Pia’s work caught my eye one evening while I was scrolling through the now non-existent ‘Following’ feed on Instagram. I saw that the talented artist duo Dello Studios liked an image from an account called Loutre.co. I was an instant fan of Pia’s work, warm tones and bold pastel coloured trousers grabbed my attention within seconds, and I found myself wanting to learn more about the process and thoughts behind her work.
From old curtains to deadstock fabrics, Pia is no stranger to upcycling. She has recycled numerous fabrics and transformed them into unique stylish garments that leave you wondering how a pair of old curtains could ever look so amazing. Offcuts from the trousers and jackets are then used to make hats and side bags, with nothing going to waste.
We met with Pia earlier this month in her East London home studio to chat about her new Loutre collection and to gain a better understanding of what inspires her practical clothing designs.
You have a wild creative skill set, and have experimented with many different mediums beforehand. How did Loutre all begin? And what made you take that risk with committing to it?
I grew up in a very creative family, my parents built our family home pretty much from scratch and they had a metal and wood workshop as well as random bits of other crafts in the house. Growing up in an environment like that was amazing and I loved getting involved in whatever my parents were working on and later creating my own projects. It was incredible. Watching, learning, trying, failing, trying differently, learning and trying again. I’ve held 16 different job titles since then and I guess the german work ethic is strong, I have no problem committing day and night to my work while I learned the ins and outs of it. I’m constantly trying to improve skills and gain more knowledge - it’s exciting and I’m hooked on it. Loutre is my first baby project I could only create because I’ve accumulated a basic understanding of most of the jobs needed to do it all by myself: sewing, prototyping, creating tech-pacs, 3D rendering, a lot of problem-solving, set building, photography, graphics, video and editing, putting a website together and so on. It’s easy to commit to this project because I’m constantly challenged and growing and I can express myself how I want.
You grew up in Germany but have since spent a lot of your time traveling, how do you think the different environments you have lived in have influenced your design mind?
When I finished school I sat down and thought to myself, ok right, what’s something you’re absolutely shit at. And in my case that was languages, I almost failed school because of my lacking english skills so I decided to go somewhere to improve that. Australia was an easy one for me to get a work visa and spend time surfing, something I’ve just picked up around the same time after snowboarding in the winter wasn’t enough anymore, so it seemed like a good fit. I started there and never stopped, I think I got addicted to meeting new people and getting inspired by new places. Traveling has taught me a lot about the kindness of strangers and how little you need to be happy. I’ll cherish that forever.
"I think when it’s your project you’re willing to go much further and push much harder for it as you’re the one it matters to."
Your recent collection is also part of a partnership with converse, how did you guys start working together?
Upcycling materials is a central element of LOUTRE. What’s waste to some people in an inspiration to others. Converse liked my work and got in touch with me to be part of Converse Spark Progress, a new platform that aims to spotlight and support young female creatives here in London.
Skate culture and functionality looks to be at the heart of Loutre, the loose fit and practicality is a key feature. Are you a believer in form follows function?
Pretty much all my friends I have here in London right now I’ve met through skateboarding when I moved here. It’s a huge part of my life and it surrounds me with very talented people that inspire me. We wear my clothes to skate in so practicality is definitely a big part of it, style wise I think I’ve actually become braver and more experimental through skating, everything goes so there’s a lot of freedom and my friends encourage it. (Thankfully they are honest enough as well to tell me if something is shit though)
Re-working disused fabrics and materials is something that you do best, big fashion labels have begun to take a similar approach with sustainability becoming a growing issue. What are your thoughts on sustainability in fashion? Are we doing enough?
I’ve read a really good quote about this recently by George Monbiot “We are not materialistic enough. We have a disrespect for materials. We use it quickly and carelessly. If we were genuinely materialistic people we would understand where materials come from and where they go to” Re-working existing materials is a great start and I think it’s incredible that big fashion labels are getting on board with it as well but there is a lot more we can do in the future. Working on new material technologies is really exciting and something I want to focus on myself as well.
You're essentially a self-taught designer, and your studio space is full of self-initiated projects. Why are self-set projects important to you? And what advice would you give to people that are looking to learn a new creative skill?
Ideas are great but you don’t know if they’re actually good till you try realising them. This is why I have endless chairs in my studio that you can’t sit on. I thought I was onto something crazy but the structure turned out to be crap. That’s part of it, learning by doing. Now I know how to definitely not build a chair and I’ve gained important knowledge about resin and concrete pouring, acetate shredding and cast building just to mention a few. So in my eyes that was worth it, this will come in handy again.
We spoke about trusting yourself as well as others, it's often difficult to trust someone else with a project that is so personal to you. Why do think that is? And how have you tackled this?
I think when it’s your project you’re willing to go much further and push much harder for it as you’re the one it matters to. Especially when there is little or no budget for anything it’s hard to find suitable people to work with. Being pragmatic and organised helps a lot here I recon, if you physically and mentally can’t tackle all the tasks yourself you have to embrace the fact that other minds work differently and if things go wrong not to play the blame game but try to solve the problem instead and get on with it. Or at least that’s what I think so far, maybe ask me again in a few years ha
What is next for Loutre?
Material research, material research and more material research