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Photos by Maxime Ballesteros

Don't Shoot The Messengers' Berliner Fashion

The Canadian-Kiwi team, who juxtapose the hard and the soft in their designs, talk Shakespearean influences and tell us why Berlin is the place to live

Being a Berliner does not mean that you were born in the city, or even the country. Almost nobody in Berlin was born to it. Even living in Berlin is not so important to Berlin-ness as living in the now: living without nostalgia or constraint. Jen Gilpin came from Canada, and Kyle Callahan from New Zealand, but together, the designers behind label-to-know Don’t Shoot the Messengers are total Berliners. Working in a palette of mostly fresh ink, with a little white or white-flesh here and there, they build and drape pieces that seem at once hard and soft, brand-new and immediately familiar. The modern female will take one look at all this fluidity and decomposed geometry and wonder if she recognizes Rick Owens or Margiela, and then realise it’s herself she sees. Everything looks like something that has always belonged to her.  Don’t Shoot the Messengers, already sold across Europe and in Israel, will soon deliver that magic direct from a store of their own. Opening adjunct to their Ruckerstrasse studio in Berlin Mitte, the bricks-and-mortar boutique will open wide their world by end of August. Dazed got the goods straight from Gilpin.

Dazed Digital: So you’re opening a store, which means (hopefully) you’ll be doing a very un-Berlin thing: making money. Congratulations! How will you two be celebrating the opening?
Jen Gilpin: Red wine and whiskey.

DD: What made you and Kyle decide to open a bricks-and-mortar space when so many others are crumbling?
Jen Gilpin: We really want to be able to contact people directly, and be able to be open for slightly custom pieces.  Many of the fitted leather pieces need to be made for the body that’s going to wear it. The shop is integrated into our studio space, so it’s really walking into our world where we make everything. We’ll have a mix of antiques, and sharp black lines. Everything we like. Also, we will be bringing in a few other brands to sell, like Milleneufcentquatrevingtquatre and their beautiful silk printed scarves.

DD: For a designer now—or any sort of creator—it’s impossible not to be influenced. How do you filter your influences?
Jen Gilpin: I guess we just have a sense of what’s right for us and what’s not. There is always a push and pull with the designs. We want them to be grounded in some way, real, and on the other hand remain within a specific world.  Influences shoot in from all over—it’s our perspective that filters or amalgamates them into form. We debate on each piece it may start somewhere and end up somewhere completely different.

DD: And how do you keep your viewpoint fresh?
Jen Gilpin: Same way you keep life fresh, I guess: getting excited about new things, and exploring them. Photography wise, we work closely with Maxime Ballesteros, an amazing art photographer with a unique eye. His critical sense of image has helped to form DSTM.

DD: “Geometric” and “architectural” are used too interchangeably when it comes to describing clothes. Which label better applies to DSTM?
Jen Gilpin: Difficult to say. Yes, these words are used a lot, but at the end of the day we like to think in both ways: lines in relation to each other, along with form and structure. Geometry in relation to the body is continuously fascinating.

DD: Can you explain, for probably the hundredth time, why and how you and Kyle chose the name of your line?
Jen Gilpin: “Don’t shoot the messengers” was quoted from a Shakespearean text from a friend of mine when talking about dealing with truth and lies. A few days later, it fell into discussion when debating over the name for the collection; It's stuck with us since then.

DD: What do you love most about working in Berlin?
Jen Gilpin: Space to move, space to think.

DD: And least?
Jen Gilpin: The lack of a garment industry.

DD: What do you love most about living there?
Jen Gilpin: Being in Europe and the mix of people here from all over the world. Also, Berlin has this sense of freedom about it.

DD: And least?
Jen Gilpin: The paperwork.

DD: What fashion brand do you most admire, or aspire to be like?
Jen Gilpin: We don’t really aspire to be like any one but we really respect our friends in the industry like ComplexGeometries, Barbara i Gongini, BUTTERFYSOULFIRE, Osei-Duro.

DD: Fill in the blank: when you buy a piece of clothing, or an accessory, you should feel __________.
Jen Gilpin: Strong and new.