Campus Couture – the 30paarhaende Label
Every six months this label changes its designers - 30paarhaende is not just a fashion company, but also a university project which enables students to get to know the "serious side of fashion design" for one term.
On the fashion design course in room 442 at Berlin's University of Applied Sciences everybody is talking at the same time - a veritable pande-
monium. "The sleeves have to be shorter, it'll look snazzier," shouts one girl. Another thinks the blouse should have some kind of gold decoration. Somebody else produces a gold chain. A tug here, a pull there. Everybody is working on the blouses, jackets and skirts of the young women who stand there scrutinising the way they look and twirling in front of the huge mirrors.
A label of a very special kindThe women standing there listening avidly to the expert fashion advice are business communication students who in the near future are going to have to hold speeches at an important awards ceremony. The others, doing the styling, are fashion design students at the Fachhochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft (FHTW) - Berlin's University of Applied Sciences - and it is their job to dress the speakers for the event in clothes from 30paarhaende. The designers-to-be had worked on the project last term and managed to produce a collection that cuts quite a dash even at public events.
30paarhaende is a label of a very special kind. It could possibly be called a "practice company". On the one hand, it is an interdisciplinary project organised by the FHTW in which about 20 seventh-term students - future fashion designers, clothing technicians and economists - work together for one term to produce a collection. On the other hand, it is an established label whose products are sold way beyond the walls of the university - up to now mostly in boutiques, but soon they will be available online.
"That was a turbulent term, incredibly strenuous, but we learned so much," says Aline Sauer looking back. She is one of the people dressing the speakers and who last year was involved in the design of the "Irrgarten" winter collection 08/09 at 30paarhaende. "I found out what it's like working for a label, how to create a prescribed style and how to design in a group," she says.
The relevant professional experienceAnd so it came about that a group of fashionable individualists had to learn how to set up a team. "Sometimes it was quite difficult, but the discussions were always fruitful," explains Katrin Zimmermann. She is now about to graduate from her Diplom degree course and finds that had she not taken part in the 30paarhaende project, she would have missed out on one of the major stepping stones of her career. As the project was able to be presented at the Berlin Fashion Week in January 2008, she also learned, alongside the experience of designing, how to prepare for such a big event - photo-shoots, look books and invitations.
The successors of Aline Sauer and Katrin Zimmermann still have to do their presentation at the Fashion Week. A short while ago 22 male and female students started the next round of the 30paarhaende project. Their ideas are to spawn the next collection - for this designer collective changes its designers every term. At the moment they are still in the initial phase of the project and are deciding on the number of trousers, blouses, dresses, skirts and coats there is to be in the 2009 summer collection that is to comprise about 30 garments. The aim is to create a harmonious mix.
In the footsteps of BauhausWith the ever-changing groups of designers there has to be at least one constant element that holds the whole show together. That is Professor Uwe Janssen - he was the person who first initiated the project in the year 2001; he has been running it ever since and is, so to speak, the chief designer. "The students have to be ready to do some hard work, more than the usual amount," he says. On the other hand, however, they learn much more than is normally the case. "The students learn about the set of procedures necessary to produce a complete collection, the collection concept and about the interplay between the various elements of the collection," explains Janssen. Tasks like these become a real challenge. "I like the idea of everything not being fictitious, but real - the garments are actually produced," says one of the students in the present 30paarhaende group, Alicia Limberg. "It's also a matter of putting it all into practice."
Over several terms Uwe Janssen has been able to develop the general line of the label - simple, up-market women's wear without any frills. "30paarhaende is following in the footsteps of Bauhaus, everything has a function," he explains. The styles are sophisticated, the workmanship elaborate. "Our clothes are popular with women in top positions, for example, senior medical consultants and personal assistants," he says.
Insight into how a label worksAs chief designer Uwe Janssen decides on what each collection's theme is to be. For summer 2009 the title is Windspiel (play of wind). There is going to be a lot of gathers and pleats, billowing and puffing. The wind adds a soft touch to strict contours and lines. Order becomes disorder - and then gives way to new order. The basic ideas for the new collection have already been worked out, work is still underway however on the choice of materials. Sample designs for original pleating have already been developed. From now on at every meeting - the seminar group meets twice a week - important steps have to be taken. Everybody is given a special task and the group splits up into smaller teams who focus on elements such as "Business", "Sport", "After Work" and "Ladylike"
"The work done in small groups is very much in line with the method the labels use," says Uwe Janssen. He places great emphasis on students learning how to identify with target groups they have no connection with. On the whole, says Janssen, the course at the FHTW is very much related to practice and geared to technology. The buildings that have only been home to the FHTW since 2006 are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, providing an excellent launching pad for the project.
"After their finals FHTW graduates have no difficulty finding jobs," says Janssen. They have also done extremely well at setting up their own businesses; one only has to mention here Pulver and Franzius - two famous Berlin labels that started life as projects of the university.