It’s all about bleaching, dyeing, ripping, and spraying in the design lab for this German designer duo
Three years ago Julia Heuse and Ben Klunker decided to join their names and represent together the maximum epitome of the experimenting DIY with their brand Juliaandben. There are no other words to describe this creative duo when you discover they have a real lab at home to carry out all the experiments that cross their restless minds. Not long ago, when Berlin evenings were still sunny and warm, we spent some time with them, talking about their beginnings, their present and, of course, the lab.
Dazed Digital: How did Juliaandben start?
Ben Klunker: I am from Bavaria but I first studied in Cologne and then moved to Berlin to study Fashion. Julia also moved from Cologne to study in ESMOD but we didn’t know each other when we both were in Cologne. ESMOD is a famous school in France that has several schools around the world, that is why they have French teaching techniques.
Julia Heuse: He was on a higher course than me and I think we met during my diploma.
Ben Klunker: Yes, after the school I didn’t feel like going on with fashion so I opened a gallery for a year and a half and it actually is the same space where we have our shop now. Julia came one day to the gallery and we made a project together for a party because I was still involved in some fashion projects also, but the party never took place. The project was supposed to be like merchandising, they wanted to do a fashion show in the party but it never happened. So then we decided to go to a fashion tradeshow in Berlin and… that is basically how it started, we just jumped into it!
DD: Have you been working on womenswear and menswear from the beginning?
Ben Klunker: I specialised in menswear in the school but from the beginning we both worked in both lines, because we like to do everything; one of us starts thinking about a volume or a garment and then the other gives ideas like “You could change this, or maybe add that” so it is always like a whole process.
DD: How has your style evolved since you started?
Ben Klunker: In the beginning we used to do more “classics with a twist”; but then we moved more into experimenting, we started with hand-dying but now we also have lots of hand-made process involved in the collection, all about ripping the fabrics, destroying them. We sprayed the fabrics last season and in this one we rusted them with metal.
Julia Heuser: It is like we are getting more and more into this working the fabric process: we rust it and then we wash it and then we dye over it, and then we destroy it… It really is about the process. Our studio is in the second floor of a house, it is a very, very old house and there are only two people living there so there really is a lot of space and we can try lots of stuff in there. We have a big bathroom which is like our laboratory, or better like a witch’s kitchen. Suddenly we think: Wait! We could put this and this and this together with the fabric… and just let’s see what happens!
DD: Is it always about experimenting, then? What else does help you to create a collection?
Ben Klunker: Also things like travelling and architecture, but mainly colours and textures. Volumes also, although they appear while we work so it is not really that we get inspiration from them. I think we are actually inspired by our own working process and maybe even by the house. I think the house has a strong effect on us, even the shootings we do them in there. We don’t really draw a lot; since we started working on the brand we are developing our own style. We take pieces from last seasons and work on them again for the new collections. It is more about draping and working with the fabric than drawing. We always look where it will lead us it, we don’t want to decide, work for a month and then realize we didn’t get the perfect look we had in our minds.
Julia Heuser: I really have the feeling that we are creating more and more our own signature, style, universe or whatever you would call it. Now it is more like I am being inspired by our own things, and not thinking “Oh, if this designer did this maybe we could do that”. It is more that now I start to feel what Juliaandben is.
DD: And what is it Juliaanben, aesthetically speaking?
Ben Klunker: It is destroyed fabrics with cuts, and loops; it is working with textures, glossy and matt, with leather, too.
Julia Heuser: We also have many unisex pieces and our lines are starting to go more together every time, in the beginning they were more different because even we were thinking about them separately but now, as you see, both lines share not only fabrics and colours but also shapes.
DD: What was the idea for this A/W collection?
Ben klunker: We had some colours in mind and then also our hand-dyed fabrics that we wanted to go on with, we also wanted it to look like rust or something like that, so you could see some terracotta colours in it. Actually this collection was less conceptual than the previous ones.
Julia Heuser: It really takes time to get everything together; when we started we were fresh out of school so we didn’t have a clue about anything. We said: “Hey, let’s have a brand!” “Cool, where do we get the fabrics?” “Mmm… I have no idea!” And now, the first thing we do is having an appointment with our fabric agent. We have an idea, like in this collection I was in California, in Las Vegas, in the Mojave Desert and then took loads of pictures and we thought we wanted this collection to be a little desert inspired, but actually, for us collections always start with the material.
Ben Klunker: We have the title “Leave the money in the Office” in this collection, but the names are more to give an atmosphere. This name was like a little gangster inspired, like a bank robbery, a darker vision of Bonnie & Clyde. It really goes with our mood.