Interview with Alexandra Fischer-Roehler of Kaviar Gauche
Published at L'Officiel Italia on 25th October 2014
With “La Berlinoise” the Berlin label Kaviar Gauche celebrated its 10th anniversary at the artistic space of Espace Commines in Paris-Marais. The creative directors and CEOs Alexandra Fischer-Roehler and Johanna Kühl presented a spring collection that combined Berlin’s coolness and the intellectual sensuality of Paris with their own clear signature. Casual oversized layers were given an elegant approach by an interplay of transparencies from different types of lace, at times all-over, silk chiffon, mesh elements and basket-weave patterns. The understated range of colours from black, ivory and white to blues completed the urbane looks.
I met Alexandra Fischer-Roehler in their flagship store in Berlin-Mitte to talk about the essence of Kaviar Gauche, Parisian lifestyle and crazy wedding dresses.
Do you still remember your first encounter with Johanna?
Yes, it was in 2001. We studied and completed our Bachelor together.
Did you like each other right away?
Yes, but we were certainly not thinking that far. Johanna just came from Stockholm and had that Scandinavian esprit, which was rather unique in Berlin back then, even exotic. We both had a distinctive interest and understanding of fashion because we had been working before and thus it matched really well – We both knew what we wanted. The great thing about the ESMOD (École Superieure des Arts et Techniques de la Mode) is that you’re able to implement your practical experiences with the industry. That was the main reason why I choose that university, not necessarily to found my own label afterwards.
What has changed the most concisely over the last ten years?
Essentially you have a lot to look back on. Back then the world happened mostly in the mind; it was rather ideas. Meanwhile the ideas have taken shape. And by now we have three floors in that building and during fashion week more than 30 assistants. We have many collections we look back on happily. We have the Bridal Couture. Things are going well, also with the accessories. Since a few seasons back, we’re also creating shoes, that you can actually wear, our wardrobe is full (laughs).
Your first collection was presented in a guerrilla show in Paris just right in front of Colette. Your show for winter 2013 was in Paris again. How did it feel to celebrate your 10th anniversary in Paris with your winter 2015 collection last month?
That was great! It feels totally normal and self-evident to return to Paris.
Why this interest in Paris from the beginning?
Johanna worked at Martine Sitbon in Paris after graduating. Everyone told her that if you wanted to start something you could only do it in Paris. This completely made sense, also because there was no Berlin Fashion Week back then. So we just thought to show there and it was the right decision at the time. After Paris we went to London (they won the “Visionary Award” in 2006) and showed for two or three seasons at the London Fashion Week. That was amazing; we had great shows there. And then we were invited to the first Berlin Fashion Week in 2007.
Which city feels most suitable for you by now?
It partially depends on the sponsors. But of course we wish for regularity and our aim is to be present in both cities, Berlin and Paris.
What do you like about the Parisian flair?
Paris just has so much that Berlin doesn’t, that’s for sure. Paris is traditional and classic. Paris is also extremely extraordinary concerning the people, the spirit; it is extremely sophisticated. We still wander through the streets feeling amazed – it’s just great.
It’s a different attitude towards life.
Yes, and a different awareness, courtesy and interaction with one another. Paris has an openness, which is maybe not that common in Berlin. It’s always fun there. It’s also great to see these bourgeois families, that extreme bohemian look, which is so sophisticated and inspiring. I’m also glad to be in Berlin, it’s fantastic and we love this city, but the mix of both cities is something really special.
The name of your label stems from Jean-Paul Sartre’s term “gauche caviar”. What does that mean to you? How do you translate it into your fashion?
The gauche caviar was what you called in Germany the “Hummer Linke”, so it’s a bit contemptuous. This was the bourgeois jet-set who was taking on the ideas of the ‘68 movement. That was very popular in Paris. We just liked the contrast of “gauche” and “caviar”. We definitely wanted to found a luxury brand in Berlin – That was our aim. What we wanted to do wasn’t just fashion – some t-shirts or street wear – what we longed for was luxury made in Germany. And we thought this name, in a modified version, was quite suitable for us.
In your recent collection you entirely show flat men’s shoes. Do you also personally don’t wear high-heels anymore?
Yes, it’s a bit like that. We’re working at the studio and have relatively few breaks, besides there’s a trend for flat shoes.
Absolutely. Even Chanel showed sneakers.
Yes and Birkenstock has an absolute revival. You just have a better posture and a certain dynamic – it’s just fun with flat shoes. When we’re working we usually wear jeans and sneaker and in the summer definitely long skirts with Birkenstocks. The double monks we created with Selve are super chic and high quality. We used our naturally tanned leather from Italy and worked with a floral lasercut to add a feminine touch to those traditional men’s shoes.
You use the floral motive a lot. Is that a special statement?
Basically we like to be inspired by nature, that is 100 percent Kaviar Gauche. We have this metal sculpture here in our store that looks like a tree, where the Bridal Couture hangs on. It’s something that appears continually. Our Lamella bag also evolved from a nature motif. We always have these dynamic, organic, nature inspired shapes. Flowers and lace are both motifs we like to use frequently.
Yes, and you still manage that it never looks too playful.
Exactly, and never corny. We work with size differences and fabric mixtures to set the motifs in another context so that it’s working. Often you don’t even see the lasercut at the leather. Right here (shows me a leather bag with lasercut embroideries) is a gear wheel flower, we also use technical motifs.
Lace is also a favourite fabric of yours, right?
Definitely. Also because we don’t work with prints.
You totally exclude that?
There were some attempts, but we were never fully satisfied. So we stopped it and began with the digital lasercut two or three years ago. We really like that and it’s also a hint to our collections. Later a costumer comes by who is marrying in a dress which is completely with holes, totally crazy. I have to show it to you. We used a zoomed lace motif and worked with the lasercut on the white leather. We showed this wedding dress 2013 at the Berlin Fashion Week. We love to experience and put things into a new context. And to create something for a certain costumer, who expresses her wishes and trusts the designs and proves boldness and class to wear that at her wedding, is just fantastic.
When did you start with wedding dresses?
It was 2009 on an impulse. We had so many requests we thought maybe we should go for it professionally.
Except nature, is there another source of inspiration you like to resort to?
That can be so much. You can get inspired everywhere. We also look a lot in the internet, in magazines or at people we find interesting. We started really early to work with Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine and provided the outfits for her first music videos. Of course that’s awesome to have a person who presents your looks in that eccentric way live on stage. There are great women we have in mind while designing.
Who else is a Kaviar Gauche woman?
We always think about Heike (Makatsch). We know her and her view on things. So we wonder how she would interpret something, and that gives us a new approach. Also we have twenty women in your team, each with another taste.
Last question: You and Johanna seem always to have the exact same hair colour. A sign of sisterly solidarity?
To be honest that wasn’t intended. It just resulted from our similar wardrobe and taste. Probably it’s difficult to change that now. But funnily it just happened that way.