Playful isn’t the first word that springs to mind when it comes to collared shirts and tailored pants. But for 25-year-old designer Alister Sluiter, whose version of play involves flouting the rules of suiting, there’s fun in subtle design disruptions such as a displaced shoulder seam here and extended pant leg there. “I’m having fun making fun of what’s considered right in fashion,” Sluiter says of his small-run menswear label Stetig (German for “steady”).
The Melbourne-based label debuted with a collection of classic silhouettes – debonair suiting, oversized wool T-shirts and Riviera-ready shirts¬. The twist? Everything is softly structured enough to pair with sneakers. Casual cotton linen is applied to formal suiting and trousers are a tad long, so they bunch slightly at the ankle. “As someone who is self-taught, I don’t feel constricted to do everything the correct way,” Sluiter says. He also doesn’t feel bound to a particular aesthetic, preferring a steady evolution of ideas. “I don’t like the idea of forcing myself to sit down and design a collection. I like to experiment and see what comes out of that.”
Sluiter came to fashion from architecture. He’s still lecturing in architecture now, while also holding down a job as fashion design assistant for another Melbourne label, Livia Arena. Fashion appealed for its more immediate sense of gratification. “The process from drawing to prototype is a lot faster in fashion than architecture,” Sluiter says. “And I like the tangible process of using my hands to make what I imagine.”
Of course, this “faster” process is considered slow in the fashion industry. With no defined seasonal releases, Stetig is run on a made-to-order basis. Orders normally take four weeks to make and deliver, with Sluiter cutting and sewing everything himself. Designs are made using only deadstock fabrics – unsold or unused fabrics that would have otherwise gone to waste. Sluiter finds the idea of buying new fabric to fulfil his creative ego “a bit repulsive”.
Like many other conscious designers, Sluiter is intent on running a label that values human labour and is mindful of its environmental impact. He embroiders the inside of each Stetig garment with a code denoting when and where the piece was made, along with its maker’s name. “The idea is to reconnect people with their clothes,” Sluiter explains. “If you force people to look at the code, then you force them to understand what they’re holding was made by a real person. I think distance from this knowledge is what allows people to buy $7 T-shirts without considering the impact.”