Maria Glück founded her Berlin based label HOWL in 2012. With a background in visual arts and sculpting, Maria Glück has gone on to forge a path in fashion with garments minimal in shapes and elaborate in textures. Her first collection was presented at the EGO showroom for young designers during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid in 2012 and qualified her as a finalist for the Bilbao International Art and Fashion Design Competition. Most recently, Howl has left an impression on the Berlin fashion scene, with collections cropping up during Fashion Week and among the talented pool of creativity at Berlin Showroom in Paris. Last week I got the chance to visit the designer in her studio to talk about her collections and the development of her label.
What was the first fashion design you created?
I never did just one. Instead I did a whole collection while I was an exchange student for fashion design at HTW Berlin. Although I did some designs, too, while in the art school in Bilbao. That was part of my sculpture class.
Was it a big step for you coming from an art background and then going into fashion? The academy of fine arts and design departments rarely fuse. It seems fairly separated. How did you experience this?
It is true. Art tends to think that fashion tries to be artistic, but that it is not art. To tell you the truth, my interest in making fashion developed not by thinking and just doing what I thought was the right thing to do. It was the right moment for me and I just tried. You never know if your project will transform into something else or get bigger, but you do have to try. Also, to me everything happened very fast. Just after designing my first collection I was selected for the EGO showroom and with the next collection I was doing my first show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Some artists and former companions thought that I had totally sold myself to the market and I that I was creating a product that pretends to be creative, but is just part of the fashion industry. Having said that, I also know some designers that like to do more art related works and there are a few artists, who are very much a designers. So I feel, who cares. I am not pretending that what I do is art when I design fashion. I do have my approach and the same process as I did before when I was an art student; only now, I have the framework of fashion. This is especially visible when I do a show. I think partly why I end up doing fashion is because I was in need of textures. That does not mean that I want to stop with art, but you can separate and it’s fine.
How is your approach to fashion different from other designers?
I just need to go. I walk, I breathe and I am trying to find something to get inspired by when I am creating an image, picture or a video. Sometimes I do make a screenshot and then I start from there and go into depth in terms of colors. I need to see fabrics that have excited me. All these aspects help me to think about shapes. I can be researching materials and researching concepts that I never use. I could imagine starting a collection by with inspiration from workshop visits and to get interested in the way of manufacturing or creation of a certain texture. I mean, I don’t really know, maybe in a week I have a different plan again.
What was your starting point when designing the AW 14 – 15 collection for HOWL?
I started by going to watch birds in Brandenburg. I took part in a tour which took hours, walking around randomly and watching birds without any explanation. I was also making lots of videos and afterwards took some screenshots of the images. The different sky shots and all the blue that you see in the collection is actually based on those screenshots of the sky. Different sky blues–that was the beginning. The movements and the idea of flying away was also important. The collection goes from total white and gradually to black. That was one idea. I just let it happen.
How did you decide on building up a label as a young creative? Most decision you seem to do intuitively, but creating a label is quite a big and risky thing.
Yes obviously. There is intuition, but there is always a structure. After I did my first show, I came back, sat here and thought “I need to produce, I need to get organised” and then wondered how to make this a reality. Last spring, I created a business plan and started to organize small production in Berlin, and sent in some applications for sponsorship during Berlin Fashion Week. I went to Paris with NOT JUST A LABEL and then I went to Madrid with the show. You learn a lot within the time, but I think you have to be a little bit suicidal at the beginning. The part which is convincing for me as a young designer is partly the interest and the feedback you get. I am only one person. I design the pieces, cut them, and control every order and every button. I do need more time than one season to produce a collection.
You have decided to work with the seasons, however. There are designers who decide to go against this structure creating, instead, archived collections or repeat collections using different textiles /materials. How did you decide to fully step into the fashion circle with its given structure?
When I was still in art school I had a lot of questions regarding the industry. But I did like the idea of creating designs that I could show during fashion week . I wanted to produce, shape and create them differently and to be more conscious about the material choice. For me the important thing is the design. Sustainability is also an aspect I involve when designing. I don’t need the massive production or the repetition of a product. I believe in keeping the spark of research. I hope to find materials that match my ideas and, at the same time, support the community with developing something. In terms of design language, I try to create a dignified object that is also appreciated and liked for its design. If I would create this way, I can’t say that I would want to do it at all.
What is your signature style? Do you have one?
I don’t know; I have these tendencies. I do like an oversized top part and with pieces that are a little independent from the body. The more I see it in my designs, the happier I am to realize that it is there and that it comes back every now and then. For certain pieces I do like to avoid excessive use of fabric and excessive seaming. If the material allows me to put less seems and make more clean cuts, I will choose it.
Is sustainable fabrics something needed these days in fashion? What about the materials you use?
I use a lot of organic materials, but I am not only buying organic fabrics. It is a big industry that continuously grows. I am still interested in the little companies and things that are small and not common. I want to touch the material, play with the material and see where it brings me. As a designer, you obviously also think about the market and you consider them when making choices. For me it is psychological because I do not like to participate in the big industry and it is not the way I see and do things. Also a fabric does not need to look like fabric. It does not have to be an innovative textile looking exactly like a textile. It can be really like a plastic and it is fantastic. You know what I mean?! Everybody creates an association directly with something. Most people would say “It looks like…” or “It reminds me of…”. It is interesting what people think or associate with material, but my idea is to just see the pure material. On some level I am interested in how minimal my approach is–this rawness and essence of a material. This is why I am interested in rope and wood and combining them with other materials that are very new and maybe synthetic. It is the material itself, which inspires me and allows me to work freely.When something is too referential, there is less drive.