One of the most promising designer duos in Berlin is ACHTLAND. Beautiful creations built upon a love for details and intriguing textures, ACHTLAND quickly made it‘s name in the Berlin fashion scene with its highly praised debut collection in 2011. As part of the Berlin Showroom in Paris, taking place this September, the duo are showing their collections outside of Germany for the second time-the right step to push the precious label abroad.
Œ Magazine caught up with Oliver Lühr und Thomas Bentz, designers behind one of our favorite labels, to talk about Berlin, the mythical queen Achtland, and why they have to keep some clothing pieces a secret.
Berlin is a very young and inspiring city for a lot of artists and designers. What is the most special thing for you about the city?
Thomas: Berlin is a one-of-a-kind city. On every corner you face the clash of two opposites. On the one hand a very raw and damaged edge with the aim of deformation and on the other hand we all tend to look back to the past and have a need for nostalgia—perhaps even a little bit of safety. Isn‘t it paradox when you see how ugly Berlin can be while you are trying to create a beautiful outcome?
Oliver: Not to forget: Berlin is huge. It offers space for creative minds and space to work in. It is rather cheap, compared to London, were we lived the past years. Berlin is such a lively city, still in development – it is breathtaking to be part of it. For the both of us, starting a new chapter in a new city was profound. Sometimes you just need to escape your comfort zone to create something new.
Many up and coming designers are out there – what makes ACHTLAND stand apart?
Thomas and Oliver in unison: Our own vision!
Thomas: What we do is, we are trying to create our own design language. We saw potential, here in Berlin, for high-end ready to wear fashion. Our collection differs in the choice of color, fabrics and combination of fabrics. At the edge of street wear, what Berlin is well known for, a fashionable subculture is discovering this new segment.
Oliver: Our way of coming up with a new design often differs from other designers. In our Spring/Summer 2014 collection we used a lot of laces. This particular lace, we both thought was hideous in the beginning. The task to create a precious piece of clothing from something we both disliked pushed us outside of the box. Since then, weirdly enough, we have always used lace.
Your Spring/Summer Collection 2014 was very much in line with what you did previous seasons. Do you built up on each collection or is it simply a signature style?
Thomas: In a subconscious way we are creating a design identity—an ACHTLAND look. Each new season, we start at zero. White walls, empty tables, clean racks. Sometimes we are really surprised how much in line we are with what we did before!
Oliver: Our whole design process is very intuitive. To turn around at the end and to see a signature style without referencing previous collections validates our work even more.
You have the talent to present a calm collection, which is still an outstanding eye-catcher – what do you want to achieve with the looks you create?
Oliver: We simply want to satisfy a specific women (calm, style- and self-aware and open-minded to try new things), who is looking for something she does not only look good in but also something that awards her with confidence and helps her express herself. With creating timeless and relevant pieces, we are trying to achieve that.
Thomas: That people receive our collection as valuable craftsmanship, as we put a lot of work and time into different techniques.
Oliver: Wearability. We discuss each and every choice we make to achieve a beautiful and wearable outcome.
What was the weirdest thing that ever inspired you for a piece of clothing?
(Both pause for a thought and answer similarly): The jacket of Agnes Richter. She was an inhabitant of a mental institution for over 25 years. The typical linen jacket all residents are wearing, she had embroidered from the inside out and in between the layers. You can barely read what she wrote on it and we were only able to decode one sentence when we saw the Jacket in the Collection of Prinzhorn: “Head first I rush into the darkness.” This was a starting point for us, which resulted in embroidery and the raw handling of fabrics.
The Jacket of Agnes Richter:
I think that fashion can protect you. You can dress as whoever you like to be and totally change your character. Just like a superhero. If you could have one super hero power, what would you wish for?
Oliver: But not because I don‘t want people to see me, it‘s more about my curiosity of how it actually is to be invisible. I think it is worth it.
Thomas: Maybe I need to change my mind and switch my super hero power. I rather want to be able to beam myself. To get our heads free and really switch off, we have to travel, which is pretty time consuming. If I could beam myself in a second to a relaxing place, just over the weekend, I am able to start fresh into every new week.
Oliver: Ok, but wait – I don‘t want to be left alone or have to travel to wherever you beamed yourself. Can I switch as well?
Fun Fact: Œ just released it‘s 5th issue while you are working on your 5th collection – tell us about how ACHTLAND sees the cold and bold winter in 2014 and what we can expect?
Thomas: Damn good question – not much at the moment (laughs). We are still at the point of white walls, no mood-boards and zero concrete ideas. We are just gathering inspiration and ideas from everywhere. Once we finish this phase, the specific design phase is way more compact and efficient.
Oliver: What we know is that we definitely want to try out different techniques and craftsmanship. We would love to have knitwear in the collection, which is a technical question. We are optimistic and excited to see what will happen.
For a lot of peers of mine sustainable decisions in fashion are not an interest. When I walk through my non-existing walk-in-closet I don‘t see a lot of conscious choices I made. Is sustainable production and resourcing for you a topic to deal with?
Thomas: Definitely! We just have been to India, where our embroidery is done. In general I have to say that we work with high quality fabrics, which are produced with a high standard. Besides that, we have a huge interest in knowing where fabrics are made and especially how they are produced. With the amount we use, we still have a great overview on everything.
Oliver: Our collection is always produced in Berlin and with the small selection of fabric suppliers, the whole supply chain is transparent to us. That we have the chance to visit factories in Bombay, see how the working space is created and how they work, was really special to us.
ACHTLAND is named after a mythical queen – I think I should dress up like her one day to the right occasion. How do you picture her and how does this influence your work?
Oliver: We try to not think about her too much, as she is really celtic and dark. We created our own queen in our minds, which is totally different from queen Achtland. We picture her more as someone on the hunt for something new, a desire for craftsmanship, someone who is safe in style and choices and definitely a no trend-slave. She is interested, cosmopolitan and very much standing on both feet in life.
Thomas: If you ever dress up like her, please send us a picture (laughs). Maybe this will inspire us. But all you have to do is wear something that gives you the right attitude, a strong attitude.
This year you won the BUNTE NEW FACES AWARD – does this push you in a positive way or create pressure?
Thomas: We pressure ourselves enough, so to win this award is more of a reward for the hard work we put into our collection. We are very critical in everything. The BUNTE NEW FACES AWARD is a moment to pause for a thought and a great push.
Oliver: I mean, everything we create is very much taste-dependent. To be named as the winner of BUNTE, we feel eligible to keep doing what we are doing.
One day I dreamt I was the styling assistant of Lady Di. I have no idea how that happened, but it was an awesome night. Do you dream of a specific celebrity, dead or alive, to dress in ACHTLAND?
Thomas: (laughs) No, we purposely don‘t picture any celebrity or well-known person in our clothes. It would only limit and restrict us. If we would think of any style icon, we would always try to dress her – and this is not our purpose.
Oliver: The women I would love to see in ACHTLAND might exist. I imagine meeting her one day, in a random city, at a unknown place. She is wearing ACHTLAND and looks beautiful. You can see that the dress gives her the right attitude and that she feels comfortable in it.
Would you go and talk to her?
Oliver: Yes, I certainly would (laughs).
Thomas: In general it is more important for us to see our clothing in a real surrounding. Does it really work? Do the skirts have the right length? Is the fitting well made? If this is the case, then we are happy with what we created.
I am known for keeping secrets well. This time I would like to know a secret, which I am allowed to share with the Œ readers. You can choose.
Thomas: We have a toxic locker, that is what we call it. A closet full of things that we have created but decided one way or another they were too ugly to reveal. Once, right before a presentation, we took off a blouse we thought was too hideous from the model and threw it across the room, now it’s sitting in our toxic locker. No one saw it nor will anyone ever see it. It is locked!
ACHTLAND lookbook fall winter 2013:
Studio Images by Christopher Riedl
Lookbook by ACHTLAND