Pret-a-Reporter

Meet Rihanna and Lady Gaga's New Favorite Designer, Melitta Baumeister

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Rihanna during Paris Fashion Week in March 2014, wearing a pleather jacket from Baumeister's debut 10-look collection.

Music is about to go bananas (literally) for the German-bred designer’s sculptural designs.

In the same way children grow crystals on sticks when making rock candy, 28-year-old Melitta Baumeister grows them on the collars and belts of her clothing. “I dip materials into liquids and the crystals sort of create themselves — I refuse to do busy handwork,” she says as her blue eyes twinkle. “It’s a magical process.”

And the fantastical aftermath of the designer's science lab approach to fashion, which often entails the use of liquid materials and custom-made molds, has quickly cast a spell upon music power players like Lady Gaga and Rihanna who’ve both worn oversized coats from Baumeister collections.

 

GOING BANANAS: A sculptural banana top (left) and pleather jacket from Baumeister's fall/winter 2014 collection. Prices range from $425 to $4,000. Shortly after its debut, the collection was picked up by Dover Street Market (Comme de Garcons founder Rei Kawakubo’s avant garde department store). (Photos: Paul Jung)

“The music world is very visual and clothes with add-ons [like] the 3D bananas I sculpted play a role in describing how artists envision their sound,” says New York-based Baumeister, surmising why songstresses gravitate to her aesthetic more than actresses; the exaggerated, body-morphing use of proportion in her silhouettes is not for those simply looking to cut a pretty figure on the red carpet.

Though her name is a new one in the industry, the Pforzheim, Germany, native, whose parents both have tailoring backgrounds, spent nearly a decade developing and refining her style. Germany was where she mastered her architectural approach to shapes and the M.F.A. program at Parsons School of Design is where wet ingredients and the textures of smooth pleather, sheer mesh and sculptural cotton became ways for her to play with the concept of “using clothing to hold a single moment in space and time.”

“You fail so often with making clothes, it’s a never-ending process,” she says before recounting some of her past mistakes (e.g., skintight corduroy pants that split open). But the designer is about to prove she has more tricks up her sleeve; stylist Mel Ottenberg already placed orders for an upcoming shoot with Bjork, and a custom piece for Rihanna that, rumor has it, might show up in the art for the Roc Nation star’s unannounced 2015 album.

DESIGN GENIUS: Melitta Baumeister

This story first appeared in the Jan. 17 issue of Billboard magazine.

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