Max Zara Sterck

Max Zara Sterck

SOL sat down to chat with the insightful and talented Dutch Fashion Designer Max Zara Sterck from her studio in London.

The guiding ethos behind her eponymous brand, Max Zara Sterck, is to empower through conceptual shapes, beautiful drapes and uplift ones everyday wardrobe into something that is not only alluring and authentic but also an expression of tactile and structural delight.

Max has just launched a series of short films that centres around a specific piece of her collection. The first protagnist of the Movement Series is the Jumpsuit. You can view the film on the official website here.

You can also keep up to date with the monochromatic world of Max Zara Sterck on Instagram @maxzarasterck

Did you always know you would end up in the Fashion industry?

I did and think through the years this calling became clearer and clearer to me. I remember as a little girl draping clothes on my barbie dolls and strangely enough mostly bras! Also I had many sketchbooks where I would collect anything I would find on the street like leaves, dead flowers, used candy wrappers and draw dresses around these things. It has always been a natural thing for me to see garments in the shapes of the things that surround me and over time it became more evident that fashion is what I had to pursue in life. Even now when I have a moment of doubt I know that fashion is my calling because I still see dresses in everything!

Did you grow up in a creative household?

I grew up in a creative environment with two very visual parents: my mum is a Fine Art photographer and my father studied product and graphic design and worked a lot in advertising. The house I grew up in is very busy and filled with many little objets d’art, in every corner of the house you can find a tiny sculpture or photo or even a dead flower hanging upside down. Also my mum used to make all my clothes growing up which was great.

One of your earliest memories that hugely impacted you and pushed you to your vocation?

This is a difficult one! I have had a couple of moments like that but perhaps I can condense it down to two moments, the first was when I was young my mum showed me an image of the infamous table-dress of Hussein Chalayan. That is when I became highly interested in Fashion as a form of Art. I really like conceptual work so Chalayan’s ‘table-dress really made sense to me and the fact that it was also wearable, impacted me a lot. The second moment was a couple of years ago while attending a cross-cultural management course. We had to give a big presentation and there was a classmate who was very nervous and insecure about presenting. I knew how valid her work was and I felt bad about her being so nervous so just before she went on stage I gave her an accessory that I had designed and told her that it would give her strength and courage. During the presentation I saw how now and again she would touch the accessory. In that moment I realised that this was the closest I could get to help another person without talking but by giving them something ‘physical’. This is what I want my garments to do: Empower the wearer.

As a Fashion Designer whose brand ethos crosses over between Fashion, Art and Design, Aesthetics plays a vital role- what does it mean to you on both a professional and personal level?

My work is very intuitive and more focused on a certain design element rather than a certain aesthetic. I can be inspired by everything around me and at the beginning of my studies my work was a kaleidoscope of different shapes, colours and textiles but when I delved deeper into my craft to observe how I experience life and also how to gain self-fulfilment, I started to focus on one specific element of design; being shape. I focused completely on shape and actually liked what I had created because it was so thought through. That is why I also work solely in black and white so that I can focus on the movement and the shapes around the body without distractions.

Max Zara Sterck

Photographer: Anh Kiet Duong
Model: Aniek Vuurmans

Max Zara Sterck

Photographer: Anh Kiet Duong
Model: Aniek Vuurmans

Tell us about your creative process

My starting point is the fabric and how it moves. I mostly work with a live model and have her walk through a space with the fabric. The way in which the fabric interacts with her body and her walk inspires the shapes. I see where the fabric goes and I try follow it with the seams and curves so that it can actually enhance that movement and also not constructing a garment but letting it flow. That is why I also became interested in dance and experimenting with it.

You are very much intent on exploring the relevance of movement in your work- how do you envision the relationship between Movement and Fashion?

One of the reasons why I focus on the body and movement is because when I was younger I was a professional gymnast but I suffered an injury ending my short career! I think my experience in gymnastics and therefore my fascination with movement and the body coupled with my love for fashion has come together through my work.

Tell us a little bit more about your current project- starting with the jumpsuit?

I really wanted to understand what I wanted to represent with my brand and as I mentioned earlier I want my garments to empower the wearer so I researched posture and the anatomy of the human body. I discovered that a person with an open posture is perceived as strong and powerful so I started to emulate that with my basic pattern, transforming it to look more powerful. An asymmetrical silhouette developed itself from the right shoulder to the left hip- a diagonal line. I did a lot of research on many different body types to see if it was the same for all bodies. Going forward all my garments will be created with these lines and the jumpsuit will be the first. This diagonal line is also represented in my logo as the backslash!

How do you envision the role of the Fashion Designer in years to come?

This is a difficult one to answer because the creative world is changing and we have more responsibility now as a designer. But for example I teach my students to express who they are through their work and not to be afraid to show how things can be done differently. In this way we can avoid getting stuck in static roles. We need to continuously develop and grow. I hope the fashion industry will start to move towards a more respectful system towards the environment, people, and creativity. Therefor the role of the designer is changing the way of creating and thinking.

How would you describe the Max Zara Sterck woman?

I find describing this woman still very difficult but I definitely think that she would be a woman who has an awareness of being environmentally and socially responsible but I also think that she would know her body and what she likes to feel on her skin. In saying that I also find some garments can be restricting and limiting especially movement-wise therefore I strive to make garments that are professional, authentic, special and at the same time providing comfort and wearability. I envision that my garments become part of the wearer’s every day life.

Tell us about any looming projects on the horizon for Max Zara Sterck.

Unfortunately all the big presentations I had planned for this year have all been postponed to next year. As part of my Movement Series, I will be releasing a garment every month through a film that you can access on the website. I will be collaborating with dancers, film makers and composers to create a whole film based around each garment, showcasing the movement and asymmetrical elements of the garment. The Jumpsuit will be the first of the Movement Series and all the garments in this series will be produced on demand.

Next year I will be releasing a capsule collection in collaboration with French company iNDUO. I am very excited as it will be presented at the Masterly Dutch Pavilion during Milan Design Week 2021 (Salone del Mobile) in the gorgeous Palazzo Francesco Turati.

Max Zara Sterck captures the body’s movement in garments. It was therefore only natural that Max Zara began collaborating with the world of dance. A series of new short films are the result, where each film focusses on a specific piece in her collection. The initial launch piece is "The Jumpsuit" and each month from now on one additional garment will be released by video format. Available at

How do you envision Max Zara Sterck in years to come?

A big creative laboratory where I can collaborate with different types of Artists.

Any Artists in particular?

To be honest I have a couple of BIG artists on my list but I really love collaborating with creatively talented friends and it works very well for me to work in an environment that feels like home and family. Bonding with someone before creating something together is critical for me. As a big dreamer, ultimately, I would love to have a big charity that allows me to support artists and designers that I believe in. I think also this global COVID-19 situation has brought out that sense of community and one that we should continue to nurture and grow in the future.

Where can one keep up to date with Max Zara Sterck?
Instagram:Max Zara Sterck

Finally if you could be summed up in one of your pieces- which one would it be and why?

I think back to the dress I made for my graduation. The pattern of this dress is super big and looks like a Matisse painting! When people see it they are so confused about what it is! It is only one piece but then I have all these different parts of the drawing that I put together and attach on one point of the dress. I don’t think anyone would be able to figure out how this pattern actually works! So the pattern is super complex but if you see the dress is it looks more simple. I think that says everything about my way of working. There are so many complexities and thought behind my creations but the end result is always to try reach simplicity.

Max Zara Sterck

Photographer: Anh Kiet Duong
Model: Josephine Kleinendorst