In late April, the fashion world was buzzing with a name that most had never heard before: Christoph Rumpf. Even though he’s still a student at University of Applied Arts in Vienna, the young designer won the Grand Prix du Jury Première Vision award at the 34th International Festival of Fashion, Photography, and Fashion Accessories.
His menswear collection featured larger than life silhouettes that have the avant-garde, punk vision of a veteran like Rick Owens but with a youthful experimental edge. Rumpf’s award-winning collection was inspired by the story of a little boy “who grew up in the jungle devoid of human contact,” but later learns he is a prince. It’s that sort of uncomfortable juxtaposition that he puts into his work. Wide ornate shoulders are balanced out with solid layers, and interestingly cut puffer jackets are matched with trendy platform sneakers. It’s weird and beautiful all in one.
Below we talked to the designer about his work, his struggles as a new designer and what’s next for his career.
How did you get your start in fashion?
“I started at the fashion course at the University of applied arts in Vienna after being frustrated with my architecture studies (I didn’t stay very long). I loved fashion before, but I never had the feeling that I would be a good designer because I couldn’t sketch at all. So I worked really hard on my portfolio and eventually, it worked out and I got accepted.”
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
“I like making fashion which makes you feel strong and beautiful. It is a mix of very powerful shapes and more sensual garments which should make you feel empowered. On one hand I make fashion for people who are confident already because most of my looks are not really the typical kind of fashion you see on the streets, but on the other hand I try to create something that makes you feel powerful even if you are shy and you can create a new character of yourself by wearing it.”
What have been some of the biggest obstacles for you as a young designer?
“Since I started studying fashion design without any prior knowledge of sewing, pattern making or drawing I would say that understanding how to build up volumes and how to translate a drawing into a proper garment was the one big obstacle and also breaking point for me.
“Also to calm down sometimes and not stress over everything. That was more a life lesson in general I think which I learned while doing collections.”
How do you think the smaller international fashion weeks are changing the landscape of the industry?
“I think it is very important to give young designers without a huge budget the opportunity to show their collections on a proper runway show and to introduce them to a bigger audience. In the end, the whole industry is relying on new creatives and not everyone can afford a spot on the calendar of Paris, London, etc.”
Can you talk about your work with Mercedes-Benz specifically?
“I am still at the beginning of working with Mercedes-Benz for the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin but I love the energy which is behind it. The team is really ambitious and I have the opportunity to show my work to more people after the Hyères Festival, which is amazing for a young designer like me.”