Konstantin Grcic has entered the fashion fold. The Berlin-based industrial designer partnered with Aeance, designing the sustainable activewear brand’s Collection 03. It marks the second time that Grcic—who is noted for using high-tech materials on a number of products, from lighting, to office chairs, to bathroom fixtures—has joined forces with an apparel company, the first of which was a nylon apron for Prada in 2018. This line for Aeance, however, is the first instance that he has crafted an assortment of styles—all with an ecological bent.
The selection of blazers, padded jackets, trousers, and skirts follow minimalist principles. The cuts are streamlined, almost simple in look—to whit, the details are what pack the punch. There are concealed buttons, internal arm cuffs, and an internal mobile phone radiation-shielding pocket. Moreover, the entire collection is made with 96 percent recyclable or biodegradable materials.
Founded in 2015 by public relations maven Nadine-Isabelle Baier and bicycle entrepreneur Arendt van Deyk, Aeance seeks to do away with the trend-based mindset that has become pervasive in the fashion industry. It creates timeless silhouettes made of textiles sourced from suppliers with the strictest of eco-standards, trying to ensure that its wares don’t add to the world’s overpopulated landfills. Substance is key for the company, along with spreading a sustainable message.
And to get the word across, Aeance enlisted independent fashion designers—Hien Le and Steven Tai—to create capsule collections, opening them up to sustainable best practices. Grcic is the third, and first from the product design industry, to collaborate on a line that invariably extends well beyond one season. He is definitely no stranger to imagining covetable pieces that stand the test of time, but he was admittedly green to being green.
Here, Grcic elaborates further on his design’s for Aeance, and how it taught him about sustainable practices.
Why did you decide to design an activewear collection with Aeance?
I’ve known co-founders Arendt and Nadine for some time and when Aeance launched I received a t-shirt and trousers as a gift. In February 2017, they contacted me about collaborating on Aeance’s third collection, which I thought was a really great proposition. I responded that, as an industrial designer, I’d never created a fashion collection. Arendt explained that this was the exact reason for approaching me. Aeance was looking for an industrial designer’s take on clothing, and a different point of view. My office was still based in Munich then, where Aeance is also based, so we had the opportunity to meet frequently. We met very early on in the process, and worked in small steps, where I presented my ideas and was given frequent feedback. The process never felt pressured. There was time for things to be remade or reconsidered, or for solutions to be found to problems.
What sets Aeance apart from other labels in the category?
I’d been wearing Aeance pieces for a while, and was familiar with the brand’s aesthetic. I’m really interested in the idea of clothing evolving from sportswear, with a performance aspect that is practical, efficient and economical. I wish people in my industry were as alert to environmental issues as Aeance is. Its pieces is sustainability, but in a subtle way. It’s an area you discover when you engage with the brand. It’s remarkable what Aeance is achieving as such a small company. It takes a lot of backbone and attitude to pull that off. I was amazed that, within the textile industry, there are such-high quality performance fabrics made using ecological resources. The use of sustainable materials is rare in my industry. Working with these fabrics gave me a new sense of quality and understanding about the specificity of materials. The fabrics in the collection are amazing in terms of touch, weight, drape and stretch.
Sustainability is one of the biggest trends in fashion and product design industries. Why do you think this is?
Because we all know that things can’t go on the way they are. Climate change isn’t a trendy word, but a scientific fact. Any producing industry has to confront the issue and act [accordingly]. I feel that the fashion industry could and should have been much more of a trend-setter in this urgent matter. In reality, it has been very slow to respond to a growing pressure coming from consumers.
Do you think brands are just playing to the trend, instead of doing it for just reasons?
The good ones are doing it for just reasons, and if they are setting the trend for others to follow, that’s fine.
What are the similarities between designing industrial products and apparel? And what are the differences?
I conceived [apparel] in the same way that I would design a piece of furniture, like a chair. We made mock-ups using a sewing machine in my office workshop. We started by pinning pieces of canvas onto mannequins to represent garments. Making a jacket is really an act of construction. You have to sculpt and mould 2-D materials onto a 3-D form. It’s a process I really relate to. For example, when you create a seat shell from plywood, it is also a 2-D material, which we would try to turn into a 3-D form. Aeance introduced me to Steven Tai, who designed their Collection 02. He helped me translate my ideas into physical patterns. We presented our first ideas not as drawings, but as fabric mock-ups, which I thought was really important.
How would you describe your designs for Collection 03? How does it differ from its two predecessors?
I was really interested in the fact both Nadine and Arendt pair their technical Aeance pieces with other garments from their wardrobes. The collection fills in these wardrobe gaps, with pieces that weren’t available from the brand before. Our earlier designs had more tricks and details, but most of these were eliminated when we arrived at the finished pieces. As I became more mature in the design process and more confident, I realized that less is actually better. This was an approach very much in line with Aeance’s aesthetic. We simplified the styles again and again to get to the root of the pieces. They’re not about loud statements, they’re more quietly convincing. Choosing the colors for the collection was one of the most difficult parts of the project. I made a mood board of colors, and Aeance did too, which we discussed back and forth. The end result is a restricted palette, which makes a strong statement but is also very subtle. The strength lies in the fact there are certain colors, which are not used.
Do you think you will continue down this fashion path?
I enjoy working with fashion—and if, in the future, there are more opportunities, I will be tempted. Anyway, my approach to fashion is always going to be that of a product designer.
Aeance Collection 03 by Konstantin Grcic retails from $269 to $699, and is available at Aeance.com.