Nov 13th, 2018, 10:06 AM

Urban Deconstruction at Maison Jitenski

By Fernanda Sapiña Pérez
Image Credit: Tsvetan Ignatovski
A contemporary designer in the making.

The Hoxton Hotel, a Parisian watering spot whose glass surfaces and cobble provide touches of modernity, deconstruction, and construction of old and new in perfect chaotic harmony. Sitting across from me: fashion student and designer Peter Jitenski.

The humid air is chilly, stinging my fingertips as soft jazz plays in the background. We had carefully selected this bar for its unique ambiance and convoluted yet delicious cocktails.

We are here to talk about fashion, in particular, the rising trend of “urban deconstruction,” which is taking the fashion business by storm. Jitenski, a fashion student at Istituto Marangoni, is a designer on the vanguard of this movement.

“I have always been an artsy person,” Jitenski says, flipping through his sketchbook with fondness, cigarette smoke blurring the extravagant and intricate designs across the pages. “Since my parents are both artists, I have always had that running through me. I have also always been quite expressive in terms of my fashion choices — naturally, I’ve had countless phases, from wearing a shirt and a tie at school to the baggy jeans and skater sneakers, I have seen it all.”

Born and raised in Bulgaria, 20-year old Jitenski is easily recognizable by his unique features, that make him so eye-catching: deep blue onset eyes and an intriguing, mischievous smile paired with highly defined cheekbones. Part of his allure is the long drag he takes on his cigarettes, his auburn copper hair glistening in the dim glow of the room. His smile is beguiling, his gaze piercing, his eyes flicker with interest and a playful magnetism.

Image Credit: Peter Jitenski

“Fashion was actually quite spontaneous,” Jitenski says about his passion for design. “As I was initially quite eager to head into the world of fine arts. I remember a couple of years ago, as I was in my atelier painting, I saw a piece of fabric and a sewing machine just laying there on the table. I wanted to kind of see how I could experiment with the texture of it, manipulate it, paint it or stitch it. I taught myself how to use a machine, and the more I learned, the more it fascinated me.”

After a couple of weeks, he found himself making a corset. Everything fell into place after that; he applied to fashion schools in Paris, got accepted into Istituto Marangoni and began the journey to get a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design Womenswear.

“I have always tried to convey their undertones of sexual provocativeness, androgyny, and feminism,” Jitenski says.

Jitenski is attracted to a simpler time in fashion, one without the necessity of opulence. His passion for urban deconstruction arose from his love for chaotic and challenging fashion, through an unconventional and arbitrary approach.

“I think this certain implementation that you are asking me about is a result of my work process. I like to initially draw a head and a pair of black point heels below it. Afterward, I get my paints, my fabrics and all kinds of household materials, collaging everything in between. I draw, I scribble without really thinking about it. Ultimately, I would have to interpret that into an actual garment, hence the deconstruction happens.”

Fashion has played an integral part in Jitenski’s life ever since. He has gone from painting on canvases to getting interviewed by magazines in Bulgaria to launching the first lookbook for his first ever collection.

Jitenski plays around with three key concepts when it comes to his design: Sexual provocativeness, androgyny and an adoration of the organic and beautiful possibilities of the female figure.

“I have always been inspired by artists like Egon Schiele, Lucian Freud, Jenny Saville — quite the dauntless type,” Jitenski says. “I have always tried to convey their undertones of sexual provocativeness, androgyny, and feminism. I love the idea of empowering a woman through her clothes, I mean who doesn’t?”

Female sexuality plays a key role in Jitenski’s design, and this is reflected in his intrepid exposure of the female body throughout his idiosyncratic designs. “I do it because, in a way, it glorifies the female body and emancipates it,” he says. “I feel like the intimate and sexual disclosure of a body is liberating and empowering, while remaining romantic and delicate. I am a firm supporter of women and I want to celebrate their physicality in all its beauty.”

Image Credit: Tsvetan Ignatovski

The distinctive term, “urban deconstruction” can be loosely defined. According to Allison Gill in Fashion Theory, it is, “garments on a runway that are ‘unfinished’, ‘coming apart”, ‘recycled’, and ‘transparent’ or “grunge.’” The movement focuses mainly on the dismantling of clothes in an ‘haute couture’ or ‘pret a porter style’, putting them back together, in juxtaposition, and creating a new anti-fashion statement. It has parallels with French deconstructionism, with the works of philosopher Jacques Derrida particularly, the French Algerian philosopher that developed a semiotic for of analysis known as deconstruction. Deconstruction focuses on a critique of the relationship between text and meaning and is an exploration of the interplay between the construction of language and meaning. This deconstruction is also an act of defiance and rebellion against the established 1980s fashion as it moved to the last decade of the twentieth century.

With Martin Margiela leading the charge for urban deconstruction, the fashion world was taken by storm. Mismatched fabrics, stripping down designs to their inner mechanics through touches like visible zippers. The list of innovations is endless.

“The garment-maker is simultaneously forming and deforming, constructing and destroying, making and undoing clothes. This bidirectional labor continues in dressing and wearing clothes, as clothes figure and disfigure the body, compose and decompose. [It can be seen] in the garments of a handful of designers,” Gill observes.

This deconstruction can be seen throughout Jitenski’s pieces, alluding directly to destruction and creating a comparison between Jitenski’s and Margiela’s designs.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Despite being in the capital of the fashion world, Jitenski could have gone anywhere — New York, Tokyo, Moscow, and Milan. Any fashion of capital of the world could have fulfilled Jitenski’s hunger for design and creation. So why Paris?.

“Fashion, art, history and beautiful people,” Jitenski replies. “The dynamics of the city is what I find quite invigorating and the fact that I can be whoever I want to be, whenever I want to be. All the freedom that the city has to offer is what drew me in and keeps me here. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Even though Paris can be a challenging city for young aspiring designers, Jitenski is starting to make room for himself. Nonetheless, there is still a lot of work to be done since he is still indeed a student of fashion.

“As of now, it’d be quite bold to say I am making an impact. I am definitely trying; however, I have a long way to go and big shoes to fill before I do so,” Jitenski says.

Contrastingly, is he really standing out? What impact is he having? How is it that he is not just another fashion kid who will throw in the towel as soon as he graduates, get an internship and leaves his creative process behind? Innovation is scarce in the fashion world, so how does he bring it to the Paris scene and how does he push it to a global scale?

“I try to be unconventional and try to create for the unconventional, strong spirited, empowered woman,” Jitenski says. “From what I have seen in Paris, everyone is obsessed with trends, forecasting the season, and of course — commercialism. I don’t want to follow the current like that. I don’t want to create for a season, or conform to what is perceived as a trend.”

The basis of his design is his desire to completely challenge the fashion status quo and try to surprise and embed feminism into all of his creations.

Image Credit: Tsvetan Ignatovski

“How would I sell if I am not commercial and adjust myself to consumer demand? I can’t answer that, however, it is much more vital to me that I adhere to my vision and my identity as an artist. I would never compromise that in order to sell,” says Jitenski. This out of the box thinking can get him part of the way, but not complete the journey.

I reached out to an old friend of Jitenski’s, Antonia Pagnotta, who has deep ties to the fashion industry. She has been a part of it ever since she was young due to her family’s connection to the glamorous scene. She studied at the Berlin Art Institute, spent one year in an artist’s studio and l continues to work in Fashion Art Direction in Florence. Pagnotta has seen Peter blossom into the young designer he is today, talking creative process, passion, aspirations and the abstraction of thought that leads to the creation of the pieces.

“Peter’s interest in fashion has emerged significantly in the past three years, even though he’s always had a deep understanding of different materials and textiles,” Pagnotta says. “Fashion has always been part of Peter’s life, but in the last three years he has channeled all of his artistic aspirations working on developing his art in the form of clothing, which takes inspiration from all the influences he has come into contact within this time.”

Pagnotta also has insights into how Jitenski began translating his character, emotions, and personality into his designs.

“He is baring his soul onto different textures,” Pagnotta says. “These designs dauntless and don’t enclose specific events but rather small fragments of personal development.”

These particular aspects can be seen throughout all of his designs: they are dauntless, daring and unconventional, which translates directly into bringing his art into the fashion sphere and make it, not only as a fashion student but an aspiring designer that wishes to make a dent in the fashion world in Paris.

“These designs are a reflection of artistic awareness and emotional metamorphosis,” 

Jitenski brings a sense of the human condition into his design. As he carefully crafts specific and idiosyncratic designs, he demonstrates his transmutation not only as a designer but as a person, evolving while challenging the status quo of fashion.

“These designs are a reflection of artistic awareness and emotional metamorphosis. His designs truly resemble his attention for detail but mostly his regard and comprehension for the arts. His latest works truly mirror his capacity to expose both vulnerable and confident aspects of his personality,” Pagnotta says.

Image Credit: Tsvetan Ignatovski

With these reflections upon his designs, it seems that Jitenski has an understanding of what it is to design for highly specific audiences involved in the urban deconstruction movement. He begins to touch upon what it means to begin to design organically and with true human emotion.

“The richness of his research shows a high number of inspirations, including mood boards, illustrations, and manipulations,” 

While the Jitenski brand is unraveling, criticism of the brand itself is also needed in order to get a deeper understanding of what it means to make it in the fashion world.

Gianni Nembrini, illustration designer and head of the fashion department at Istituto Marangoni, and Francesca Vigna, a design professor at the institute both have critical insights on how Jitenski structures, creates and showcases his designs.

“The connection between subject, its practice, and its contexts are insightfully discussed,” Nembrini says. “The richness of [his] research shows a high number of inspirations, including mood boards, illustrations, and manipulations. However, he cannot substitute the complexity of the pieces with accessorizing. The designs are eclectic and strong, as he explores interesting and alternative volumes; [his] technical drawings are more artistic than technical, nevertheless, they are quite eye-pleasing.”

His weaknesses reside in the fact that he wishes to rebel against any constraint put forth to him. He wants to create and destroy. Construct and deconstruct; this duality is his greatest talent and his biggest obstacle. His aim? To bring control to the constant chaos that he creates in his pieces and find the ideal balance between constructionism and deconstruction.

Nembrini and Vigna also provided some insight into what could steer Maison Jitenski in the right direction, “Repetition of details in different design families creates a lack of a subdivision between them, thus causing confusion in the optic of collection construction. A better structure needs to be forecasted in the future,” Nembrini and Vigna said.

Structure is an aspect of design that Jitenski likes to challenge, but there is control in the chaos of design in order for him to continue to succeed in his designs. The professors discussed his sketchbooks illustrations as a presentation for his designs, which “exercised very well, and the personal touch is very visible in each. The layout of the collection is very strong, personal and eye-catching; his mood board is a real manifesto of the collection.” Nonetheless, Jitenski, “has to think more about the reality of contemporary fashion, which doesn’t necessarily mean losing creativity,” Nembrini and Vigna argue.

Coming from a majority Orthodox country, Jitenski feels his home culture has had some impacts on his designs and the human components that highly influence them.

Image Credit: Tsvetan Ignatovski

Jitenski’s background has had a huge impact on how he has grown and developed as a designer and as an artist.

 “People judge, not constructively criticize. It has been rare that I’ve met a creatively driven person, which is such a shame, but that is how things just are. It has become quite apparent that everyone back home is entirely consumed by high-end brands. No one cares about the fashion, they care about how much money they spend on a piece, whatever that piece might be,” Jitenski expressed as he explained his lamentations about the Bulgarian fashion scene and how he completely disagrees with the current fashion mentality.  

His fashion debut leaves the viewers begging for more. “It is my first ever line that was produced, and I am striving to develop my soon to come garments around it,” Jitenski says.  “I am working towards getting myself out there in terms of producing for influencers and people who ‘matter’ in this world, and I have definitely have had quite a positive response. But as I said, I am just starting out, and Paris would be difficult to conquer, but I always love a challenge.”

The test that Jitenski has ahead of him is daunting but equipped with the right fabrics and a sewing machine, there is no challenge too big for this young designer to conquer.