Since you brought up the subject, your past collaborations have included brands like Nike, Kiehl’s, Smart & Star Trek, BMW Mini, Swarovski and Samsonite. Why do you continue to seek out creative exchanges?
First and foremost, I have fun doing collaborations. I can develop as a designer and work for a few months in another city, like Milan. But yes, these kinds of design collaborations also attract attention and you earn good money.
You went to acting school before you became a fashion designer. Why did you decide to quit acting?
Honestly? I moved into a shared flat that wasn’t exactly sparkling clean and I cleaned it with bleach. I accidentally spilled it all over my clothes in the process. I tried to salvage them by painting on them with more bleach. I then wore an outfit I made myself to an opening night of mine, and a short time later I wore it again to a Nena concert. She saw the T-shirt and wanted it immediately.
So Nena discovered you, so to speak.
You could say that. A few months later, she pulled me on stage again and asked me if I wouldn’t like to design a few things for her. I just said “yes” – even though I didn’t know anything about designing.
Would you be a fashion designer today if it hadn’t been for this experience with Nena?
No, it was a great twist of fate. Without that experience, I probably would never have discovered my true love of fashion. There was suddenly nothing else that interested me – I just wanted to work, to make fashion from morning to night. I locked myself in the studio with a dressmaker for months, watching her and learning from her.
You once said that for a long time you weren’t taken seriously as a designer.
People made fun of me for many years: “He can’t do anything,” they said, “it’s all because of Nena.” Looking back, I can even understand them.
I founded my label in 2004 – at a time when many other brands were also starting up. The designers had all studied fashion design at renowned schools, had internships at big fashion houses – and I was there because I had dumped bleach over my shirts and Nena thought it was good.
When did all those negative opinions die down?
They will never really die down, but they got quieter after my first show at Berlin Fashion Week. The journalists didn’t know my background and were unbiased. I was suddenly no longer “Nena’s guy.”
Then you were “the shooting star.”
I always had some title stuck to me.
Suzy Menkes once described you as “imaginative,” so that’s a nice title.
Yes, that’s among the highlights of my life as a fashion designer. Suzy Menkes attended Berlin Fashion Week and selected four designers with whom she later held an exhibition at The Corner. I was lucky enough to be among her “favorites.”
You have become more and more famous over the years: German Vogue made a three-part documentary about you; Kylie Minogue has worn your designs – even the Queen of England has heard of you. She had your collection removed from stores in London.
That was funny. I designed a collection called Dear Kate. There was a T-shirt that said: “Harry, you wanna marry me?” – with Kate proposing to Harry. The demand was huge, and we were taken into the big department stores. But it didn’t go down well at all at Buckingham Palace. After three days, the T-shirts had to be taken off the shelves everywhere.
Then we had them distributed at One Direction concerts and told them that the T-shirt was dedicated to Harry Styles from the band. Then it went around the world and we were even on the front page of The Telegraph with the shirt. A few months later I showed a red carpet collection at London Fashion Week called God Save The Queen.