Text by Mandi Keighran
For her final graduate project at London’s Royal College of Arts (RCA), German designer Jule Waibel created a collection of folded paper fashion objects – a dress, a bag and an umbrella. She titled the collection Entfaltung, which can be translated as both “unfolding” and “evolving” or “developing” – an apt title given the collection’s role in Waibel’s own artistic development.
“I was doing industrial product design at the RCA,” says Waibel. “Everything had to have a function and be useful, but I had trouble doing that and enjoying myself aesthetically. I had a breakthrough when I decided to do something artistic and enjoy the playfulness.”
The collection was born from a brief for her final year project that asked students to explore the idea of minimum and maximum space. “I went pleat-mad,” she says. “I was folding everything.”
Each intricately folded piece is constructed from a single piece of Tyvek paper (the kind of plastic paper used for festival wristbands) and involves over 10 hours of complex hand-folding – the dress has 256 folds and the bag has a mind-boggling 1,105 folds. While the collection was informed by origami, the folds aren’t based on any existing patterns. Instead, they are the result of hundreds of experiments into form conducted by Waibel over the course of her final year. “I did buy some origami books, but I didn’t really use them,” she says. “I don’t like to use instructions, so I was following my instincts.”
On graduation, she was approached by Spanish fashion retailer Bershka to create a collection of 25 dresses for shop windows in 25 cities around Europe – a project that took Waibel and a team of 10 helpers eight full days to fold. In creating this new collection, Waibel took the opportunity to further develop her original design, printing each paper sheet so that, once folded, gradients in the colour and pattern appear. “I wanted to have a ‘Tadaa!’ effect when the folds open up,” she explains.
With an upcoming exhibition of folded vessels at London department store Heal’s and a showcase of her folded work at Ventura Lambrate during the Milan Design Week in April, Waibel is just getting started. “I’m still not fed up with folding,” she says. “Everyone else gets sick of it after one or two days, but I love it.”