Made from a selection of handpicked, high quality fabrics, the young label BIRKE VAN MAARTENS creates fashion with timeless elegance, fused with folding techniques and embellished styles. The first collection which will be launched at Berlin Fashion Week in January 2014, plays on antonyms of purity. We met up with Birke van Maartens to reveal some of the secrets behind her label.
S2S: You get your inspiration from Origami, the Japanese traditional art of paper-folding. How does Japanese culture inspire you, what do you like about this unique folding technique and how does it affect your designs?
Birke van Maartens: I always enjoyed working with paper, transforming it, cutting paper silhouettes. Already at a young age, I discovered my passion for fashion, as my mom and aunt both were sewing and I used to join in, even though it mainly consisted of patchwork or other handicraft it was about the very small parts that you had to fumble together in order to create the bigger piece. It was a great discovery for me. During the beginning of my studies, I started to apply the experimenting phases I had done with paper to fashion. I was fascinated by the folding techniques behind Origami, so I started teaching it to myself, adapting the individual steps and during the second year of University, I actually began transferring it to the human body using textiles. I have always been fascinated by Japan, not that it is the only country that does Origami, but especially because their traditional fashion was a great inspiration to me and I had the urge to develop it and give it a modern touch.
S2S: Have you personally been to Japan?
Birke van Maartens: Not yet but I am planning on visiting Japan next year. I am actually glad that I haven’t been there before ending my creative process, as the collection resembles a Japan that arose from my fantasy and from stories I have heard from close friends. So when I go to Japan next year the picture that I have in my mind could eventually change or develop some new edges.
S2S: Why did Berlin become your new base, after you finished your studies in Maastricht? What fascinates you about this city?
Birke van Maartens: The funny thing is, that I actually was deciding whether to go to New York or Berlin and was considering to continue studying in New York but in the end it was the cost aspect that hindered me from moving to New York. New York is not out of the picture though. In the beginning I was quarrelling with myself, as I really liked Berlin due to my brother who was already living here and who I had visited many times before, but at the time I didn’t see Berlin with the same eyes as I do today. It didn’t give me the sensation then, that it does now.
I had a conversation with my Dean at the time who was telling me to take the opportunity to come to Berlin, even though I was offered a scholarship in New York. He made me aware of the extraordinary living expenses I wouldn’t be able to afford and that Berlin at the moment was the most exciting city in the world anyways. Over all, he also thought that the fact that my brother was living in Berlin, knowing how close we are, would be a positive influence. Today, I have to say that it was the best decision I could have made. There hasn’t been any other place that I have been able to adapt to so quickly to and really call home. Berlin liberated me and gave me a kind of peace that was very inspiring especially for my collection.
S2S: Who do you want to attract with your fashion?
Birke van Maartens: My target audience doesn’t have a specific age. The most important aspect to me is that people feel comfortable and identify themselves with the fashion I make. I also want to imply the sensation that you can wear it to any occasion. Personally, I love Haute Couture as it is a creative playground but an even higher relevance goes to the wearability. Of course quality also has a significant role. I produce everything manually, except for the shoes, but even those receive their final touch from me.
This fashion label only consist of two people. Carla Thöne, who is my Managing Director and PR/Marketing Consultant, and who has put a lot of effort into building my dream, adapting it to her own vision. Based on all the hard work, love and time we both have invested, it is important to me that my fashion is recognized as something unique, even though it’s not entirely innovative. The special aspect is the Origami made of fabric, which requires a lot of precise detail work and concentration. People who don’t find appreciation in the minutiae may or may not be the people I want to attract.
S2S: Do you have a preference when it comes to Women’s or Men’s fashion?
Birke van Maartens: The collection includes 20 pieces, 10 for men and 10 for women. I equally enjoy creating both, however I am braver when it comes to women’s fashion as I have had more practice and every maneuver comes a bit more naturally, but of course I always gain more experience by doing it. So, I actually always develop something watching it evolve along the way, taking one step at a time.
S2S: It has become fashionable to move away from mass production and create clothing with a sustainable character. How do you see this movement?
Birke van Maartens: Personally, I would like to make eco fashion or ethically minded fashion in general a standard. For me, it’s very important that I know that my materials are produced under environmentally friendly conditions, that I am using fair trade products. I want to avoid industrial manufacturing as much as possible. Many of the fabrics I work with, I actually got to know during my studies in Maastricht and are from a local production in Germany who sells organic silk and cotton. My father who lives in the area actually personally acted as an intermediary setting up the connection. Now that I live in Berlin, I have found a new distributer just here up the street called Siebenblau. They also have a seal of approval guaranteeing that they only have fair trade and organic products. My current collection consists of fabrics from both distributers.
S2S: The origami dress “Yukio” is a key piece made from very delicate deluxe fabric. If you had three words how would you describe your collection?
Birke van Maartens: Subtle / Graceful / Expressive
S2S: How did you meet Simone, who is one of the gallerists of David and Galstaun Studio?
Birke van Maartens: Simone and I met at a Mitte event. I know this almost sounds like a cliché, but based on common friends and my brother who is a photographer we met under the intention that I was looking for a space for my look book and he suggested to have the shooting at the loft of Simone Galstaun and Matthias David. Since we both also grew up in the Netherlands, we quickly connected and were able to develop a friendship. After that night, I already started picturing how fabulous this place would be for the presentation of my first collection. The loft has a very private and personal atmosphere and yet creates the right kind of setting to present fashion. After a glass of wine, I kind of “confronted” Simone and David with the idea and they were immediately enthused by it. So we ended up signing up for the “Show Room Days” and it all worked out so easily. I am very grateful that I encountered them as they both have been a giant help not only in regards to the photos but also the entire preparation phase for the show.
Birke van Maartens: Yes, Simone ended up becoming my model, even though she is a photographer. But since she is not only a friend, but also very beautiful, I asked her if she would be willing to be in front of the camera for the shooting instead of behind it. She said yes because we are friends, and in fact we had fun since the shooting was within a circle of friends. My brother Peter Schings, who has established himself as a photographer in Berlin did the shooting.
S2S: Within fashion week you will present your collection for the first time at David and Galstaun Studio. Are you excited and what are you setting up for this special night?
Birke van Maartens: Yes, I am very excited. I am overwhelmed by the aspect that we are having the opportunity to present the collection during Berlin Fashion Week. It is a special occasion since it is our debut in regards to a public appearance. I am looking forward to being surrounded by so many people who supported us from the very beginning. This is more than Carla and I could have ever wished for. On Saturday our audience can enjoy the Showcase while Berlin based musicians will lead our guests during and after the show. Everyone is invited to enjoy the late afternoon and evening while having a glass of wine or other beverages with us, getting to know the secret behind BIRKE VAN MAARTENS and what this label is really about. But I don’t want to fill you in on every detail too soon. It’s about the small surprises that add a little excitement to life, spicing it up.
BIRKE VAN MAARTENS DEBUT COLLECTION 2014