretty?" "She's a full on Monet. From far away it's okay, but up close it's a big old mess."), detail shots of intricate, sequinned embroidery, and soft-focus, dreamlike photographs of her latest collection, Westminster fashion graduate Roberta Einer is making fashion for girls who -- in her own embroidered words -- are far "too pretty to work"! Graduating earlier this year as the standout in her Class of 2015, Roberta's blue and pink filtered world is a reflection of her love of teen movies, her longing for the life of Cher/Regina/Torrance when she was a kid growing up in Estonia, and her desire to create luxury for the modern girl. Roberta was the only graduate from her year to go on and show at London Fashion Week, and as one to watch on everyone's list, we caught up with her to chat chick flicks, laser-cutting a million sequins, and why her muse is more into love letters than Burn Books.
What are all the mermaid-esque dresses, heavy embroidery and frilled skirts about in your spring/summer 16 collection?
It was kind of like a dream of everything that I wanted to have when I was a child. I come from the East Bloc, from Estonia, where there was a lack of everything and I wanted to have more and more and more. So for me it was kind of like looking at American teen movies, the 90s, Bring It On and Mean Girls, so I drew all the illustrations and embroideries from movies that I really loved then I wanted to give a richness to the clothes and really make something pretty, because I don't think there is too much of that in fashion. For me it's like the drive that girls put dresses on, and even if they are super grungy, it still feels so good. You feel like you're really pretty, which is a bit cheesy! But I think it's all about that in the end.
Your graduate collection had a similar colour palette and theme. How have you moved it on since then?
It was important to make pieces more wearable, but at the same time I made them more complicated. It is a struggle to keep ready-to-wear exciting. The graphics, sequins -- everything is much better quality. For example, I wasn't happy with the quality of the embroidery for my graduate collection. So for this collection I laser cut all the sequins especially, then dyed them by hand the colours I wanted so they all match. It's about really pushing the quality and creating a feeling of young, modern luxury.
Where did the rainbow and cowboy graphics come from?
The cowboys are what I want to do for my next collection, so I've already started researching things for the next one. But I constantly draw. I've got hundreds of pages of sketches and from there I start changing colours and things. All the embroidery is hand-drawn, they come from movies that I like. On the full, net dress, there's a fox with a ball on his nose, which is from this really weird Soviet cartoon about a fox who has a bright piece of bread as a best friend. I used to love it when I was a kid. So I went back and got loads of my childhood books from home and revisited them and redrew the illustrations from the books and put them on the clothes.
Why the really chilled, spa style set up?
I wanted to do something quite minimal and clean, but also quite cosy. So I put vases, and books. It's a lot about heartbreak and teenage stuff, so we have all those love letters that the girls have written, like love letters from Frida Kahlo to her husband and stuff. The girls hand-wrote them in the books that are lying around. It's not about physical things that girls need to do, it's more that they are engaged and interested, and they read and write before they get their make-up done. It's quite a nice touch to get everyone excited about it, rather than just me telling them,"Do this!"
Who would you love to see wearing one of your dresses?
I don't think there is anyone. For me it's about the characters. Even here we street-cast it a bit. It's about having someone with a character and a bit more of a soul. If you put a pink dress on a blonde bombshell, it will look completely different.
How important is casting to you?
Rosa, the stylist, helped me with the casting. We wanted to go for really dreamy girls, girls with real character. There's quite a lot of contrast with materials and shapes and silhouettes, so with the girls, like with Hannah -- she's got a proper puppy-dog beauty, but Donica is much rougher. For me it was just about having different girls, so people can see different sides to the clothes. It's not what you think. You'd think a pink, glittery dress should go on a Barbie doll, but it's not about that. It looks much better on Donica.
What advice would you give to graduates who want to have their own show?
I think, just do it. I didn't even have time to think. There was a lot of good press, and I had a lot of job interviews for the high street, but I didn't really want to do that. That wasn't the reason I wanted to study fashion. So I thought I'd have a try, and if things don't work out, it's fine because in 10 years I'm probably not even going to think about it, but I'm going to be really proud of this. So for me, I think more people should just go for it. From my class and from Central Saint Martins BA, no one else is showing, which I think is a shame, because that's what keeps it exciting, otherwise it's the same names going round and round and round. Like five years ago, London Fashion Week was so exciting because you had everything. So I really wish to see more. I've had students and people writing to me, and maybe this will show them that you can do it, and it doesn't have to be anything major, like I don't have a PR or anyone, I just did it.
Text Felicity Kinsella
Photography Napat Gunkham