Nowhere: One of the (many) things we love about A Kind of Guise is your quirkiness and fun approach to us as partners, sending us smiley stickers, postcards from Bavaria and telling us ‘Not to worry, we’ve done this before’. It transcends the stereotypical perception of Germans as a tad, eh, serious. How – if any – does the nation brand of Germany impact your approach to building the brand of A Kind of Guise?
A Kind of Guise: It is difficult to answer that question. We are not all that self-aware as a brand and try to get around it by having a humor about the things that we do. We are having fun and we would like for other people to have fun as well and connect with them on that level. But at the same time, we are quite serious on some levels, where we think it is important, like manufacturing and fabric sourcing. We can have fun creatively and still make quality products.
Nowhere: You are completely made in Germany using mostly German fabrics. However, you also incorporate Scottish Harris Tweed, Swiss EtaProof cotton, Austrian Loden-Steiner Wool and Steiff Furs. What are you experimenting with at the moment and can we expect some Irish fabrics in the future?
A Kind of Guise: Using some Irish fabrics is certainly a possibility. In Paris we talked with Brian [co-founder of Nowhere] about Donegal Tweed, which he recommended. So we will try to connect with them. We do put a lot of time into fabric sourcing. There are so many different and really interesting things being done and many of the fabric mills we work with are doing something new and interesting almost every time we see them. The process of narrowing down the field is a tough one. A balance between what is really functional and what would be really interesting to try out.
Nowhere: Sustainability, or perhaps longevity, is a core part of your design ethos. You’ve repeatedly said in interviews that you want to make clothes that last, not just functionally, but aesthetically. Is this ethos spreading into other parts of your business, like manufacturing, distribution or even retail?
A Kind of Guise: Well, we have always made everything here in Germany. We are currently working with approximately 10-12 manufacturers, each one doing a specific category, like for instance hats, knitwear or tailoring. In terms of distribution, we look to work with just a few select retailers. We know this is a phrase being thrown about a lot by various brands, but if you look at our business and stockist list, I think it paints a true picture. We are really depending on a mutually sustainable relationship with our retailers to be able to grow as a company, with the way we go about making our products.
Nowhere: Still, you’re very adventurous in referencing other cultures in your clothes. Italy, Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, Morocco and Mongolia (!) are some of the origins for past inspirations. How come and what’s next?
A Kind of Guise: We do not want to reveal too much about the next season at this point, but we have always been traveling a lot and it is our main source of finding new inspiration. Sometimes it is a place we have already been several times and sometimes it is a place we aspire to go to. Like Mongolia, for instance. Together with the actual inspiration of the country, we like to make up some small, cheeky storyline to sort of hold it all together. Like for instance with this current spring and summer collection, where the "Taverna Kalispera" was this made-up restaurant we made up, as this sort of cheesy place where everything is written in German, which is in turn is a view or vague "opinion" on relations between our home country and culture and correspondingly in Greece.
Nowhere: Clearly you couldn’t have seen this political situation coming… Has it added anything interesting to the narrative of your collection?
A Kind of Guise: With the "Taverna Kalispera" story, it gave us a universe where we could place the products and also help us come up with new ones that fit into it. Like the silk scarf, which was inspired by the idea of a paper napkin for the restaurant. And the printed hoodie we did, which was a joking reference to the financial/political situation in the country. It was a lot of fun to play around with these various ideas within this concept and that tends to be a nice way of keeping the creative juices flowing.
David: Thanks for talking to us. Send more stickers!