Interview with Michael Michalsky
Published at L'Officiel Italia on 12th August 2014
It is hard to image Berlin Fashion Week without him. Even for Karl Lagerfeld Michael Michalsky is the symbol of Berlin’s fashion. Back in the day an article about Lagerfeld fascinated twelve-year-old Michalsky so much he decided to become a fashion designer himself. So he went on to study at the renowned London College of Fashion and later started working for Levi’s before he eventually became Global Creative Director at Adidas in the mid-nineties. His lifestyle approach and initiated designer collaborations with Stella McCartney and Yohji Yamamoto changed the image of the sportswear brand and brought about a tremendous success for the company.
In 2006 the German designer founded his own eponymous label MICHALSKY. With his first show in January 2007 at the Rotes Rathaus (city hall) he brought international fashion flair to Berlin even before the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was established the following summer. His fashion is elegantly cool with sharp geometrical cuts and special details like metallic elements. Moreover, he cooperates with international pop and street art artists to develop unique prints.
Since 2010 Michalsky is hosting the StyleNite. This event combines the shows of his womens- and menswear collections with other cultural acts like exclusive music performances such as from Lady Gaga in 2008. More than others the 47 years old designer emphasises a diverse model cast. Various nationalities and exceptional models such as the albino Shaun Ross or Mario Galla with his leg prosthesis have already walked down his runway along with top models like Toni Garrn.
For this years’ StyleNite on July 11th, the last day of Fashion Week, Michalsky invited Rita Ora and newcomer band Ballet School as well as Berlin avant-garde designer Esther Perbandt. The latter did not only present her new collection but also had a singing performance with her band. Approximately 1500 guests joined the event at the Tempodrom.
Before the show I got to ask Michael Michalsky about political statements in fashion, music as a source of inspiration and future projects.
You not only have a fashion label but with “MICHALSKY designLab” a whole lifestyle range with constantly upcoming new design collaborations. What kind of lifestyle do you want to sell?
It would be great if I could sell a lifestyle (laughs). My products are just subsidiary whether it’s the couches, fashion, sneakers or high-heels. I design products for modern, tolerant, curious and urban people – People who have a lust for life. My customers are often hardworking, but know how to relax and enjoy life as well.
You seem to always be looking for a new challenge. Recently you also designed a wine bar. Is there something you really want to do in the future?
Oh, there are a lot of things on my mind. I like diversity. In fashion I love shoes and I would like to do something for kids. In regards to interior design I’m interested in designing a hotel. There have already been some talks about it.
You state that music is one of your greatest sources of inspiration. How is music able to influence you in the designing process?
I listen to music all day long. DJs from all over the world are sending me new tracks. When I listen to this new music new ideas for my collections come to my mind. The way the artists use melodies or rhythms inspires me.
According to which criteria do you choose the soundtrack and the live acts for the StyleNite?
I have to like the music of course, and the bands should also suit the selected collection theme. I’m always looking for a connection regarding the content in order to choose music that really enriches the evening and leads to harmony.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Currently I’m listening a lot to GusGus and Hercules and Love Affair.
You studied at the London College of Fashion. Have you thought about going back to the city?
I’m in London quite frequently because I have friends there. But I don’t want to live there. Berlin is currently much more exciting, cool and diversified.
You are also inviting other designers to show at the StyleNite. Is there a special cohesion between the Berlin designers?
We know and appreciate each other. I have a good relationship with most of my colleagues. Even though the city is big we run into one another quite often. And everyone is proud of the development of Berlin’s fashion scene.
You set political statements with your prints (“No Blood For Oil” or against nuclear power) and collection themes like “Important Secrets” this time (referring to the protection of privacy in our digital age) or “Sweet Freedom” and “Endangered Species” in the past. Was there a moment that made you decide to make your fashion that political?
In my role as a designer I see myself as a seismograph of society. That’s why I pick up these current issues and deal with them with my means of fashion. I want to give thought-provoking impulses, but without preaching. I want to share subjects that are important to me. That’s what it’s all about.
You are showing the StyleNite via live stream on your website (www.michalsky.tv). Has it always been important to you to reach a wide audience instead of keeping the event very exclusive?
The motto of my fashion is “Real Clothes for Real People”. I don’t design for the museum but for people. That’s why we show the StyleNite live online and I’m happy when about 40.000 people are watching it each time.