BERLIN — As it enters its second season under the sole aegis of Peter Kappler and without the involvement of founder Wolfgang Joop, the curtain is slowly being raised on Wunderkind’s new fashion strategy.
Kappler, who joined the German luxury brand as managing director and partner in 2016, kept things strictly under the radar for the label’s relaunch last season. The most he would say was that “a Berlin spirit” was driving Wunderkind’s creative direction. But a day before the spring/summer 2019 collection getting shipped to the Ryodan showroom in Paris, where it will be on view beginning Friday until Oct. 2, Kappler was ready to introduce the drivers: creative directors Lydia Maurer and Louise Friedlaender.
Maurer, 36, served as creative director of Paco Rabanne prior to moving to Berlin and founding her upmarket swimwear line for all shapes and sizes, Phylyda, in 2016. She is joined at Wunderkind by Friedlaender, who founded her namesake collection in Berlin in 2013.
“We are not telling a fake story. We’re talking about a very modern interpretation based on Berlin and with the vibe of Berlin,” Kappler told WWD. “And so we took two Berlin women [to head up design]. As the last German luxury brand, it would have been a pity to choose an Italian designer.”
“Whenever you mention Berlin to anyone outside of Berlin, they get all excited. It smells of freedom,” Maurer remarked, “and we both could relate to that, as we came here [Berlin] by choice.” She said they were aware “we were stepping into big shoes. But we’re the first women responsible for this collection, which seems appropriate in these times.”
The Berlin women they know and/or observe all around the city are their inspirational and directional focus. Multitasking, working women, like themselves. Women, they say, who are “confident, easygoing, don’t need to fit in or all live the same lifestyle. But what connects them is that they’re all active, outdoors a lot, cycling, walking, in touch with what’s going on around. It’s very physical, even if the jobs are the same [as elsewhere],” said Maurer.
“They mix things, evolve silhouettes from day to night. They don’t really change their clothes,” added Friedlaender. Plus there’s a heightened interest in sustainability, and a concern with “what role consumption will have in their lives. They keep their clothes,” Maurer pointed out. “And if you live in Berlin, you travel.”
The Wunderkind collection reflects all these aspects, they said, and the facets of a city where you can find “a lot of fetishism, a lot of practicality, and romantic, feminine touches in unexpected places.”
The approach is pragmatic but not strict. Their idea of dressing a businesswoman, at least in start-up haven Berlin, is a denim jacket — in new proportions and a sturdy yet refined British twill — over a lacy rochelle knit top and a simply wrapped, silk jersey midcalf skirt with an asymmetric waistband.
Function is another consideration, but in tandem with pared-down luxe, such as the relaxed pop-over jacket styled in supple leather or a waxed British twill, which packs into its own pouch that can be worn like a dressed-up fanny pack.
“We’re repurposing utilitywear and uniforms,” explained Maurer, and also working with fabrics that don’t wrinkle, including permanently pleated skirts in twill or gauze, and gored full-knit jackets. The duo loves tailoring, noting “you don’t see much modern tailoring here [in Berlin].” Thus there are big “zootie” pantsuits in Japanese washi fabrics, tailoring in cotton sateen, a wool/silk blend, embossed denim, and even leather, though here the lines are rounded. “It’s about honest clothing and the women who will be wearing and mixing it in their own way,” summed up Maurer.
The collection encompasses about 60 pieces, and is produced in Italy, Germany and Eastern Europe. Retail prices roughly range between 1,000 euros and 1,500 euros for jackets, 900 euros to 1,400 euros for dresses, denim jackets around 500 euros, and blouses between 399 euros and 699 euros.
Kappler is consciously taking things slowly in building up distribution and brand communication. For the second season, the collection will only be presented to customers and selected press in the showroom. Wunderkind is carried by Opening Ceremony, Totokaelo, The Store and Barneys Tokyo, and Kappler said he prefers to focus on communicating via Wunderkind’s retail partners in their geographic areas with special events such as one held at The Store last spring in Berlin.
“It’s a product with a story, and this story is not yet told,” stated Kappler. “Berlin makes it interesting and unique.”