Anna Aichinger is a Viennese designer, who studied at Vienna’s University of Applied Arts, and established her label in 2003. Her designs stand for elegance, quality, femininity, and empowerment. Her clothes are sold at different boutiques in Vienna and presented at Paris Fashion Week twice a year. She believes that “fashion has to highlight the woman” (not vice versa), and that “one should look a woman in the face first, then notice her dress.”
Her customers are women with a strong consciousness for fashion and their own personal style, who appreciate quality fabrics and quality crafts(wo)manship, and who like clothes that have the ability to put them in a certain mood because “when you are dressed well, you can feel better and stronger.” The designer likes to draw out strength from the feminine, and to pair her collections with high heels because “when you’re wearing high heel, you are at eye-level with men.”
The titles of her collections are always very symbolic, poetic, provoking, or empowering. Her 2007 collection was entitled “Vive la Revolution Romantique” and paid homage to international stars and activists like Jane Fonda and Brigitte Bardot. The Inspiration for her Fall/Winter 2010 collection was Marlene Dietrich and Hedy Lamarr and their 1930s and 40s classic forms; while the Summer 2011 collection was inspired by Grey Gardens. The current 2011 collection “The Dawn of Dusk” uses the motifs from Fritz Lang’s classic Metropolis (1927).
I had the pleasure to meet Anna Aichinger at her atelier in Vienna and talk about her work. Her insights into culture, women, and fashion are just as beautiful, fascinating, and remarkable as her clothes.
1. Your collections are often influenced and inspired by films. How do you see the connection between film and fashion?
Movies create a certain mood, atmosphere and attitude in a story. And so does fashion. It should deliver the perfect matching background to the moods and attitude of “your own personal story” called life. Be cinematic!
2. Your Summer 2008 collection was entitled “Alphagirls” – in the North- American context, Alpha-males or females often carry a negative connotation of dominance and power-hunger. How do you interpret the concept? How did you translate it into fashion?
I think it’s funny that it has a negative connotation in America, where the whole society is based on the values of winning, making money, and being the world’s Number 1. The collection was actually based on women in music, girls in bands. But during my research, I found that there weren’t actually that many female-only bands. Like the Runaways, and Girlschool, where girls, who not only just sing and wiggle their booties, or sing in a band where the instruments are only played by boys, but rather play the instruments themselves. So I started to design for an imaginary all-girls-band called THE ALPHAGIRLS.
I think concerning the term Alpha-male and Alpha-female it is important how someone fills that role. You can be a dominant, bitchy, money-and-self-obsessed pain in the ass, or you can be a leader, a mentor, a networker. I’d rather see the Alphagirl as a women who reaches out into the world, and goes her own way without paying attention to what others might think. Who tries new ways of combining all things she wants to be in life. It’s about escaping the stereotypes we still have in mind today of what a career woman is, what a good wife is, what a good mother is. Alphagirls try to define all of this according to their own needs and desires. And lead their own life. Not following someone else’s ideas.
3. Could you tell me more about the 2010 collection entitled “All we want baby… is everything” – it’s a great title! Do you think it’s possible to have it all? Do you think today’s women can have it all? If yes, how?
Of course we can. The only problem is that people never take their time to really get into themselves and find out what they really want. They get so many stereotypes of so-called happiness stuffed into their head, all day long from all sides, that they hardly find the time to listen to their inner voice that tells them what they really need in life to be happy. So once you discovered what truly makes you happy, most of the time it’s not that hard to live it.
4. What are some of your favourite films?
There are so many. I really like the old-fashioned classic Hollywood movies like Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Lubitsch, as well as movies made in the golden era of the new Hollywood cinema in the 60s/70s (Scorsese, Coppola, ….). And I like movies where the director is able to create an unique atmosphere such as David Lynch or Wong Kar-Wai. The last movie I really liked was Miral by Julian Schnabel, a beautiful story about the life of three women in Palestine.
5. Who are the women you most admire, who inspire you, who influence you?
Women who are ahead of their times. Like Hedy Lamarr, an Austrian-American actress who was a major star at MGM in their Golden Age and also co-invented – with the composer George Antheil – an early technique for spread-spectrum communications and frequency hopping , essential to wireless communication from the pre-computer age to present day. I also admire Marlene Dietrich for her engagement in the résistance, generally, women who speak out. Also I’m very inspired by visionaries of any kind.
6. What do you like about Vienna?
The good coffee.
7. What are some of your favourite places, cafés, shops in Vienna?
8. What kind of images of women do you try to create with your designs? What kinds of words of inspiration would you give to other women?
I don’t like to prefabricate a stereotype to put the ladies in. I like to build a beautiful strong frame for women ready to be outstanding by themselves. So as closing remarks I would say, courage les filles! You exist only in what you do, and you only live once.