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December 13, 2017
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From Julia Starp's current collection in collaboration with Kiddy Citny. Photograph by Arne Hoffmann.

From Julia Starp's current collection.
Photograph by Arne Hoffman.

Since her Summer 2009 collection, 29-year-old Hamburg-based designer Julia Starp has only been using sustainable fabrics. "When I first started [designing with sustainable fabrics], mainly dark fabrics were for sale on the market. It was almost impossible to buy colourful cloths for a decent price," says Starp. "It took me very long time to find someone that would dye my fabrics [in a sustainable manner]." It took Starp almost a year of research before she was able to produce her first collection and even then, despite all her efforts, she still had to compromise. "A lot of fabrics were imported, partially from UK, but also from the United States," she admits. "That wasn't ideal."

Most of Starp's fabrics are Global Organic Textile Standard-certified, she emphasises. The GOTS logo guarantees that fabrics adhere to strict criteria regarding harvesting, processing and labelling. Organic material minimums, child-labour rules and chemical biodegradability are three of many standards that need to be met. Starp says, "I know exactly where my cotton comes from, almost down to the specific picker of the plant."

I even found a tanner who would only make use of herbal ingredients. It was a novelty for him and me.

The young designer even found a source for ecological leather. Friends of hers run a "Demeter-Hof," which in Germany is an establishment that maintains high standards regarding the raising and breeding of animals, as well as sustainable farming. The farm owners offered her the leather to use for her designs. "I put a lot of thought into it before I took the leather, since I am a vegetarian. I also had little experience in leather tanning. But I eventually found a tanner who would only use herbal ingredients. It was a novelty for him and me," she recalls. The first piece of leather ripped apart because was too dry, but she didn't give up. She tried again and was able to create garments including leather shorts and skirts, as well as incorporating leather highlights into some of her canvas pieces.

Her collaboration with Kiddy Citny also supports her vision of not just producing sustainable fashion but of creating art. Citny initially became famous for his heart paintings on the Berlin Wall and these are featured in the collection, but, "most of the canvases I used are paintings Kiddy never finished," Starp points out. "He also painted a few canvases in my studio [specifically for the collection]."

For Starp's collection, Citny painted a large, red painting, which, while wet, had been scratched into. Starp took the work and turned it into a short, backless dress. However, the piece wasn't suitable to be worn everyday. "The cloth [canvas] hardly gives. I feel sorry for the model already. Luckily she only wears it a few minutes," Starp admits and smiles. Starp found sewing the canvases to be a tedious endeavour: "It is very hard under the sewing machine, the cloth is very hard and stiff." But not to worry, Starp's collection also includes highly wearable pieces, including dresses, skirts and soft-shell jackets with Citny's prints and, for the first time, swimwear.

Julia Starp.
Photograph by Christian Brodack.

These pieces, designed and sewn for Berlin Fashion Week, were eye-catchers on the runway; a floor length gown in bright yellow was among the highlights. The collection, entitled SHE, was presented on the Lavera Showfloor, where only sustainable fashion was being shown. Her show was immediately endearing; amid the darkness played a humming bass as three models with flashlights emerged, pointing at the audience and illuminating the room. Besides her collection of swimsuits, corsages, dresses and jackets, raincoats in bright gold and soft shell jackets in black debuted. They will not only be necessary in the autumn but will make a statement with their elegant design and trendy, large hoods.

Overall, Starp's newest collection is classy and feminine but quintessentially sexy - the shorts and skirts are short, and the tops and dresses are backless. But the whole line is keeping with Starp's sustainable goals and artistic vision. Her latest fashion really is art to wear.

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