Corinna Busch and Kathi Halama create sustainable, wearable designer fashion in Chemnitz.

Horse-drawn carriages were housed here in years gone by, but nowadays this former coach house in Chemnitz is used for designing and sewing. It forms part of an old yarn factory located in the city centre near the famous Gunzenhauser Museum. In the rear building, Saxon designers Corinna Busch and Kathi Halama create their unique fashion range for women. “Our aim is to design and produce wearable clothing using fabric from the region and incorporating old textile techniques. We deliberately work at our own pace and ignore the trend cycles dictated by the fashion industry,” explains Kathi Halama. This approach is reflected in Mutare’s basic collection, which has seen only minimal modifications in cut and seasonal colours over the last 13 years. Kathi Halama explains why: “All of the pieces are classic and timeless – they are easy to combine and can be added to over the years. We carry out all our manufacturing in Saxony in accordance with our belief in sustainability.”

Skin-friendly fabric made in Saxony creates a real wow effect

Customers appreciate the company’s values. New customer Katrin Leupold, 46, is slipping on a slim cut dress. She works in the neighbouring furniture shop and is trying on a few outfits during her lunch break. Halama has helped her to choose, but she is still unsure whether the close-fitting dress will suit her. As the self-employed interior designer and decorator steps out of the changing room, the reporter, photographer and Leupold herself all exclaim: “Wow!” She is wearing a dress with a bandeau – a type of belt that can also be worn as a bustier – and matching trousers. Everything fits perfectly and looks stunning. The fabric is made of Meryl, a jersey material manufactured in southern Saxony which is also suitable for people with neurodermatitis as it is breathable and soft on the skin. The outfit is definitely a must-have for this particular customer. Kathi Halama smiles and explains: “All of our suppliers are based in the region. There’s so much expertise here and we want to help preserve it.” The 42-year-old is actually a trained legal administrator and worked at a law firm for ten years. “My parents wanted me to choose a traditional, sensible career,” she says, but admits she was never really happy in her former job.

A change of career at 28

Halama decided to quit her secure job without further ado at the age of 28 and go back to school to study textile and surface design. During her studies, she spent a great deal of time working with companies in the region. After graduation, she became self-employed, curated exhibitions and advised textile companies, before joining Corinna Busch at Mutare in 2007. “We really started to take off when we got together,” says Corinna Busch, director of Mutare. Kathi Halama adds: “At Mutare, I’m able to draw on everything I learnt previously. My excellent contacts with the companies in the region have proved to be extremely valuable time and time again.” One example of this is her couture collection, which incorporates materials woven by the Eschke silk factory in Crimmitschau. For these garments, the two designers work with reproductions of fabrics originally produced by Henry Clement van de Velde. Accessories including belts and bags are also made entirely in the region – from tanning the leather through to sewing the bags.

On sale in galleries and selected boutiques

The exclusive signature style of the entrepreneurial Saxon designers is also evident in their sales and marketing. Mutare pieces can be bought in the Chemnitz shop and in selected galleries in Germany, Europe and America. The Saxon fashion brand has fans around the world, but the two designers don’t let their success go to their head, even when a customer comes all the way from London to try on their clothes. As such, they are typical of the local people: very sincere, and very modest.

 

Update: Meanwhile Corinna Busch is the only manager left at mutare design. Kathi Halama left the company in 2015 and built up her own label KATHI.HALAMA.design.

www.mutare-design.de