Verena Schepperheyn

Designer Focus
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20 June 2017 By Kam Dhillon

Verena Schepperheyn

Today, success in fashion is measured by how quickly you can #breaktheinternet, but Verena Schepperheyn is the kind of designer whose disregard for constant acceleration makes you hit the brakes. Her menswear brand has a simple focus. To create exceptional products with focus on details, material uniqueness and unmatched quality. NJAL sits down with the designer to discuss the complexity of being an emerging talent in the internet age.

There’s something awe-inspiring about the poetically simple. There aren’t any complex ideas or loaded narratives to grapple with when it comes to Verena Schepperheyn’s work. It’s exciting, sure—streetwear influences melted with classic tailoring, with a strict focus on embroidery, prints, and textile manipulation is an active re-imagination of tired menswear tropes. However, what’s more, Schepperheyn’s work is unpretentious and profoundly gentle. NJAL sits down with the Berlin-based designer to find out more about her journey and why producing entirely in Germany is a mainstay for her young brand. 

How did you get into fashion?

I was never really interested in fashion before I left secondary school. I’ve never been obsessed with clothes and I never used to watch my mother dress up or anything like that.  However, I’ve always liked to create things. After finishing school, I didn’t quite know what to do next. I decided to do some internships in different creative fields. The first was in a very small fashion atelier in the next bigger city close to my hometown. Although the internship didn’t give me a huge insight in designing clothes, I did learn a lot of practical skills like learning to sew and how to make patterns. I really loved all about it. I quickly decided to skip the other planned internships and to stay there for half a year, before finally applying to study fashion at university level.

Where are you from?

I grew up in a small town in the South of Germany. My whole family works in the dental industry and produces dental instruments. So, it was fashion wasn’t not the most natural career choice in my family.

After I completed the internship, I moved to Munich to do my BA and afterwards, I went to the Netherlands to specialise in Menswear in the Masters program at ArtEZ in Arnhem. After I finished my graduate collection, I created a website and amazingly people looked at it and liked it. It was then that I decided to continue as an independent designer and to start my own business in Berlin.

How do you define your particular style or approach to fashion?

I am driven by shape and colour. For me, it’s always been the best way to express a concept and especially using techniques such as embroidery, prints and textile manipulations. It’s really not my aim to have some big mass production in the end. The plan is to grow the collection with more accessible pieces. I think it is important to be conscious of what you are doing. We produce in Germany and we want to keep it that way. There are so many brands, and there is so much you can buy. To concentrate on the quality of the pieces and how the design comes together – that’s where I want to put my energy and focus on.

What has influenced your approach?

It is always about finding pictures which tell a story and that is mainly fashion photography but pictures which show a good sense of colour for example. I can also find inspiration in people on the street or in the texture of a certain fabric or object. I usually take pictures of everything that attracts my attention and then I think about how it became that way and that’s normally how a concept starts to grow.

To work on a collection is always a very personal process. So many different inspirations find their way into it and I love to muse on those decisions for colours, textiles, silhouettes. Sometimes the final result is dependant on my mood or whatever happens in my personal life at that stage. Either way, I make these decisions very intuitively.

What is the problem with fashion today?

I think the biggest problem is that most people have lost a sense of valuing clothes and their quality. The buying behaviour has changed, so that consumers became obsessed with buying as much as possible, instead of buying less with good quality in mind, and the knowledge that a garment was produced under fair conditions. I sometimes feel this intense love-hate relationship with fashion. On one side, I feel a strong obsession with it and on the other side – it feels like the whole industry does take itself too seriously. There is so much exploitation going in. Young designers often get requests to work entirely for free or to give money or pieces as presents to get some more exposure. It is quite tiring to stay focused and only stay true to your beliefs. It’s tough as we all need to receive some commitment to have the possibility to grow slowly and survive in this hard industry without being forced to make so many risky investments.

What are you most proud of in your work?

We are constantly searching for small but highly skilled local manufacturers, who can help us to turn our visions into reality. Our design is mixed with select materials and exquisite craftsmanship gives each product an original look and that’s something I’m definitely proud of.

What do you value more, process or outcome, concept or quality of craftsmanship?

Well, I love to starting work on a new collection. At the point, I’m already so bored with what I did before and I’m aching to start something new. Developing a new collection means having a blank paper in front of you again. It’s very exciting, and I’m not sure whether that counts as process but it’s a transitory state where everything seems possible.

In the end, I actually value all of these things. These are the mechanisms that makes fashion it different from every other creative occupation and that’s probably what I like it so much.  What’s the point of having a well-made garment with no underlying concept that does it justice? Or something that’s conceptually exciting but fails in the quality of execution. I think we should just aim for all of it…

It’s almost expected that designers sell online these days, is this the way forward for new designers?

I think it’s definitely a good way to reach out to a bigger audience. If we would have only stockists in Germany, we would have never sold to costumers abroad. I was really happy to get orders from Australia, the USA or Asia. For us, selling online was definitely the right decision. 

How does fashion affect your view of the world?

Since I started to work as an independent designer and get to know how the industry works, I have become more aware of how and where things are made. That’s not limited to clothing either, but really to other products as well. Once you’ve learned how to calculate a retail price, and you see how many people have to make money out of it, you look very differently at prices. 

Photography credits:
Isolde Woudstra
Pernille Sandberg
Sunanda Koning
Pernille Sandberg
Sam Lee
Pernille Sandberg

Further Reading