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Max Zara Sterck – About female bodies, sculptural design and naturally derived materials

Max Zara Sterck is the Dutch designer creating expressive garments for free-willed women, tired of being constrained by fashion

Max Zara Sterck designs and female bodies 

London Fashion Week opened with a sleek and sultry peek into the world of Max Zara Sterck, a performance of dancers draped in her timeless garments. The designer based between London and Amsterdam grew to success after her first collection in 2019, which received acclaim for its take on sustainable garments. Movement takes the leading role in her designs, focusing on how the female body can move with more freedom and how materials can emphasize their beauty. Sterck designs for women’s bodies. Sustainability comes as a bonus to the dynamic pieces, Sterck pushes for her brand to work with newly developed sustainable materials, even collaborating to make her ideas come to fruition. 

In the lead up to her appearance at London Fashion Week, Sterck displayed a handful of designs at Milan Design Week. The Dutch designer labels the work shown as ‘her sculptures’ as they are treedimensional on the body as they are by themselves showing three designs, two of which are from her latest collection. The event was key for Sterck’s brand development as she was curious to find her audience in an artistic sense as she found that Fashion Week always felt that it was for a limited crowd of people and never really about the clothes. The designer came into her own at the exhibition, speaking to multiple artists and designers in depth about her ‘sculptures’.  

Getting personal: Sterck’s reading suggestions

Sterck’s current book recommendation provides an insight into her personal interests and their relation to her design process. Paulo Coehlo’s spiritual novel Brida looks at a girl’s journey and desire to become a witch while dancing to the music of the world. The designer’s spiritual beliefs carry on into her work, explaining that the energy she puts into her designs result in the customer embracing said positive energy whilst adorned in her garments. Sterck is avid about women being able to express their authentic selves in her designs and revealing their identity, as she longed to do previously but forever felt constrained by the ties of poor-fitting designs. The Dutch designer began her brand after parting ways with the luxury market, having with brands such as Alexander McQueen and La Perla as a designer and turning to her own passion-project. After years in the industry and abiding by the limitations of another brand’s DNA, Sterck experienced burnout and became dry of her own creativity. Lockdown halted the launch of her brand but gave her a chance to develop further and regain lost expression and break from the chains of the fast fashion habits she found rooted in luxury. «It’s a tool to be able to come into your own body and express what you find», Sterck notes when discussing the personality of her brand and how she salvaged suppressed imagination.

 After graduating from Fashion Design at Artez University in Arnhem, The Netherlands in 2015, Sterck left school feeling fulfilled and expressed but needed to move on from her complex designs and invent work that would be practical and marketable. Her experience in luxury left her with industry experience, enough to take away and develop her namesake brand. At La Perla, Sterck was taught on the asymmetry and curvature of the female body through construction work and how to use her hands and not rely on digital design. She stated that being at Alexander McQueen educated her on the value of storytelling at a brand and how to communicate that to the customer. She left regarding teamwork highly, hence her tight-knit team, claiming that she needs to know and trust those working on her designs. The team consists of an assistant, pattern cutter, machinist, a small atelier she works with and now her new London PR agency, We Are Village.

Max Zara Sterck-Lampoon
Max Zara Sterck designs clothes made with the intent to free women’s bodies

She Is Your Second Skin Sterck’s latest collection

The latest collection, previewed digitally at London Fashion Week, had a positive response. She Is Your Second Skin invites women to look into themselves and adorn their bodies in garments made to last. «These women take care of themselves and clothes are part of that as food and skin», which is why Sterck uses a host of naturally derived materials such as wool and silk. To further the comfort of her clientele, the designer collaborated with French textile company Induo, who have produced a sweat and stain resistant cotton in black and white. This advance in textile technology was funded by the WORTH Partnership Project, a scheme supporting creative collaborations between designers to develop innovative products. A sustainable team, the designers do not work seasonally but rather work on designs that are timeless and do not abide by any trends and often tweak designs by simply changing the colour for versatility. Sterck uses her knowledge in sustainability and awareness to teach at institutions about its importance and how to implement it in the fashion industry, she says that ‘it’s about making a choice that has to do with durable, high quality garments’. She aims for her pieces to be rehomed in the wardrobes of the granddaughters of her customers, having lasted generations in terms of its resilience. A signature design produced for longevity is the Cutout Wool Jumpsuit, which Sterck claims she’ll ‘wear to bed, on the couch and presenting in Milan Design Week’. It features a figure hugging, short sleeve bodysuit partially attached to a pair of wide leg trousers. The cutout design reveals the hips and creates the illusion of a low waisted pair of trousers, emphasising the womanly figure beneath the cotton. Also featured is the Cutout Wool Dress, with another cutout design on the hips in addition to an elegantly draped panel, allowing free movement for the wearer. 

Sterck’s designs deriving from the organic movement of female dancers

The choreographers and dancers working with the brand happen to be close friends of Sterck. They welcome a female dancer into their studio, hand her the fabric they’re working with and instruct her to just move however their bodies feel they need to. From there, Sterck intervenes and makes cuts where she sees fit, making room for her arms to slide through holes and figuring out how to drape around the female form. Sterck claims that ’it’s just a process of observing and evolving shapes’ and once the dance is filmed, the team can review it as many times as they need to sketch ideas and begin to form a design. This desire to work with dancers evolved from Sterck childhood success within gymnastics, it’s clear that the designer has an innate craving for movement and free expression, and this paired with her talent for design and knowledge of artists and choreographers has resulted in a forward-thinking womenswear label. Using their techniques as inspiration and learning about her own working routine, Sterck looks to Rodin and Mattise for sculptural design, and for structural inspiration at Alaia and Chanel .

Max Zara Sterck 

From opening London Fashion Week to exhibiting at Milan Design Week, Max Zara Sterck has created a name for herself in the most fashionable cities. After graduating in 2015, Sterck went on to work in luxury before establishing her namesake brand in 2019, building a loyal clientele in only two years. 

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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