Samsa G. Tuchwaren and Carol Christian Poell Have our Gaze Returned
In Franz Kafka’s 1915 published novella “The Metamorphosis”, a travelling salesman wakes one morning from uneasy dreams only to find himself transformed into an enormous bug. Little does he know that not only his ability to communicate with the people in his surrounding vanishes, but also his characteristics of being a human, had been transformed. The main character, Gregor Samsa, is immediately thrown into an existential abyss, where he experiences an ontological void. This awareness of a transformation and shift in perception, caused by the metamorphosis is formerly known as dehumanization.
In 2015, a conceptual realm was embedded in a space, where the traces of industrialism were not yet blurred. It takes stage in an abandoned factory, where sleeping trains, including the Orient Express, have been revamped and which was discovered in the same condition the workers left them in the mid 90's.
The owners, Hamid B. and Liu Z., named their Carol Christian Poell dedicated retail and gallery space after the above-mentioned German classic. Samsa G. Tuchwaren. Consisting of the reversed name of the main character, Gregor Samsa, and the German word "Tuchwaren", which stands for products made out of fabrics in a time when craftsmanship valued more than industrially manufactured objects.
Entering Munich-based Samsa G. is an experience. After ringing the bell, a deep buzz chimes. Your hands find their way to lever the heavy metal doors. Your eyes catching a glimpse of an abandoned reception room, set up with a desk and lamp from another decade. A filmy layer of dust lies upon it. You seem to be frozen in time, waiting for the concierge to welcome your arrival. Another heavy metal door opens up, unveiling a bird’s-eye view on a massive hall, where heavy techno sound scrapes are echoed again and again from the rough, high walls. Large skylights open the space for the afternoon sun, allowing the shadows to move across the room. A rusty metal stairway finds its way to the ground. It is a space where concrete crumbles off the walls and metal sticks pierce through it. A space where the floor is a mix of dusty red tiles and raw concrete. A space where the pipes of the old steam room winch along the walls. Placed in the center: a decompression chamber, which functions as a changing room.
The hand picked Carol Christian Poell garments hover above the heads, hung upon a metal square in display. Some of the still covered in their white garment bags, cocooned like a caterpillar transforming into the refinement of itself.
Carol Christian Poell, short CCP, is an Austrian ultra-niche designer, who hides from the public in his studio in Milan’s Naviglio district, where he discreetly composes the fragments of his garments by hand. The conceptual brand, which was established in 1994, has no interest in communicating or showing the designs to the external world, which fuels the longing for the highly limited pieces. The quintessence of his work comes from the vastness of his unconsciousness. He works without the principles of premeditated aesthetic concepts, but with the outcome of knowledge and research.
The process of object dying leather is significant inside Carol Christian Poell`s work. A process, where all leather items are firstly manufactured as a whole and secondly dyed. Another returning classic in his work is the "Drip-Rubber" application. Mainly used on the soles of object dyed, no seam sneakers and boots, the distinguishable sole, dipped in latex, resembles stalactites, which slightly wears off while walking. This unconventional method is also applied to accessories like bags and belts.
His fascination for craftsmanship has his origin in his childhood, where he observed his grandfather, a hunter and tanner, on a regular basis. This confrontation of the sobriety of death and the subsequent steps of tanning the raw skins is a topic dragged with consistency through his work.
In Kafka’s oeuvre, the main character encounters a sudden transformation. In Carol Christian Poells’ designs, the wearer experiences some sort of metamorphosis as well. CCP aims to create useful objects through surgical precision. His thoughtful approach to tailoring, with all available means and techniques, constructs the garment around the body, without disregard to the anatomical source. The human shape is therefore included in the process of creation. Old tailoring techniques, which are rarely used nowadays, play a huge role in the making of its designs. The designer breathes life in menswear classics whilst revealing the process of the garments' construction. Scar–stitches and overlock seams are openly visible. Jackets are often without lining, disclosing the taped seams in the inside. Besides the use of raw fabrics with a dry haptic, Carol Christian Poell also uses lighter fabrics, such as kangaroo leather.
The garments' construction is a form itself, where the wearer is urged to undergo a certain transformation to eventually breathe life in the designs. They need to be re-inhabited and will eventually adapt even more on the wearers anatomy. Not only the main character in Kafka`s novella “The Metamorphosis” experiences a feeling of liberation when accepting the new circumstances, but the wearer of the CCP designs feels the same, once he overcomes the limitations of an initially restrictive design. The denouement of these situations is alike: both individuals are coalescing with their new shells.
Carol Christian Poell is a craftsman, who uses his tactile senses to personally inspect and approve every garment himself. There is no doubt that his designs are an anatomical inversion of sheer complexity. An exoskeleton constructed through orthopedic tailoring.
Back at Samsa G. Tuchwaren, one`s fingertips wander over the abstract, conceptual compositions. Carefully inspecting the raw, hand stitched seams, which resemble freshly stitched wounds. They are approaching from opposite directions, with no encounter. Dead end.
Craftsmanship. Samsa G. Tuchwaren breathes this fundamental thought. Not only with the carefully selected designs, but also within the concepts of their exhibitions. The recently showcased exhibit “Process! Episode One: Ambrotypes” featured a collaboration between Photographer Stefan Milev, Stefan Sappert and set-designer Nini Gollong, where 7 selected CCP objects were captured with a custom built large format camera on blackened glass. The photochemical process used made it impossible to replicate the same motive, which mirrors the uniqueness of Carol Christian Poells designs.
The observer keeps pondering over the intransigence, the uncompromising world created by combining Samsa G. Tuchwaren and Carol Christian Poell. Not only a meeting of minds, it is also a physical resonance among likeminded spirits. In a world, where retailers are struggling due to the uprise of online shops and the omnipresent availability of luxury goods, store concepts like Samsa G. Tuchwaren will prove their existence. It is about the experience one encounters. It leaves a mark on the cerebrum and has eventually our gaze returned.
All images by Philipp Altheimer