Isabel Vollrath is a German fashion designer, working in the fields of modern Couture and fine art. She was born in 1980 in Freiburg and started her career by learning the craft of gentlemen’s tailoring in Baden-Baden. Afterwards she studied fashion at the renowned art university in Berlin-Weissensee. For Isabel Vollrath, garments are three-dimensional drawings, collages, objects of “sculpture”, sociocritical / political statements and/or “cultural travel reports”. Choosing extraordinary materials and details of high quality while working in an area of tension between fashion and art, the Berlin fashion designer leaves traces with a high recognition factor. By means of integrating both historicizing and avant-garde, sculptural-futuristic stylistic elements, high-contrast, abstract but at the same time figure-hugging cuttings, the resulting silhouettes are expressive and extensive, functioning as in-the- room-lying “bowls” or rather as integrative to the human moving body.
Isabel Vollrath has already received various national and international awards, amongst them the promotion prize of the Wilhelm-Lorch-Foundation, the Elsa-Neumann-scholarship from the state of Berlin, the Baltic Fashion Award (2011) and the award of the “International Talent Support” in Trieste/Italy (2012). 2015 she founded her label I’ VR ISABEL VOLLRATH. Ever since, she shows her collections twice a year during Berlin Fashion Week or in the context of Berlin Salon / Vogue Salon at Kronprinzenpalais. Miriam Bers met the Berlin fashion designer for an interview.
MB: How does the day of a Berlin fashion designer start?
IV: Contrast showers, coffee. Afterwards I jump on my bike and go to early yoga or ballet class. After that, I go to my atelier…
MB: Why a sculptural design-language?
IV: When I finished high school, I actually wanted to study free arts and become a sculptor. At the same time, there was this passion for fashion and the craft of tailoring. So I decided to study tailoring in Gerhard Schmauder’s custom tailor for men in Baden-Baden for three years. This is where I learned how to develop a “second skin” for men out of fabric.
Basically, this was also a kind of “sculpting” and an essential fundament for my following studies in fashion. I guess, in Berlin I am one of the few designers that still fabricate their whole sample collection on their own. For this, I combine my sculptor activities with the technical know-how of tailoring and a very high demand on precision, I observe with the eyes of an artist and still have the necessary sense of functionality in the back of my mind.
During the work process, I focus on the message, the statement, a story, an emotion and less on the aim of addressing the consumers of the mass market. The majority of my collection pieces could also be hung on a wall as an art object or be placed inside of a picture frame, instead of being hung in a closet. They function as both: body- and room objects. My collections will always stay limited edition. Only that way, I can stay true to myself and do fashion as well as art. Before I think of elegance, I “romp”: In experiments, in forms, playing with material and cuts – with the curiosity of a child and the “flow” of my hands.
MB: Your oeuvre, summarized in three phrases:
IV: I’d prefer three words: Idiosyncratic. Authentic. Uncompromising.
MB: Which designers inspire you?
IV: There are designers/brands of the past and present, who I really adore and whose life’s work and creations I appreciate a lot. For example those of Coco Chanel, Vivienne Westwood, Rei Kawakubo or Iris van Herpen and Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen or Hussein Chalayan. I like a strong visual expression, the courage to use extraordinary forms, colors, materials and an individual signature with a recognition value.
MB: Which exposition did you see last?
IV: Actually, I attend openings very often.
That’s why now I’m trying to remember, which expositions really fascinated me during the last months… It’s been a while, but spontaneously I recall “Jonas Burgert: Zeitlaich” at Blainsouthern and „Cornelia Schleime: Full House” at Michael Schultz and obviously also the Biennale in Venice last year. I’m very excited about Gallery Weekend that will be taking place soon.
MB: Which writers inspire you?
IV: Old masters as Goethe.
MB: What is you favorite place in Berlin?
IV: Close to the water and in the country. Or a terrace with a wide view over Berlin’s rooftops or a nice wine bar around the corner. ONE favorite place actually doesn’t exist…
MB: Your place of longing?
IV: Italy. Venice. The sea.
MB: How does the day of a Berlin fashion designer end? By cooking on your own or going out to have dinner?
IV: Extensive cooking – that is rather something I do, when I receive visitors. When I’m alone, I have a salad and a glass of white wine. Or I make plans to have a drink somewhere.
MB: Any idea for a recipe?
IV: For visitors, I always like to serve “antipasto misto”…-colorful vegetables like zucchini, fennel, pumpkin, pepper, rosemary potatoes from the oven – with goat cream and olive oil. This comes with a side salad: radicchio, chicory, lamb’s lettuce – with tomatoes, cucumber, toasted sesame and pomegranate. If desired: wild salmon with a lemon-honey-sauce and wild rice in coconut milk.
MB: When and where can one see your next collection?
IV: The fashion week for spring/summer 2019 starts at the beginning of July. The exact dates of my fashion shows are not definite yet, but they’re being planned and will be announced soon in the calendar of Berlin Fashion Week or Berlin Salon.
Photos: Key visual Det Nissen
1/3 Thomas Thernes, 4 Katy Otto, 2 Philipp Wolfart