Hailing originally from Lithuania, Greta Melnik is the 28 year old designer based in Berlin who is creating a reputation for industrial, avant garde silhouettes that people cannot get enough off. Since graduating from ESMOD Berlin earlier this year, Greta has been busy working on bespoke commissions and freelancing for other designers. She is also working on a couple of top secret projects (and her lips are sealed shut!). Citing Gareth Pugh, Boris Bidjan Saberi and Rad Hourani as some of her long time favourite designers, and her mother and grandfather as inspirations, Greta also attributes her design aesthetic to her childhood spent in the local power plant where her grandfather worked, “I think my love for weird, industrial aesthetics comes from there”, she says, “I love uniform silhouettes, rough looking accessories and obscure fabric manipulations”. With plans to open her own studio in the future, we catch up with Greta to hear about her childhood, latest collection ‘åbßu®∂i†¥’, and what get’s her out of bed in the morning.
The Fashion Conversation: Your childhood was filled with mini creative projects you worked on with your mum – drawing, painting, working with clay, building little sculptures, crocheting, knitting and sewing. With so many creative interests, how did you end up pursuing fashion design specifically?
Greta Melnik: When the time came to choose what to study, I knew that I wanted to do something connected with what I loved to do, however I was very uncertain about fashion design. It was my big dream but I thought I was not ready. Other interesting choices were industrial or graphic design and I found the graphic design program in Vilnius Arts Academy (Lithuania) and thought: this is my thing. I’m very happy that I studied there. I learned a lot, got good basics, the skills were super useful in fashion studies, and they are still today. Everything was great until I started to study the masters program, when I realised that even if I had very good future prospects at Vilnius, something was missing. So I quit the program, thought about what I should do to really fulfill myself – my two biggest dreams at that time were to study fashion design (I finally felt ready!) and live in Berlin, and after some research and struggle, magic happened!
TFC: What were your inspirations behind your åbßu®∂i†¥ collection?
GM: For me it is always a bit hard to explain this concept. It is mainly the very personal feeling about what is absurd but still makes sense on a deeper level. Strange accidents, weird approaches that are shaped into something material, something beautiful.
TFC: The shapes and volumes you created in your åbßu®∂i†¥ collection are incredibly bold and captivating, how did you get from your initial thoughts to your final collection?
GM: For åbßu®∂i†¥ I gathered a lot of inspirational images, printed them out (all of them had a mirrored version) and made analog collages from them over several days. It’s harder than making a digital collage because you are ‘stuck’ with the particular size, shape and color, and you can’t easily fix it like with Photoshop, but this process makes it more interesting and personal. Cutting out parts yourself, gluing them by hand – it puts more heart into the process. After making a bunch of collages, I selected a few favorite ones, placed transparent paper on top and copied the main shapes – details I would like to keep – and started to create something that looks more like clothing. I didn’t try think about construction, I just wanted final styles that would look impressive. On the side I was making a huge inspiration book, with all the interesting images and information. Then I made a lot of fabric manipulations, found the fabrics I like and matched them to the looks.
TFC: After studying graphic design, you pursued a BA in Fashion Design at ESMOD Berlin, a university renowned for its dedication to sustainability. How did you become interested in sustainable fashion design?
GM: I like to upcycle and I save fabric leftovers that I could use for making smaller accessories or for fabric manipulations. I also make new clothes and wallets from old clothing. If a model is outdated but is made from high quality materials or has functional and good accessories, I don’t see a reason to throw it out. If an accessory/clothing item/shoe is still good and I know that someone might love it, I would rather sell it in a flea market, donate or give away. I don’t like to throw away good items just like that. I only throw away what is really useless and couldn’t make another person happy. I want to be a responsible human being and not to create more trash from perfectly usable items. Maybe all of this also comes from my childhood. Being attracted to things that are dear, respecting the care of other people who give you something.
TFC: How would you describe your design aesthetic? You love avant garde fashion and obscure fabric manipulations, what are some of your favourite fabric manipulations?
GM: Only over a longer time people will be able to see what my actual aesthetics turn out to be. My last collection was something crazy and experimental. I wanted to do very complicated things, just go a bit crazy and try out myself. In terms of obscure fabric manipulations, I enjoy burned and ripped textures that remind me of crackled walls more than the user friendly flower motifs.
TFC: What is one thing people who know you would be surprised to learn about you?
GM: Maybe that I’m scared of water? Of course I’m not talking about the shower or swimming pool. I love nature and being near water or in a ship, but not directly soaking in the mysterious cold and dark liquid. I can swim (at least I could years ago…), but I can’t enjoy it.
TFC: What gets you out of bed in the morning?
GM: My dog! She is like an alarm clock, so there is no chance of sleeping in. More seriously though, I am really enjoying my overall lifestyle situation at the moment. Most of the time I’m working from home. I can arrange my time freely and spend half of it for the freelance work to earn some money, and other half on my own designs and experiments. I think I learned a lot in my study years but there’s so much interesting knowledge that I still don’t have, so while working on my projects, I try to find and learn new information connected with them.