German Fashion Designers

Just Experiments! Everything’s always Different at Bless

Hair Brush, © Bless

Cable jewellery, silver elements, © Bless

Chairwear B, © Bless

Only their jumpers can be stored in a drawer, their Bless label absolutely can’t. Ines Kaag and Desiree Heiss make clothes, furniture, accessories – and don’t want to be pinned down, not even to a job description.

Ines Kaag, one half of Bless, is based in Berlin. Desiree Heiss, the other, in Paris. Together they do this label, and two different locations are obviously not a problem for this. “We send e-mails, telephone, meet up all the time. We don’t know any different. It probably wouldn’t work any more if we were suddenly in the same place”, says Ines Kaag. And since production is in Italy they have to travel anyway to keep an eye on the manufacture of their collections.
It started with the fur wig
Lots of places and travelling, it’s been like that since they met each other in 1993 at a competition for students in Paris. Back then they were both studying fashion design, Desiree Heiss – an Austrian born in Freiburg – in Vienna, and Ines Kaag – from Fürth by birth – in Hanover. They stayed in touch, started up Bless in 1995 and became an instant hit just a year later. They placed adverts with a telephone number in magazines such as i-D and purple fashion for their fur wigs. One of the callers was the famous fashion designer Martin Margiela, and their fur wigs hit international catwalks as a result of his shows.

That was N° 00 furwig. Each product and each campaign that Bless does is given a number. They are very systematic about that. By contrast they cannot and do not want to predict which direction the next idea will take. It could be chains made from colourful cables and pearls (Cable Jewellery). It could be suits for chairs – Chairwear. Or transparent display boxes (staircase boxes) for fashion presentation, which they exhibited in summer 2008 in the 38 Ludlow Street gallery at the Goethe-Institut New York. Or suspended furniture with automatic anti-theft devices – because they collapse as soon as an item is removed from them, a glass for instance.
Cable jewellery, © Bless
Customized Sneakers, a co-production with ADIDAS, © Bless
Hängende Möbelstücke, © Bless

No. 00 Fur Wig, © Bless

Fat Knit Hammock, © Bless

There isn’t a concept
But it’s also frequently clothing basics such as a shirt, dress or scarf. And there are a few classics – a particular coat, a particular pair of glasses – that they’ve had in their range for many years. At the moment, in November 2008, they have hit on N° 34 Eprfect verything. Friends serve as models for photos of their collections. Just one of the many ideas that have now found imitators.
What is Bless? That’s virtually impossible to define, given the diversity of the products. “There isn’t a concept, it’s more of a lifestyle”, says Ines Kaag. “We just do what we want. If we want to try something out, we try it out”. She doesn’t even want to be pinned down to a job description such as fashion designers. “As well as fashion, we also make objects and furniture, and maybe one day we’ll even build a house. We don’t want to impose limits on ourselves in that respect.”
Completely new strategies of interaction
A friend of the Bless craftswomen and supporter from day one is Yasmine Gauster. She owns numerous Bless pieces herself. “The whole approach fascinated me from the start”, she explains. “The system of placing fashion on the market kicked off with the wig advertising campaign. Bless is constantly on the lookout for new opportunities and has developed completely new interaction strategies.” These include the temporary shops, collaborations with big brands such as Adidas and Wrangler, multifunctionality of products. When Bless began to design a collection twice a year in 2003, Gauster set up the Bless Shop in Berlin City Centre.

“Bless has embarked on a path that is bold and visionary, and as such representative of a generation change in German clothes culture.” That’s why Yasmine Gauster has been promoting the Bless Shop with great commitment. It carries the most avant-garde stock that the very fashionable Mulackstraße has to offer. Sometimes people stumble in and back out again, completely bewildered. But there is now a regular clientele – in Berlin as well as the many other shops between Tokyo, Copenhagen and New York who stock the label.
Worldwide community of fans
“It took a while, but Bless now has a worldwide community of fans”, says Yasmine Gauster. Some products, such as the knitted shoes, appeal just as much to young Japanese men as older wealthy women in Hamburg.
Duofringeglasses, © Bless
No. 36 Puffsandals, © Bless
Perpetual home motion machines, © Bless

“Fits every style” is a sentence that Bless has used to promote themselves for a long time. It’s right. If someone’s standing in the shop, looking at tops or trousers, you are not looking at a definitive buyer. “Bless customers are people who know what life’s about and can appreciate what’s special about things”, according to Gauster. The label is a challenge for the mind, but also appeals to the emotions, as items are made with a great love for detail and high-quality materials.

Many of the customers are from the art scene. And many of Bless’s temporary shops and campaigns happen in galleries or museums. But the question as to whether Bless operates in the overlap between art and fashion is yet another of many attributions that Ines Kaag doesn’t want to hear: “People keep perceiving us to be artists, but that doesn’t mean anything to us.”
Solution to problems
But at least where her working method is concerned, Kaag does commit to a statement after all. “Many of the things we do are solutions to problems.” For instance the hairbrush with real hair.
Modell Feride, © Bless

© Bless

No. 36 Levelbox, © Bless

A Parisian salon had invited artists to design a “haircut of the month”. The Bless designers thought about it for a long time and then produced hairbrushes with the hair that fell on the floor when being cut.
And, something else that’s important to Ines Kaag, they don’t let any of their projects loose on the public if they do not both have complete confidence in them. “We only do things we think are 100% good. If one of us isn’t happy, we don’t do it.”
Stefanie Dörre
is an editor for the Berlin city magazine “tip”.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
November 2008

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