Beatrice Oettinger constructs dreams and fabricates magic. She creates garments fit for a fairy princess; Titania from a Midsummer Nights Dream would be honored to wear one. Fascinated by the magical clothes of myth and legend such as Hecate, the Greek goddess of magic, who wore a garment of saffron, and Hera, the wife of Zeus, who wore a dress of feathers, Oettinger reconstructs them from imagination and fabricates them from the exuberant materiality of nature. Seduced by nature, Oettinger collects her material while walking the streets of Berlin, never sure what will accompany her home, and what means she will find to give them new life. Her work creates a playground for her materials to continue to grow, with traditional crafts give them form. She allows the sensuality of the materials to guide her creation, affected throughout by touch, scent and sensuality. The dress to Oettinger, is where magic begins. Her clothing offers the chance to glimpse a fairy world.
It was while living in Munich that Oettinger first touched on creating living clothing. While learning regional folk dances, her interest was sparked through an evening course taken to learn how to sew the traditional costumes and corsages for folk dance. Each corsage is traditionally created by sewing rice or willow inside the fabric, to give it structure. Oettinger was so taken with the technique that she continued sewing and experimenting with natural materials, carefully enveloped in sheer silk and organza. Her materials cover a wide diversity of mostly natural, local materials such as nuts, berries, flowers, beans, rice, seed, twigs, tree bark and coffee beans. Each material requires special and individualistic attention and techniques to showcase their unique beauty, some of which are baked, painted, heated or sculpted, and enveloped in silk, cotton or polyester fabric.
The first piece Oettinger created was a simple, transparent apron, crafted with flowers from a gifted bouquet and wild flowers from the Alps. Oettinger’s clothes “gamble with the idea of … having something alive next to your body.” Her clothing elicits astonishment, enchantment and sensuality, making the wearer luminous, “I’m in search of the brilliance and the glamour of the fabric.” Inspiration comes from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, and the discovery of a new plant on a simple walk. She works to discover each materials uniqueness, to understand its history and healing powers, then ”a dress starts to grow”, with pieces taking as little as a day, or as long as a couple of years to fully form into an item of clothing.
Beatrice Oettinger’s company has bloomed, “very slowly – like a tree perhaps”. She takes special orders for wedding dresses, for which she conducts long interviews to unearth tastes in color, scent, texture, fabrics and plants, to make the perfect fantasy for the bride to be. “I think sensuality is the inspiration for everything”.