Designer who wears his art on his sleeve
On a scale of one to ten, Karl Sternath gives fashion a nine in terms of importance.
He loves looking trendy.
“I don't want to say what my age is, but I don't think I look it,” the artist said. “So I like to look stylish in a casual way.”
For years he thought about combining his love of fashion with the epoxy resin paintings he's known for but he “knew nothing about fashion design”.
Then a way presented itself last year.
“An online company called Vida contacted me,” he said. “They saw my art at Agora, a gallery in New York City. It was my first show overseas. They wanted me to design clothing and they'd sell it.”
The call was a huge surprise as the show didn't go well; he sold nothing.
Despite that, and his lack of fashion experience, he quickly said yes.
“I've never been afraid to try something new,” he said. “I like to go down different avenues.”
He's worked as a pastry chef, an artist, a landscaper and a house painter since he moved here from Austria in 1980. He now runs a flooring company, Elite Crete.
“I didn't know anything about fashion design, but it didn't matter,” he said. “Vida didn't know what they were doing either. They were new at the time. In the beginning we had quite a few problems with shipping, but they have improved after a year and a half, and demand for their products has grown.”
Luckily for him, he didn't have to cut out patterns or measure fabric. Vida gave him an app which allowed him to scan the abstract patterns in his artwork and apply them to virtual dresses, scarves and shirts.
However, he quickly found that not every art pattern translates well to fabric.
“I could just take a corner of an artwork, if I wanted, and use that,” he said. “Vida has the clothing made up in India. It's hard to make a mistake with this but at the same time, some things just belong better on the wall.”
Cost depends on the material used; some of his scarves and shirts come in silk and cashmere. Prices start at $65.
His art is inspired by the beauty of Bermuda.
“I've given the different patterns Bermuda names,” he said. “One pattern is called Dark & Stormy and another is called Elbow Beach. There's another called Pink Sand.
“My favourite colour to work with is aqua blue. That is definitely inspired by the ocean around Bermuda.”
His partner, Huguette Vincent, is his best sales person. She wears his scarves every chance she gets.
They met 16 years ago at a cooking showcase at International Imports, and hit it off immediately.
“Everything is so casual these days, but you can dress it up with one of these scarves,” she said. “In the spring you can wear it as a shawl. I am a lazy dresser. I have everything in black and put a scarf around me for colour.”
Hamilton dental office Smiles Inc bought several of Mr Sternath's orange scarves to go with their uniforms; staff at Bermuda Forwarders also ordered several.
“Vida also have several artists working with them, and apparently my designs are the top sellers,” he said.
The hardest thing about his designing is finding the time to do it since he is often busy with his flooring business or his art.
“I don't think I am going to become a millionaire making these clothes,” he said. “I just do it because I love doing it, and I love art. Art is always on my mind. It is just awesome to see when everything comes together.”
He gets his creativity from his father, Karl Sr, who made movies for local companies and constantly filmed their activities at home. “My father knew how to draw,” he said, “but I don't think he really saw the benefits of it. We were little when we started acting with him. As a kid it was annoying. We'd go to the beach, and he'd say, ‘Come on back and do that move again'. We'd just want to get in the water. Now he's gone, we really appreciate the movies he made.”
He trained as a pastry chef but quickly found a passion for designing wedding cakes.
“I started out working for the Elbow Beach and was working at the Belmont Hotel when it closed down,” Mr Sternath said. “It was really through designing the cakes that I realised how much I loved art.
“Now art is a hobby. I don't do any more cakes, although people often stop me and ask about it in the street.”
• Look for him on Facebook: stemsiartfashion, or visit shopvida.com/collections/karl-sternath