In the Bavarian town of Amberg during the 1930s Jenny’s great grandfather, Johann Schneider, ran a very successful bespoke menswear atelier from which he dressed the smartest of Bavarian gentlemen. Incidentally, his name translates in English as John Tailor; quite a case of nominative determinism. His spare time, however, was spent risking life and limb either riding his beloved horse through ragged woodland, scaling the unforgiving Alps or hurtling back down them at extreme speeds on wooden skis.It is this gentlemanly adventure which drives the design process at Jenny Schwarz Ltd today; the divide between etiquette and dare devilry.
The skills Johann had perfected were being passed on to his daughter, Inge. His idea was to build, grow and pass on a family business. However, his legacy and his life were cut short and in 1942 he was drafted into the war effort from which he did not return. Not being fully prepared for these eventualities, Inge was left suddenly in charge. When she visited the workshop she found a business arrested in time. Left lying on the cutting tables were half made coats for dead men none of which would ever be collected.
The atelier had become a grave for the garments these men had commissioned, no idea that they would never see their creations come to life. Perhaps in a modern age things would have been different but, although Inge had a perfect skill set and was taught by a master, men were very reluctant to have their suit made by a woman. It just wasn’t done. Soon, Inge reluctantly slowed as she couldn't deal with running the shop and the demands of bringing up children at the same time; which seemed to be the role of women at the time. The atelier had to be closed signifying the end of an era.
Luckily for the family, the tailoring techniques that Johann employed had been passed to Inge, then to my mother and finally to me keeping the family’s tailoring legacy from being totally lost. I remember making clothes for my teddies to we could dress the same and in school, making clothes for my friends in exchange for money which would go towards saving up for a horse, just like my great grandfather.
My mother gave me the best advice I could have hoped for which was to train and learn the traditional techniques of construction, to truly know and understand the art of garment creation. I undertook a 3 year apprenticeship with Gabriele Blachnik after which I studied a foundation year and then a BA in Menswear at Central St Martins, London. Then in 2011 with my partner, John, we re-launched the spirit of Johann’s legacy with new vigour under my name, Jenny Schwarz, a brand firmly based in London where all pieces are made in the UK save the knitwear which is produced in Bavaria.
Today, the label is aimed at men who don’t necessarily want to stand out immediately but with a closer look the clothes reveal a quality and thought that the observer admires. The silhouette is not necessarily something that the brand would play with when it came to designing collections. We would much prefer to give the consumer something it comfortably recognised in terms of structure and shape yet surprise them with their design detail and fabric collaboration.Jenny Schwarz Menswear creates quality tailored garments worn by consumers who are not bound by restrictive corporate rules. The artist who shows his latest work in a cosmopolitan gallery, the musician on stage who wants to stand apart from his fans or the creative who works in an office but needs to show the rest of the world he won’t be restricted by conventional tailoring all would comfortably wear Jenny Schwarz Menswear.The brand designs for the creative man that seeks a form of individuality without losing the sharp and refined quality tailoring lends him.