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Design Diplomacy in Berlin focused on fashion

What gets a designer out of bed in the mornings? Where to find inspiration for creative work? Fashion designer Ervin Latimer and Johanna Perret and Tutia Schaad who are in charge of the Perret Schaad brand participated the Design Diplomacy evening organized in Berlin and gave a little interview to Weekly in the spirit of a card game.

Design Diplomacy is an event concept launched by Helsinki Design Week in 2016. It allows the public to visit ambassadors’ residencies and listen to intimate discussions between local design professionals and Finnish colleagues in the spirit of a card game. The speakers take turns to raise the deck for questions related to creative work and answer spontaneously what is on their minds. The audience also gets to speak their mind.

In addition Helsinki, the Design Diplomacy discussions have already been organized in Reykjavik, Tokyo and Madrid. Design Diplomacy was organized for the first time in Germany, the Finnish ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde‘s residence in Berlin, to where fashion designer Ervin Latimer from Finland and designer duo Perret Schaad from Germany were invited.

Sofie Backman (on the right), Culture coordinator at the Embassy of Finland in Berlin, presented the Design Diplomacy card game. © Embassy of Finland in Berlin

The guests at the Design Diplomacy event in Berlin were Ervin Latimer (on the left), Tutia Schaad and Johanna Perret. © Embassy of Finland in Berlin

Ervin Latimer: “I’m lucky to have found a field which I really love”

Based in Helsinki and New York, Ervin Latimer is currently studying fashion, textile and collection design at Aalto University. Latimer’s focus is on fashion and menswear design, but his work and interests extend to art and exhibition production, fashion styling and other creative work.

Hi Ervin! What kind of an experience was Design Diplomacy?

It was a super nice. I liked that the event was so intimate: we didn’t need any microphones, and there was no stage. The laid-back atmosphere also made it easier to answer the questions.

© Embassy of Finland in Berlin

Did the audience ask any questions? Was there a question that stuck in your mind?

They asked several questions. One of them was about the economic side of design career building. They asked how the business works for a beginner. We said that money cannot be ignored at any point – it’s the more boring but obligatory part of the industry.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment I’m designing the final collection for my master’s degree. It needs to be ready in the end of May. In addition, I’m designing products for the Ruskeat tytöt (Brown Girls) online store, for example. At the moment, I’m also working on the early stages of other fashion and culture-related projects, for example an exhibition to open in the autumn.

Latimer’s Exotic Aesthetics FW/17 collection combines patterns from the West African Yoruba peoples with early 70’s staple materials like leather, corduroy and wool. © Jussi Särkilahti

What makes you get out of your bed in the morning?

I’d like to say my endless to-do list, but that doesn’t sound much fun (laughs). My design work often involves social statements and commentary, and when I think that my work may mean something to other people, too, it seems even more important. I’m lucky to have found a field which I really love. That cannot be taken for granted.

What is your favourite material?

I’m more experienced in thick denim and leather. Those are the materials with which I’ve mostly worked. I also use thick cotton and wool, but denim is the material to which I always return. This is probably because I’m half American, and denim is strongly labelled as an American material. Denim’s production process is also interesting, and I like the fact that it wears and tears. I use denim and other rigid materials in my graduation collection, too.

It is the year 2100 and people are talking about you. What would you like to be remembered for?

I would like them to talk about what I’ve done with men’s fashion and the social commentary I was able to include in my clothing items. Fashion is one of the most contaminating industries in the world, and it’s easily labelled superficial, but I hope as a designer to be able to rise above that level. Fashion can be a way to express oneself, just like every other art form. I also hope that in addition to my design work, people will remember me due to my cultural work related to the creative field and social topics.

© Jussi Särkilahti

Perret Schaad: “We find inspiration in the women we dress”

Perret Schaad was established in 2009 by Johanna Perret and Tutia Schaad. Inspired by modern women and their lifestyles, the Berlin-based fashion duo’s pieces show a unique sensibility for colours, a strong focus on details and an interest in creating outstanding, yet wearable designs.

Johanna and Tutia from Perret Schaad, how was Design Diplomacy as an experience?

Johanna: It was super nice, there was such a cozy atmosphere. Before the event we were wondering what kind of an event it would be, but it turned out to be really fun.

Tutia: I think it was also informative. We complemented each other well, because Ervin Latimer is still studying and we on the other hand are a more established brand, so it was a good mix.

Where do you find inspiration?

Tutia: In the women we dress. We also get motivated by museums, music etc., but mainly it is the women around us that inspire us.

Johanna: We also like to travel and get inspiration from people, colors, friends, situations…

Did you choose your profession or did it choose you?

Johanna: I think for me it was a little bit of both. I wanted to do something creative and then I just moved into that direction, so in that sense it was a clear decision.

Tutia: I really liked clothes as a kid – but back then I didn’t even know that this profession existed, I was just imagining my dream clothes. Now, as a fashion designer, it is my job to make decisions and be active.

A model at the Perret Schaad presentation

Perret Schaad presented the AW 18/19 collection during the Berlin Fashion Week in January 2018. © Getty Images, Andreas Rentz

A model at the Perret Schaad presentation

© Getty Images, Andreas Rentz

What has recently been your favourite project?

Johanna: We just showed our latest collection. The idea of the collection was to play with our archives – we brought original pieces from older collections, but with different materials and colours. Instead of a runway show, we decided to make a presentation because we wanted all the pieces to be shown at the same time. We also did two design collaborations recently: we designed a bench for the German seating manufacturer Freifrau, and in the other project we designed sunglasses for the brand Silhouette International.

What do you worry about at 4am?

Johanna: Last night when I woke up, I wondered what had happened because my daughter didn’t wake me up like she usually does (laughter). But my aim is not to worry too much at night.

Tutia: I try to focus on sleeping, because I know that worrying in the middle of the night isn’t helpful. But if I do, I think about collection presentations, schedules and all the things I forgot to do that day!

Perret Schaad designed a new version of the Amelie bench for the German furniture manufacturer Freifrau. © Freifrau

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