Tradition without being traditional: international fashion from Leipzig
The latest collection from howitzweissbach is a tribute to the Erzgebirge mountains – their contours, traditions and values. Designers Eva Howitz (30) and Frieder Weissbach (37) draw their creative energy from their Saxon homeland. Symbolised by two intertwined birds, their brand has won prizes for its innovative creations. In 2011, it scooped the Baltic Fashion Award for the best ready-to-wear women’s collection. The brand attracts customers from all over the world – fashion devotees from as far afield as Australia, Kuwait, Switzerland and England love the Leipzig label.
Working hard to turn dreams into reality
Howitzweissbach really is “Made in Saxony”. Eva grew up in Dresden and Frieder comes from Stollberg. After completing a fashion design course at Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design in Halle/Saale, the pair decided to base themselves in Leipzig and start their own business. “We wanted to put our own ideas into practice, not other peoples’,” explains Frieder Weissbach. As such, their success is all their own work, which they see as an important, formative experience. Frieder says: “We don’t have everything all polished and ready. We like to improvise. Rather than being a flaw, it’s the whole idea.” They once presented a collection in the form of a video installation in Paris, for example, involving guerilla marketing, or “shows before the shows” – namely those of Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier and Lanvin. The young company doesn’t have a multi-million marketing budget, so it put together a clever PR campaign that capitalised on some of the fashion industry’s biggest names.
Sustainability in practice: producing in the region
In the five years since its launch, the company has created fashion that has its own distinctive language, philosophy and style. Production takes place locally. Eva says: “For us, sustainability and tradition mean manufacturing here in a place that has been home to the textile industry for centuries.” All of howitzweissbach’s clothing and accessories are made in Jahnsdorf, a small community in the Erzgebirge mountains. Some 25 km further east, in Krumhermersdorf near Zschopau, the company’s socks and over-the-knee stockings are made on ancient English knitting machines. Close working partnerships with their producers are important to the designers. Sitting down together and talking things through is vital. “That wouldn’t work if our manufacturers were in the Far East,” say the pair. The excellent local production facilities also ensure the young company’s high standards are maintained. “We love our products and we want to be assured that they’re the best quality and made with love,” say Eva and Frieder.
Drawing on the aesthetics of a country that no longer exists
Howitzweissbach’s collections are often inspired by their own experiences. In “Family Album”, the clothing is influenced by memories of carefree holidays on the Baltic coast. “Tatra” makes use of images and materials that recollect the mountains of the “smallest mountain range in the world”, in present-day Slovakia. “We grew up in a country that doesn’t exist any more,” they say. “A country with an aesthetic all of its own. That’s the main source of our inspiration.”