Describe what it was like growing up in Germany in the 80s. Its kind of funny because I spent the years from 1986 and 1989 in Los Angeles. I was quite young, obviously, but I have strong memories of Germany at the time. I think of strong cigarette smells, my mom’s feathered hair, lots of facial hair left over from the 70s I guess… and then LA! It was magical to a 10-year-old. Skate shops with all these crazy choices of decks, grip-tape, wheels. Tons of neon. That was really 80s how it is remembered now. Also I went from like wooden toys to Nintendo. It totally blew my mind. Then, when I came back to Germany, it was all about U2, Depeche Mode and Mazzy Star. I was a teenager and the wall came down.
Was there ever any option in your mind other than designing clothes for a living? I would almost say that designing clothes was never an option until I started designing clothes. Ever since I seriously considered what I wanted to do with my life, it was photography. My father is a photographer and I spent a lot of time in his studio growing up. I loved it. After high school graduation, I worked as an assistant for two photographers for 2 years.
Who imparted the most wisdom on you growing up? That is hard to say. I had a lot of positive influences in my life. I have been very lucky. My parents separated when I was just one year old, but they remained very good friends. I spent most of my time with my mother but some weekends and vacations with my dad. My mom showed me how to love – to see the best in everyone and to help others. My father taught me the power of a smile. He can light up a room. My brother taught me what it means to be happy – how to live your life just the way that you imagine it. And my sister taught me what it means to be cool. She was the one that passed me my first Mazzy Star album. She took me to Paris and London and introduced me to Yamamoto and Gaultier. We are the most similar in many ways, although I often say that she is crazy. She is incredible and I am really thankful for my family.
How was your time at the Rhode Island School of Design? I started an RISD in 1997. It was my first time living in the US since my 3 years in LA. I arrived in Providence and I was kind of shocked how small it was. There were a bunch of universities, but at first sight, there wasn’t much more. It really took me about a year to start to feel like I could enjoy the city. RISD itself blew my mind. Freshman year, which is the foundation year, was incredible. It was so challenging and rewarding and exhausting. I absolutely loved it and it was probably the most important year of my creative life. It gave me the confidence to do everything that I have done since.
After cutting your teeth at Marc Jacobs for two years, you partnered with Alexandre Plokhov to revamp Cloak. How did you know it was time to move on and what made you confident that Cloak would be a good fit for you? The reality is that I was just naïve enough to do this. I was young and thought that it could be really cool. I got along with Alexandre really well and we had some great ideas of what this could be. I had no idea what it meant to run a business. I was also a really crazy amazing and scary time.
Would you ever consider working for another fashion house as well as your own label? I would. It would really have to make sense though and I would have to feel that I could make that house more successful than it is.
How would you describe your personal style? My personal style is very simple. Maybe a little lazy. I need to be comfortable and I usually wear the same outfit several days a week. I want to look cool, but I usually need to get dressed in 2 minutes, so that I can help get the girls dressed and feed them and get them to school.
Who is the ideal man that wears your designs? I don’t have an ideal type of man. I guess the ideal man is the one who identifies with these clothes and who feels better in them. My clothes don’t scream but they do tell a story. You have to have the patience to understand this story to really appreciate my clothes.
Your Spring collection, Geniale Dilletanten, was influenced by eighties Berlin. While your Fall collection, Love and War, focused on political activism in times of uncertainty in the world due to the German terror attacks and Trump becoming our presidential nominee. What goes through your mind when conceptualizing a collection? My collections are about things that interest me at the time that I begin the collection. That can range from an artist to a time in history.
You’ve partnered with a lot of different collaborators. Is there one that turned out differently than you originally expected, for better or worse? I think that we could never have expected the Common Projects collaboration to turn into what it has. I loved working with those guys.
Your wife, Ana Lerario, is also a designer. Would you ever consider collaborating with her on a project? Definitely. She is an incredible designer and maybe the most stylish woman I know. I would love to work with her on something.