Future Elegance: A Chat with Menswear Designer Raimund Berthold

Men, Fashion, Lookbook, Interview

Encounters of the sinister kind can bring about the mother load of invention. We’re all certain that if normalcy breeds contempt then Berthold has managed to kindly bring this sentiment of normal insanity into a sanely, if not strange future elegance. It only took one object, stumbled upon by happenstance, for the designer to begin building a blueprint of what many of us deny as everyday challenges in a world of protect and control. This object came in the form of a straightjacket. Yes, an object whose wonderful confines can either contain us mentally or if all hell breaks loose, end up wearing in physical reality. Beware, as Berthold’s collection summons a strange warning; humanity’s mediocrity may just be the straightjacket keeping us all from the windows of creative perception.

It is safe to say that the designer has broke the mediocrity mold by taking the blueprint of hospital gowns and bulletproof microfibers, and turning these sinister elements into a hopeful, summery nod to his favorite emerging artists. Despite using fabrics that help suicide prevention for prison inmates, the collection doubles as a quasi-seasonless statement in subtractive color modeling, known as the CYMK color model. Berthold, a self-proclaimed lover of minimalism speaks of his fondness for the movement, but has managed to execute voluminous silhouettes with an outrageously utilitarian functionality that spells maximalism. The result? Future elegance that finds sanity in the taboo face of spellbinding insanity.

Research is essential in your inspiration, but you are clearly fascinated by the rebellious streak in Klara Lidén’s Poster Paintings. Who are some of the other enigmatic and uber-talented visual artists that influence your collections?

I spent a lot a time looking at art and going to galleries and art fairs. I’m also fascinated with the artworks of Ed Fornieles, Mattias Faldbakken, Jordan Wolfson, Isa Genzken, Sarah Lucas and Pipilotti Rist. I love internet-based artworks.

What is the core philosophy behind Berthold?

Well, I don’t like thinking of seasons. The philosophy is in the fabrics. I think my brand is more design-led, about research, fit and comfort. We spend so much time thinking about volume and patterns. We’re interested in the design. I think fashion can be a little bit superficial. If you start from a place that is design-led, it takes it to a different level, so that’s definitely our philosophy.

Every collection possesses sharpness in volume with a sincere nod to minimalism. How important is minimalism for you in everyday life?

Yes, because I like order. I don’t like anything chaotic. If I have order around me, it clears my mind. If I end up in a very messy room or environment, it stresses me out and I can’t think creatively. I need that space around me. I’m already messy in the head, so I need clarity.

The Spring/Summer 2016 [SS16] collection has a “protect and control” aesthetic with its split backs and straps, plus your own interpretation on morgue overalls and hospital gowns. What fascinates you about these elements and why are they used?

I came across a hospital gown in a weird vintage showroom, and it immediately appealed to me. In particular, straightjackets. I brought the straightjacket to the studio and tried it on, and it really gave the mood for the season. I love these slightly clinical themes, from a slightly darker place. These hospital gowns are all very functional, not just decorative — they are very sleek. I also like that they come from a sinister place, especially the straightjacket. You just have to wonder what happened in it and what happened to these people. It’s a very definite garment and it had its reason. It’s very fascinating. No, it’s not fashion, but it screamed fashion all over. It appeals to my darker side. Since it was SS16, I do what is opposite of what is expected to me and what appeals to me and my customers.

The SS16 collection features surprising colors and textures. Can you tell us a little more about your motivation in using bubble gum blue and magenta, plus micro-fabrics?

The influence of colors came because of Klara Liden,and her older paintings. What you see is her strong colors. All the garments and pockets are details in CMYK colors, with all the threads coming out. I thought, let’s just divide the colors in black, white and magenta. The mood board was dark with syringes, rubber, very clinical tables, walls and tiles, so then the joyful colors made it all sweet and fun and summery. I thought this was the perfect combination.

My use of micro-fibers comes from the fact that I have a fascination with technical fabrics. It’s always divided into natural fabrics. Cotton canvas and wools, preferably if they are slightly felted. On the other spectrum, I use fabrics that are waterproof. I use very creative mills in Italy that come up with fashion fabrics. I also work with a factory in Sweden that works with the police, army and ambulance services. Basically, they serve up uniforms. There are stab-proof fabrics that don’t unravel, and fabrics for mental patients that are under suicide watch. I work with these functional service uniforms a lot.


“I think it’s very important to get off your ass and see everything in real time…At the end of the day, it’s all about ‘in real life’ for me.”


Urban spaces, aggression and collective rebellions were core themes of the SS16 collection. How is fashion a positive medium in expressing the current human condition?

I think fashion is the most obvious way of expressing yourself, either to people you know or don’t know. As soon as you put on a garment, you’re expressing what you believe in. I’m not interested in fashion that doesn’t create a statement. I don’t think you need to buy fashion to be a part of a group, clan or pact. It’s never been my intention.

All your collections are elemental, as if there is a calm before the storm. However there is also a “future elegance” that is served in each piece. How do you implement this element of elegance in your creative process and how important is it to you aesthetic?

Wow! Thank you for saying that. You’re absolutely right. I think future elegance is what I’m striving for. Elegance is very important. That’s where I always strive to end up. My mood board is so diverse and starts off with so many different inspirations. My first sketches are free, wild and over the top. The further I go, the more I edit. Everything gets more and more refined. It can be quick or very slow process. The idea is always to start big then simplify. However, I think no matter the result it’s important for it to be chic and have elegance no matter what.

What was the most important thing you discovered about yourself while designing the SS16 collection?

It’s probably the color that doesn’t burn my retinas! Truthfully, color has never been easy for me. It’s all about the silhouette. Color has been the end priority for me, not the beginning, and this is the challenge I had to face. Thankfully, I use very strong colors, and I can say I really tried to execute them well.

This is an exciting time to be in menswear. How are you contributing to its future, and what makes it so fascinating for you as a designer?

I think at the moment it’s fantastic, however I think it’s more fun to execute design and not fashion. I think it is because people are more fascinated now with menswear being more fun with creativity. On the whole, I think menswear allows more freedom for creativity at the moment.

There is something inherently plugged in about your pieces. How has the digital age and technology effected your designs?

That’s a difficult question because there is so much visual information you could easily do your research online. I always look online and see what’s going on, but I think it’s also very important to get off your ass and see everything in real time. Going to galleries, museums. At the end of the day, it’s all about “in real life” for me.

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