Designer Profile: Interview with Miriam Schaaf

The first unseasonably hot day of summer in Munich--Landsbergerstr, reminiscent of M.P.D, NY--when it was cool.  

Landsberger street is known for its ladies of the night.  I was wearing an appropriately high pair of platforms and short shorts--chameleon in a concrete jungle.  

At first sight, I almost missed the shop, then I saw the reflection of my matte, Pink Friday lipstick, waiting to stain an innocent white coffee cup in Schaaf Atelier

I glanced in the interior. First thing you see from the sidewalk is white tape on the window that reads, "I Really Don't Know".

After giving in to my curiosity, inside, I found out what I do know. Fashion.

Schaaf is a pleasantly minimalist brand that combines femininity, texture and structured design.  The head designer and creative director, Miriam Schaaf, totes her measuring tape and a quirky smile.  She starts our conversation in a low octave.  She's so soft-spoken I'm starting to worry that my tape recorder won't pick up the conversation.  As I strain to listen, I shorthand like Anne Wintour during fashion week while Motown hits play in the backdrop.  As we drink our coffee, it feels uncomfortably déjà-vu-esque.

Miriam, of course, avoids the obvious question of, "I Really Don't Know."

Well, what do you know Miriam?

Catchup: How did you start the brand?

Schaaf: I started because I was selected for the Beck's Fashion Experience show. I think they don't do it anymore, but it was quite a cool thing for Berlin.  I used it for the PR, to say, "Hi, I'm here." I started out with a Menswear collection, then I found out that it's even harder to sell Menswear here in Germany than Womenswear, so I made the change to women's.

Catchup: How was the cross over?

Schaaf: I was always told that I'm such a good Menswear designer, I was concentrating on that all the time and I didn't even think of doing that for women until a friend told me that the men's designs I made would  look quite cool on a girl.

Catchup: But you use a lot of Baby Pink and Tulle in your designs?

Schaaf: Yes, you have a point, but, it was a natural development.

Catchup: I love your color palette and aesthetic. What's your favorite aesthetic for this season?

Schaaf: I still love the glitch effect, like computer errors, although I did it last year for my look-book, so for me it's over, but I still like it.  I also love layers with sheer fabrics--clean chic, as I like to call it.

Catchup: What kind of girl were you in high school?  Which character would you be in the Breakfast Club?

Schaaf:  I think I was the shy girl.

Catchup: Allison Reynolds?  The one with the dandruff? Why, were you awkward?

Schaaf: Hmmm...yeah. My teenage years were awkward. I love to design things for myself, I was really crazy looking.  I wanted to look like an astronaut for some reason.  It was really important for me, so I designed my own clothes.

Catchup:  Like man walking on the Moon astronaut or like Raver astronaut?

Schaaf: Man walking on the Moon astronaut.  I thought it was the perfect look, but if I look back at photos, it looks quite shitty.

Catchup: What did the look consist of?

Schaaf: I had big Buffalo boots and white dresses made from a cheap material, could have been...bed sheets?

Catchup: So, it was a clean-sheet look instead of clean-chic? [Acme Anvil lands right on my stale joke. Blank stare]. Soooo, I'm glad you've grown beyond that. Continuing with high school...you were most likely to be...?

Schaaf: Most likely to become an artist, but that didn't work out. [awkward laughter].

I still like to look into the future for inspiration.  My last collection was Venus Metallica, she was like a survivor of a post-apocalyptic disaster and she invented things to not get bored, like playing with a computer animated dog, things that she had to imagine, because she had to survive. Creating a life she could live after the Apocalypse.

Catchup: I guess some people would consider German fashion some what Apocalyptic if they saw tourist in Mallorca. Socks with sandals and farmer tans.  Not to generalize, but you know where I'm going with this.  What do you think of the German fashion trends?

Schaaf: I think Germans are quite scared of fashion, maybe a bit too shy for fashion.  If you see what they buy on the P.O.S. side of things, it's the reality.  I think they only buy what they know, what they have seen somewhere.

Catchup: So, you think they're TOO pragmatic about fashion?  Do you think they're the same way in bed?

Schaaf: Well---um--yeah, hmm.

Catchup: Does your astronaut past prelude to anything about your sexual fantasies? Emmmm that's inappropriate, never-mind. Enough about sex and outer space or out-of-this-world-sex.  If you could use one song to describe your collection, what would it be?

Schaaf: The new collection is named after a band called "Guided by Voices".  It's a 90's band, quite famous and there's this one song from the band, called "Motor Away". It has very interesting lyrics, I think this embodies my collection.

Catchup: DISCLAIMER: For copyright issues please refer to Astronaut sex-appeal segment of this conversation. So, now for the dreaded question of the day.  How did the "I Really Don't Know" expression come along?

Schaaf: It's not such an interesting story, but I can tell it to you.  It's written here on the window and when I moved in here, it was written bigger, because I rented the space and there was nothing in this area.  Everyone saw a small girl like me and was so interested in what I was doing here and with this space in particular.  Everyone walked by and would come in the store and ask me, "What are you going to do here?". At the time I had no clue, so I used black tape and wrote in the window really big, "I REALLY DON'T KNOW."  Then a guy came by and said he'd like to have it on a T-shirt.  The shirts sold really well.

Catchup: I see that you're inspired by the obvious.  What else inspires you.

Schaaf: I like things that are special, for example, the models I prefer to use, they have to have something strange, they don't have to have perfect beauty. In fact, I actually like models that don't walk that great on the runway.

Catchup: Yeah, I noticed [Shade].

Schaaf: I listen to different music all the time.  My personal taste in music changes so much, nearly every 3 months and this inspires me.

Catchup: Where's your favorite place to get Curry Wurst.  They say that Berlin is the capital of Curry Wurst, but what about Munich?

Schaaf: CURRY, on Frauenhoferstr, it's quite famous because they're open until 5 in the morning.

Catchup: 5 o'clock in the morning?  Nothing but trouble happens after 12. What's your poison?

Schaaf: Whiskey! Definitely.

Catchup: Whiskey. Hmmm, Canadians call it " Rye". Speaking of Canadians, what is one of the weirdest things that Germans do?  You can't say Birkenstocks with socks cuz it's mine.

Schaaf: I can't really think of anything weirder than that.

Catchup: Atta a girl, so, give me one of your favorite things about fashion here.

Schaaf: I think one of the great things about fashion in Munich is all of the emerging designers. Here right now is Karlotta Wilde. We went to fashion school together at the  AMD Munich. Her collection is really simple and feminine.

Catchup: So, what's next for you?

Schaaf: I'm not doing Fashion Week this season because I decided to try to sell clothes instead of show them.  I'm going to actually make a better connection between the label and the clients.  Visit the stores, see what sells, what people are interested in wearing and work on the next collection.

Catchup: Check it out folks...that's all from our Astronaut/Designer/Cool Chick....SCHAAF 

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