Sara Smed and Patricia Wagner became acquainted whilst studying Fashion Design together at Universität der Künste (UdK) in Berlin. As individual designers, they had always admired each other’s work from afar. But it wasn’t until their final BA semester that they decided to fuse worlds and create a collection together, “Dimension Explorer”. Following the success of their first shared collection, they decided to take the plunge and launch their brand, SMED.WAGNER – a combination of their surnames.
Earlier this month, SMED.WAGNER presented their MA graduate collection at the UdK’s graduate show: Shau21. Impressed with what we had seen of “A joint voyage of becoming one business brain”, we caught up with Sara and Patricia over a few slices of pizza to find out more about their newfangled brand.
Œ: What drew you to one another as designers?
Patricia and Sara: SMED·WAGNER developed from an urge to work collaboratively in order to create something greater than what is possible when you work alone. This daring idea of working on a rather demanding project with a person you’ve never worked with before could seem risky for some, but the decision has now turned into two and half years of colourful collaboration. We used our Master year to focus more on the business-related and theoretical side of things while creating common ground for our Berlin-based label.
We complement each other very well as a design duo both when it comes to our professional and cultural approaches. Patricia is from Chile and has a background in the graphical side of design. So she has a great eye, especially for colours, drawings and patterns. On the other hand, Sara is from Denmark and has a more haptic approach when it comes to choosing materials for garment making since she has a background as a tailor and costume maker. The combination of knowledge in the field of materials and graphics makes our design duo quite strong in the creative process.
Œ: Do you share similar sources of inspiration for your collective designs?
Patricia and Sara: Danish designer Henrik Vibskov has had a great influence on both of us over the years since he has managed to work in the cross-field of both design, art and performing arts, with a convincing graphical style. Patricia was also very inspired in her early years by the women around Bauhaus and the South American design culture in general. In particular, she was inspired by the bright colours used in the textile crafts around the Andes Mountains.
Œ: This collection is rather funky – what’s the backstory?
Patricia and Sara: The backstory is based on a creative framework we agreed on in the very beginning and a rather simple impulse to visit the Natural History Museum in Berlin. We fell in love with the extremely weird – and “funky” one could say! – fishes in formaldehyde, which all looked like funny, fantasy creatures. After picking our favourite fish characters and a specific colour pallet inspired by the mineral department, we began collecting associations connected to each character. We aimed to design a total universe with a repeating pattern inspired by tendencies of our times with designs on a scale from simple and wearable, to extravagant and costume-like. This is the reason why you see everything from leggings and T-Shirts, to tailormade suits within the SMED·WAGNER universe. In the end, we have made a collection of garments purposely representing a very diverse cast with the majority of styles being genderless and combinable in multiple ways.
Œ: For this collection, did you delegate certain design tasks to one another?
Patricia and Sara: We have developed a pretty clear structure when it comes to certain areas of the design process and then there are other parts of the process where it’s important to merge and play with creativity, ping pong ideas together. In the idea-generating phase, we were both drawing, searching for associations, themes and developing the concept or creative frame. In the next phase of executing the collection, Patricia took care of everything that has to do with the visual part – developing the graphics for the fabrics, creating our videos and the general visual representation. Sara constructed the patterns for the specific garments, tested and decided about materials and developed the knitwear pieces of the collection. One of our greatest learnings is how much trust and mutual respect there is involved when it comes to practising creative collaboration.
Œ: Conducting yourselves as a unit rather than two solo designers certainly can be more difficult at times. How do you handle such complications?
Patricia and Sara: Working as a duo is a constant mutual delivery of acquired knowledge that leads us to move forward and evolve without fear in our work as a team. Sharing optimism and knowledge is our motto to face challenges in the best way.
Œ: What are you hoping to achieve as a brand?
Patricia and Sara: Our vision is to encourage more play and collaboration while providing sustainable fashion. Our universe is very energetic and childish almost, which helps pass on the message of joy, yet points out the fact that we are all caught in a hyper-digital grid one way or another. Bringing quality, colours and certain artistical perspectives to the future Berlin fashion scene is also a goal of ours. We believe that in a time of crisis, both in general and related to the current fashion industry, optimism can be contagious and we wish to take an active part in changing the industry for the better. Our proposal and daily mantras embrace the concepts of playfulness, intuition and connection while we practice patience and thrive to develop sustainable solutions!
Œ: So how exactly do you ensure you are as sustainable as possible?
Patricia and Sara: Our goal is to develop a progressive and reliable brand, based on the intelligent use of new technologies and a conscious approach towards manufacturing. A proof of this concept can be seen in our knitwear pieces, based 100% on pre-consumer waste yarn at our Belgian factory. Some of our collection fabrics were woven in Italy with the same waste yarn by initiating cross-over collaborations between the manufacturers. We deliberately navigate in the space between seasonal norms, at a slower pace while offering high-quality products. We aim to develop a hybrid model, e.g. a pre-order system to avoid overproduction and change resource limitations into business advantages. Reinventing production procedures anchored in a solid tradition is definitely a challenge, but we see this as the necessary framework for creative freedom.
Œ: Besides sustainability, are there any other issues with the fashion industry that you believe SMED.WAGNER can address?
Patricia and Sara: Another aspect of our vision is to tackle the total lack of transparency within our industry in order to counteract the dominance of green-washing. The community-driven philosophy behind Open Source movements and the potential of decentralised unalterable information through Blockchain technology has caught our attention for some time now. Therefore, one of our dreams is to initiate a Blockchain pilot project to obtain and deliver more verifiable, transparent information about our supply chains and worthy production conditions. Until this is possible, we will try our best to provide the necessary information in other ways.
Œ: You’ve just graduated, so what’s in store next?
Patricia and Sara: Hopefully pieces of our collection at some point. But again, it’s a long journey it seems and we are growing organically. So let’s see what the future of SMED·WAGNER will bring to your store first!