Austrian, London-based designer Christoph Ritter first caught our attention at London Fashion Week 2020 with his clubwear collection: 2120. After studying at some of Europe’s leading fashion schools – Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Polimoda and Central Saint Martins – and having worked with big names, Christoph was able to identify three core problems with the industry: sustainability, transparency and diversity. In response, he established his brand Christoph Ritter Studio (CRS), which is a collective of artists, designers, researchers and activists, who all want to make glamour more accessible and ethically responsible.
As a proud vegan, Christoph believes ecological thinking has always been a part of who he is and his designs are no exception. Last year he told Œ: “I believe the main reason why I am attracted to these topics is that my value system diametrically opposes what the majority of the fashion industry stands for. I am anti-consumerism, I hate social hierarchies, and I don’t believe that these old established brands should impact how younger generations express the problems and issues of their times. The way I see it, fashion has this amazing ability to influence people’s self-perception and expression. However, what is idealised is often detrimental to people’s well being and our planet”.
On April 20th, the latest CRS collection AL(LY)IEN was previewed in a short cinematic feature for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia Autumn/Winter ’21. The teaser for the feature read: “In a world where pollution has led clothing factories to shut down, four beautiful ‘AL(LY)IENS’ are getting ready for the night by creating fashion out of toxic slime in their living room labs – a futuristic interpretation of sustainable creation”.
Œ: We last spoke at London Fashion Week ’20 about your collection 2120. How long have you been working on this new project?
Christoph: Yes, It has been quite a year – hasn’t it! This project started with the pandemic, during the first lockdown. The collection was finished by November but getting the photoshoots and fashion film ready, and then presented has taken until this spring. We wanted to give ourselves the time to make something really magical happen and not be confined by conventional schedules.
Œ: What did it mean to you to be featured online by Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia?
Christoph: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia has been a great platform for emerging designers for a while now. I am really happy that we could premiere AL(LY)IEN with them. I believe that art and expression find their way to the places that need them the most. I am ecstatic that our film, which showcases POC, Trans and Non-Binary beauty, found its stage in Moscow.
Œ: Storytelling was always integral to your creative process. What’s the story behind AL(LY)IEN?
Christoph: AL(LY)IEN is an accumulation of stories and relationships that I started to put together during lockdown. It is mainly about how Western society appropriates foreign cultures and exports toxic beauty standards that most of us, but especially POC and gender-non-conforming people, cannot abide by. It is about alienation versus allyship and how we can elevate each other.
Œ: Ethically sourced materials are somewhat your thing. Have you developed your methods and materials since the last collection?
Christoph: The ethos is still the same. We are striving to create luxury from nothing but waste. What has developed are the handicrafts we were researching. Before, I was actively trying to avoid my Austrian heritage, but I have realised that there are a plethora of brilliant traditional sewing techniques that are a great foundation for innovative up-cycling.
Œ: You work closely with scientific researchers and eco-activists, what does that entail? How influential are they on your work process?
Christoph: Listening and learning from people, who are all about activism and change is at the core of my work. Luckily, I have a lot of activists in my circle of friends, who cover a variety of issues. They often challenge me and call me out on my practice, which is sometimes painful but necessary. I also worked closely with material future specialist HouseofMesmer. They are at the forefront of exploring how textiles can actively help clean up the planet and so much more.
Œ: You tackle more than just sustainable clothing in your latest collection, what other themes are covered? Why are these important to you?
Christoph: I believe sustainability goes much further beyond the way things are made. It is also about how we treat the people, who are wearing the clothes and understanding the how and the why. For this collection, I did work closely with trans activists to understand how to dress their bodies and understand their needs. Fashion is all about self-expression and allowing as many people as possible to do that is important to keep it relevant.
Fashion – Christoph Ritter Studio
Styling – Samuel Shearer
Photography – Emalea Jones
Artistic Direction – Andy Alderslade
Lighting – Rupert Earl
Set Design – Niall McKeever
Props – Mai Sanchez, Julian Emsley and Melissa O’Connor
Hair – Mika Dziuba
Makeup – Daniella Rose
Models – SIUHEI, Aba Amoah, Monika Rohanova, Radam Ridwan and Fatima Najm,