BY KATHARINA – He is THE young German designer. Christiane Arp, Vogue editor-in-chief, thinks highly of him. She is his biggest supporter – you may even say she discovered him: Tim Labenda.
His designs translate into unusual yet wearable fashion with plenty of detail, made with the highest quality craftsmanship. The designer launched his career in Metzingen. Yes, you heard that right! How? We asked him all about it when we visited him at his home in Berlin.
We had a chat over coffee, perched between opulent green plants and countless design books in a stylish ambiance…
You have a special connection to Metzingen. Can you tell us a little about this?
Yes, absolutely. After completing my Abitur qualifications at school, I lived in Metzingen for 3 years and trained there. I always knew I wanted to do something creative and hands-on. So I had applied for apprenticeships in carpentry and tailoring. Fortunately, Hugo Boss wanted me to start straight away, so I trained to become a ladies’ tailor.
You must have been to OUTLETCITY a few times. Hugo Boss is a major part of our outlet village. What was it like at that time, and how has it changed?
Its appearance and size are the main things that have changed over time. The architecture was not as awesome as it is now. There is a reason why architecture classes make a pilgrimage to Metzingen: to look at the beautiful buildings. I always liked being close to the Alps – the city is in a beautiful region and the mountains and the countries to the south are just a stone’s throw away. The city itself has always had an amazing atmosphere. Although it’s tiny, it has great restaurants and two or three nice bars. There was always something going on. Back then, the top models would come to Metzingen for Hugo Boss’ collection presentations. Can you imagine?
I remember seeing you on a TV show or in a design competition on the TV at the time…
(Grins) Yea, I took part in Fashion Hero in 2013. That was an exciting experience. I had seen the American version of the show and knew that it was serious business. That was important to me.
You got to know Vogue editor Christiane Arp through the show, right?
Yea, that’s right. She was a guest judge in one of the episodes. She saw my collection and thought my designs were good. So I then ended up presenting my work at the Vogue Salon during Berlin Fashion Week. That was where it all began, actually. I went freelance the very same year.
Are there certain people or situations that have impressed or had a serious impact on you?
Definitely my time at Hugo Boss in Metzingen. We were so close to the designers – you just don’t get that opportunity elsewhere. This experience was what made me want to do it myself in later life. It was a pivotal time in my life that confirmed my desire to become a designer. Fashion designer Bruno Pieters had a major impact on me. I found his designs truly inspiring.
But above all, Christiane Arp – my biggest mentor and the person who had the most influence over me. She is still a major inspiration today. We are good friends and see each other very often. She is the first to see my collections and give me feedback.
Are there unique features in your fashion? Characteristic designs that people recognise as yours? Something you replicate in all your designs?
We see our ideal client as a sophisticated and independent woman with both feet on the ground. A gallery owner, author – that type of thing. She values the quality and fit. She likes and appreciates the old-fashioned handcrafted approach. Every collection has a certain element that we focus on, be it hand-felted tops, hand-made textiles or crystal-embroidered jackets. So there is always a special detail, but each collection has a different one. I think we always pull it off really well, and our work gets recognised.
While we’re on the subject of handcrafted pieces… You make everything in Germany, right?
Yea, that’s right. Our atelier, where the samples are made and the whole creation process takes place, is a few houses down, up the road. The collections themselves are made in southern Germany. A seamstress may spend a week on one piece. It really is all about the craft.
I can’t miss the opportunity to get a few fashion tips from a designer. What are your absolute fashion must-haves for every wardrobe? I’m talking both men and women.
Oh, I never do that. Thank God! (Laughs.) I refrain from it because I always think: “Oh come on, just wear what you want!” When I’m with my clients, I always offer them tips on what I think would be good for them from my collection, what they can pair it with and general fashion advice. But I never say they absolutely have to have a certain pair of jeans or this or that pullover. That’s a personal choice. The main thing is that the person feels good and it’s authentic. That is much more important than following some trend or wearing something lifted straight from a catalogue
Trends are also relative today. People say there are no new trends or innovations, just existing fashion reinterpreted…
These days, you have the labels you like, which have a certain style and – thankfully – remain rather consistent. So people can decide whether they want to wear Saint Laurent, Gucci or something else.
How would you describe your personal style?
It’s always really interesting because my boyfriend, who also works at the label, loves looking stylish. When we meet people at events who don’t know us, they always think he’s the fashion designer because he looks more like he’s into design. Me on the other hand, I wear mostly dark colours and very modest clothing. As a designer, I spend my whole day thinking about fashion. I don’t really want to spend loads of time on my own look or take time to style myself and contemplate what I should wear. I like practical and functional clothing. It should also be modest because I want the focus to be on those around me – I have no intention becoming a model.