Markus Lupfer is the man behind one of our most coveted designer collaborations. Most noted for his innovation in knitwear, the London designer continues to lead the way in womenswear.
Tell me how you got into design, Markus?
It came from my gut instinct. Where I grew up, in a small place in Germany fashion didn’t really exist. But there was a program on TV which I loved about the new shows and the new collections. Ungaro and Chloe were featured and other new designers. And I just had this feeling that I wanted to have a show one day. At first I was a bit scared, I think to do it. But then I went to art college and studied fashion, I went to college in Germany and then to London to Westminster and I loved it. It’s the best place in the world, I didn’t want to leave.
What did your parents do? Did they have similar careers?
No, nothing to do with fashion. My mum really looked after us kids, I have three siblings: an older sister, a younger sister and younger brother. My dad he worked for the council in the village, so nothing to do with fashion.
What was school like for you? Has education or experience been most important?
You know what, it was just about friends and comradery. But it was almost, what’s the word, secure. Too easy-going. It was a very middle class, comfortable place. I think it’s really important to have experiences. But education is also important, too. For the first two years I studied in Germany and it was way more from the book, learning the basics, how to make patterns. And then, when I came to London – and I think this is what I loved – it was all about the creativity and all about the aesthetics and we were encouraged to develop our own personality and find out who we were and discover where our strengths and skills were and our personal style. I didn’t have that in Germany.
Nowadays being a brand is so important. Are you conscious of that?
Totally. It’s your look, it’s who you are and also what you provide to your customers.
Your sequined jumpers have become something of a cult phenomenon, is that right? Or did you see it as something that sort of ran away with itself?
Mmhm. Yeah, a little bit. I see that as part of my personality. It’s all hand-managed. It’s everything to do with the graft. So I like the idea of mixing, the modern with the traditional. So everything is hand work. It takes a long time. But it gives me a range of clothes from day-to-evening clothes, casual to chic, which you can wear for different occasions and dress down or dress up.
How many people work for you?
We are quite a small team, internally we are about 20. Including freelancers, so it isn’t a big company. It feels more like a family, which I really love.
Who’s the best fashion designer to you? Now, and in the past?
I feel like there’s different people for different reasons. Sometimes I look at someone because they’re amazing in a business sense. Sometimes I admire them creatively because they have really figured out their own style. For example, there is something really special about Margiela because he did what he did and he did it for his aesthetic, it’s his. Vivienne as well, her clothes are more than just fashion, they’re a youth culture. And for example, punk obviously influenced so many other designers after.
What do you like to do when you’re not designing? What are your hobbies?
I love travelling to new places and cultures. It inspires my clothes but also sometimes I want to switch off. A couple of years ago I went to Ethiopia, I did a project there actually, but it is such an interesting place. I went two years ago to Oman and absolutely adored it. I love finding out how other people live.
And where does your inspiration for your designs come from?
From various places. It can come from friends. Often gut instinct is the starting point. I have an idea of how I want the woman to look like. Then I look at various references – for example English countryside, or an artist. A couple of years ago I did something based on Martin Parr’s photography. But every season is different.
Personally I liked how your AW/16 collection – both men and women – looked almost like it was inspired by fantasy. Both fantastical and practical?
I like to play with this sometimes. For my SS/16 collection I imagined a girl standing in the desert and then suddenly it rains and the land starts to flower, and it’s kind of like a little story that I create and then the whole collection is based around that.
What does your working day look like?
I go to work about 8/8:30 and the first few hours I do the business side, the bank, the administration – well, I try to do that – then I go into various design meetings for the the womens, the mens, the knitwear and so on. Then I check production. 80% of the business is design- and product-led, finding new techniques and so on.
What’s the most stressful part of your job?
I find time pressure the most stressful part. We do four womenswear collections and two menswear collections so literally every two months I have to produce a new collection, so it’s always deadline after deadline after deadline, which is really quite exhausting because you cannot be late. You have to develop new things and all the development take so long. But I do thrive off it, because it makes you come up with new ideas and work really hard. Already I’m working on Autumn/Winter next year. So I’m finishing SS/17 and also working on knitwear. Last night I was working at 1am on knitwear.
What inspired you to become a designer?
I was a drive in me. I can’t remember too much from when I was young but my Aunt’s sister, she had a studio where she made things for my Grandma. And she made her dresses and I was fascinated by them, looking at everything.
What do you think the high point of your career is?
You know what is really amazing? When incredible girls wear the things I design. Beyoncé was wearing something, Madonna, Rihanna. It’s amazing to see that. And now we’re developing a dress for the Emmy’s for Maisie Williams.
If you weren’t a designer what would you be doing instead?
I’ve always loved architecture. I could definitely be an architect. That or work with space. I love everything to do with stars.
What art movements do you admire, if any, and which artists?
I love Pop Art, I’m quite graphic. But I also like Picasso.
What’s next for you?
Just to continue being excited by things. And rather than thinking that my company has to be this or this, I just want to continue doing what I love and doing it well. Being really creative is important in an environment which is quite technical. I want to be able to explore and develop.