Melitta Baumeister is a German designer who lives in New York, usually shows in Paris, and this month opens a permanent space at Dover Street Market in Ginza, Tokyo. This indirect association with Rei Kawakubo might help people unfamiliar with Baumeister’s work to place it within the avant-garde tradition—as will the dramatic first look here. That bulbous, asymmetrical, padded harness-like mass covered in a wood-grain print worn over a black latex stirrup bodysuit with exaggerated platform shoes may be a showpiece, but it’s among the most literal expressions of Baumeister’s topical theme. “Sitting inside, looking outside. That simple, simple thought,” she said. “I like to have these kind of furniture silhouettes, or fabrications with the wood [print] and this idea of the body becoming part of the furniture as well.” And who hasn’t become one with a chair or a sofa during these work from home days?
Baumeister described herself as “a designer who is very much about silhouettes,” and she sculpts clothes ingeniously. There are pieces with variously placed armholes that allow the wearer to alter the look of a garment; pieces with built-in structure; and those with inherent slouch, which are Baumeister’s take on the trend of the moment. “I had to learn to do sweatpants,” or rather, she qualified, to learn how to apply her aesthetic to sweatpants. They are shaped with the legs cut so they look like they’ve been sat in.
The house, and the universe of Baumeister, where things aren’t quite as they seem, is under construction. Over time, the designer said, she’s learned how to make pieces that deliver drama in doses big and small, as evidenced by this striking, thought-provoking collection. Are the dysmorphic showpieces a reflection of the world as it is today? Or do they challenge us to find new ways of looking at the world?
Baumeister’s work is challenging, humorous, often beautiful, and despite a touch or two of kink, it has a purity that comes from focus on design and vision. “I guess I’m just a very honest designer,” she said. “And if I wouldn’t do it like this, then I would just do something else completely.”