Elise Ballegeer: Ethically Minded Fashion

Conversations, Fashion
Written by
©Florian Wenningkamp

FIER management launches FIER vitrine during Berlin Fashion Week AW14/15. A curated selection of emerging avant-garde and contemporary fashion and accessories designers will present their collections at this year’s new fashion show organized by FIER management. Elise Ballegeer, a New Yorker designer based in Berlin will be part of the exciting event, introducing her latest fashion collection.

S2S: In 2009 you decided to leave the Big Apple to come to the German metropolis with the famous TV tower to realize your vision of a personal fashion label Elise Ballegeer. You impressed the fashion cognoscenti with your two collections at the fashion week last summer and were rewarded with success. What made you leave New York City and come to Berlin?

Elise Ballegeer: Opportunity. Ironic how things change over time, but I really had the feeling that I could do more with what I had in Berlin.  New York can sometimes be very oppressive in terms of doing what you want and still being able to eat and pay your rent. Berlin afforded me time and space in which to develop creatively.

S2S: You have worked with and consulted top fashion firms in New York including Proenza Schouler, Zac Posen and Calvin Klein Collection. In 2012 you founded your namesake brand in Berlin to realize your unique vision independently. How did it feel to reach the point in your career where you wanted to create your own label?  

Elise Ballegeer: Terrifying.  I think to stand by your ideas and vision can be very intimidating. Of course I was thrilled to have something to call my own, but there’s a lot riding on my shoulders and it’s not just designing anymore, it’s running a business.

EliseBallegeer1S2S: Your fashion line stands for an ethical approach. How would you personally describe this theme and which women are you addressing with this unique style? 

Elise Ballegeer: For me it’s thinking about the people, animals and ecosystems behind the clothing. If I can change part of my process to improve the conditions of any of these things, then that’s what I try to accomplish. I hope to address women who feel similarly, but it shouldn’t only be about that, they should be drawn to the designs initially.

S2S: You use classic cuts and colors for a variety of looks, creating elegant reinterpretations of the essentials of women’s fashion. Where do you get your inspiration?

Elise Ballegeer: Workwear and architecture usually play a big role in my collections, and then there’s always some reference to the past.  I used to work at a vintage store and was always taken by the minor details and unique construction of what would otherwise be a totally basic shirt.

S2S: Your spring/summer collection 2013 was very colorful, gaudy and transparent – high class urban style. Does street fashion have any influence on your creations? How would you describe Berlin’s sense for fashion?

Elise Ballegeer: Haha, yeah I would have to say living here has definitely had an influence on me.  I feel like the color was in reaction to all the GREY in Berlin. And I love grey, but the first collection was so controlled and quiet, I wanted to open up a little bit, have some fun.  Berlin’s sense for fashion is a total mystery to me, I see everything and everything goes.

Elise Ballegeer – Collection II from eliseballegeer on Vimeo.

S2S: Sustainability is a popular expression in terms of the current increased awareness for our environment. You use natural and sustainable materials. How do you choose your distributers? What do natural resources mean to you? 

Elise Ballegeer: Sustainability and natural resources are terms that are widely thrown around these days. I choose distributors that follow the Sustainable and Biodegradable Product (SBP®) and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) requirements.  I also use fabrics without these certifications to offer lower price point garments, and when choosing these, I find options with the least amount of water waste and chemical dyes in production.

S2S: All your garments are made in Berlin. Is that an important aspect of your collection, not to outsource certain production steps to cut expenses? 

Elise Ballegeer: It is important to me, but at the end of the day it doesn’t have to be Berlin, only somewhere that has fair working conditions. I do like keeping things local though even if it costs more to produce, it’s nice to support the community I live in. Responsible production should be receiving way more focus and I feel that until the recent Bangladesh sweatshop catastrophe, most people didn’t realize the absurd working conditions of overseas clothing manufacturers.

S2S: What can we expect from you at Fier Vitrine?

Elise Ballegeer: There is a definite swing back to my first collection, but I think it has the urban appeal of the second. It’s hard to tell right now, I’m so buried in it. You’ll have to let me know what you think.

FIER vitrine AW14/15

Discover the top newcomers of the Berlin fashion scene in an evening of mind-blowing performances and eclectic fashion characters. Join the party, scout and be scouted.

RSVP by Wednesday, January 15 to ensure your entrance. FREE entry.

Location: The WYE, Skalitzerstrasse 86, 10997, Berlin
Date: January 16, 2014
Opening times: 18:00 until 22:00. Open bar for the first hour.

20:30: Fashion performance by I’ VR ISABEL VOLLRATH in collaboration with Percora NERA

Featured designers:

Elise Ballegeer, Eosberlin, Josie Chen Range, Julia Theobalt, I’ VR ISABEL VOLLRATH in collaboration with Percora NERA, Keta Gutmane, Laurus by Olga Lavrinenko, Sasha Kanevski

DJ set by Francesco (francesco-series.com)
Live hair performance by Linnea Palmestål

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