German designer Wibke Deertz studied sculpting in the Netherlands and never really cared that much about fashion. And then she co-founded a clothing label called A.D.D. in 2000. Sadly for you girls, she recently switched to menswear and just opened up her first flagship store, A.D.Deertz, in the heart of Prenzlauerberg--right across the road from that cool jeans store, next to that hip Lebanese food joint and the not-quite-so-hip drums bar on Kastanienallee--but at least you can finally force the shopping thing on your boyfriend. As soon as Wibke returned from her recent trip to Bangkok, we visited her Berlin atelier to find out why she quit making ladieswear and whether the world outside of Berlin is really that interesting.
So Wibke, you're only designing for men now. Is there a specific reason for that or do you just have more fun picking out the models?
Ha ha, no. I just think it's a lot more interesting to design for men. The focus is more on the cuts, material, and the use of colors. It’s a bit more restricted than women’s wear but I find it very challenging. I used to design exclusively for women, then I did a unisex collection, then both men and women and now I think it's time to go completely for men!
I'm glad you made up your mind. Does ADD really stand for Attention Deficit Disorder? Or does it mean something else to you?
It really stands for Attention Deficit Disorder. I started my label with a friend and when we started, this ADD phenomenon became some kind of trend because it was just discovered. So my friend was all like, “I did a test and I have ADD and I'm sure you have it too!” It was all we could talk about for a while. But anyway, the new name is A.D.Deertz, since we switched over to menswear completely. It was time for a change in attitude.
You spend half of the year in Bangkok now. Why, is Berlin not good enough for you?
I like spending some time of the year in other places than Berlin and it turned out to be Bangkok for now. I went for three months last autumn and I just came back from another two months. My studio is there and I do the designing and production there. It’s a great work setup with good people and an amazing atmosphere. In the company I work with, all the employees sing together in the mornings, exercise, and talk about proverbs. It’s just very inspiring and very different from home. I think you can almost feel that serenity and the little Asian touch in my designs. It's not like I'm making bamboo hats and dragon prints, but somehow unconsciously it's definitely incorporated in the details, colors, and fabrics. I'm sure in two years from now I'll be totally bored of Thailand again. Maybe I'll go to Africa after that, who knows! That would be fun!
I bet your atelier is no sweatshop but did you stumble on any of those during your Eastern adventures?
No, not the kind we get to see on TV but some smaller ones that were still crazy. There was a successful tailor in Hanoi with tons of shops all over the country. He got an enormous warehouse for himself, a perfect place to set up a huge sweatshop. But in the end it didn’t make him happy and he only used a quarter of the space. He made me try on all the coats they make there, all really ugly but well made--he loved to see them on a Western woman. In general I love to see workshops and factories. I went to see great printing, weaving, and dying factories in Thailand, really amazing. I was impressed by all the machines and seeing six-color silkscreen rolls in process--very trippy. But I’m too shy to take photos most of the time. I work with quite small workshops or individual people, so it’s great to see their setups as well.
You’re still working under extreme conditions though, right?
Extreme temperatures for sure. We really did some wild action in Hanoi to find good fabrics and export licenses, hauled tons of kilos of knit on one single motorbike. I just found myself in very strange settings with people I wouldn’t have imagined to meet before. But that's the amazing thing about it: everything that I experience somehow translates to what I design; otherwise I wouldn't be able to make new things.
You grew up in Washington DC, yes?
[Blushes] Oh yeah, DC. The American high school life, ha ha.
Red cheeks--some interesting stories there?
No stories that I’d want to tell Vice about! It was fun back then but I don’t really intend to go back. Although never say never...
Fine. How do you feel when you come back to Berlin after a couple of months in Asia?
I get really excited to go back to a social life and parties, clubs, loud music. Than I overdose on Käsebrötchen really fast and I miss fresh Asian food.