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Photos by Jef Jakobs and Shoji Fujii

Pelican Fashion

Former assistant of Bernhard Wilhelm has been integrating fashion and video with her Belgium-based brand

From being a former assistant of designer Bernhard Wilhelm, Carolin Lerch is redefining fashion ideals and questioning conventional codes of fashion. Together with Michiel Helbig she runs 'Pelican Video', a multimedia project that involves video, installations and performance presented on a regular basis during Paris Fashion week, where her brand is known for her vivid prints and strong visuals. Dazed talks to Lerch about her latest project with Chicks on Speed's Alex Murray-Leslie and her other upcoming projects.

Dazed Digital: Why did you became interested in fashion?
Carolin Lerch: I guess I had no other choice. At the end of the 80s my mother opened a second-hand store to emancipate herself from my father, it was quite a scandal in our small village. Back then, old clothes were still something filthy. Also my father had an agency for textile yarns and I used to play with the fabric swatches and made Barbie dresses. In a way my clothes still look the same.

DD: Tell us about your new collection?
Carolin Lerch: The starting point is an abstract architectural installation of fabric. Loads of fabric changed in shape by tunnels and ropes. What looks rather like a laundry line is a rather complex structure. All the clothes were designed to be part of the installation too. They have tunnels with fabric covered chains running through. Via these tunnels the collection can be completely integrated in the installation. 

DD: Tell us about your label Pelican Avenue.
Carolin Lerch: After graduating I had the feeling that fashion was the wrong choice. I worked as a help-desk agent on the weekends and studied Fine Art for a couple of months. I got quite disconnected from fashion. While working for Bernhard Wilhelm I started to like it again, and realised that it is possible to find your own personal way of doing fashion. As long as you're authentic you can defy any unwanted expectations. So I started the brand at the end of 2004, quite inexperienced and without a real plan but with lots of desire to create my own language in fashion, using all sorts of media to speak it.

DD: You are also very involved in media art/performance tell us more about it.
Carolin Lerch: I don't really think in categories. For me it’s a normal thing to involve several facets. In a way lots of designers do, but they like to focus on make-up, cast, photography... But together with my boyfriend, we have a video project called 'Pelican Video' which is very linked to Pelican Avenue but we are also making videos with no fashion context.

DD: What was it like working with Alex from Chicks on Speed for your last collection's fashion performance?
Carolin Lerch: I tend to be very stubborn and inflexible when it comes to my work; I don't have a great team spirit either; it was a big relief to realise that someone else can do something with the collection or my idea and gives it a new twist that I would have never chosen but who makes it even better; Together with the dancer Kroot Juurak we are still working on the hanging garden party fashion performance. So far we had showed two scenes, one in Paris, one in Tokyo and there are more coming up in spring.

Where do you seek for inspiration?
Carolin Lerch: I'm not really seeking it; I'm avoiding second-hand pieces, it’s rather like this that one collection inspires the next one, it has a natural flow in it


DD: Who is your favourite designer and why?
Carolin Lerch: I still love the world of Bernhard Wilhelm. He does fashion with such a free, curious mind, always looking for new excitement and fun. His followers and clients are getting a piece of this too. He truly built a world of his own. Besides he is very aware of the importance of the craft, the technique of tailoring. That makes him stronger than hype.

What makes you happy?
Carolin Lerch: Cooking good food and people liking it, swimming in a lake...

DD: Who would you like to collaborate with?
Carolin Lerch: Oh, lots of people; MGMT, TV on the Radio, KLF, Roisin Murphy, Karen O, Jamie Lidell, M.I.A., 50 Cent... people I don't know yet... it's probably an endless list

DD: Where can we buy your clothes?
Carolin Lerch: The park store in Vienna who also sell online; Noi in Rotterdam, Maryam Nassir Zadeh in NY, Nid in Tokyo... And to see more visit


the hanging garden party_scene2_tokyo from pelican video on Vimeo.

Performance by Alex Murray-Leslie, Kroot Juurak and Pelican Avenue;
Sound artist Benjamin Tomasi