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We speak to design duo Schueller de Waal about keeping fashion light. They want to express a certain humour in their designs and use all the things that can go wrong. They are not afraid to show imperfections and that’s what makes their collection interesting.

“Dorks making fashion”, that’s how this duo describe themselves. They worked for big brands like Hugo Boss, but decided to change direction, scale down, join forces and start their own fashion brand. Now they’re fighting against the fabulous and glamorous image people have about fashion.

Can you tell us the story so far of Schueller de Waal? Who are you? Where did you meet each other?
We are Philipp Schueller and Rens de Waal. Both of us studied fashion and gained professional experience with several brands before starting independently. We met each other in 2011 at Hugo Boss. Back then both of us were working for the Womenswear team of the brand. We shared a desk in the office and the mutual commute to the headquarters. During those car-rides we would discuss all that inspires us and what keeps us going as a designer in contemporary times and before we knew it we were sketching and collaging together over beers at night. Both constantly on the hunt for new challenges, we gave each other a deadline: if we would not have scored our dream job in the timeframe of a year we would return to Amsterdam to give ourselves the freedom of a collaborative creative year. This one year grew into our own design studio. Next to running our own studio and designing our own collection both of us freelance for bigger fashion companies, teach fashion design at several academies and take part in autonomous more art driven projects.
Did you always want to work in the fashion industry?
Not really! Philipp was a nerdy little boy breeding tropical fish and Rens started out studying architecture. Nonetheless it was probably Philipp’s passion for colour and texture and Rens’s talent in creating forms and shapes which, not only functions as a great combination for their own design, but also revealed fashion as the perfect output for both.
How would you describe Schueller de Waal?
We often use the tagline “dorks making fashion” for what we do. As an independent design duo we just don’t have the capacity to function like a bigger fashion house, so we actually want to use that as our strength, to portray the clumsiness of it all. We like to use the normal to highlight the abnormal. Highlight the quirkiness that people have but that they are afraid to show because it’s not what is cool or accepted. That’s very inspiring and we kind of miss that in fashion and in the way people dress. Fashion in general can be very over-stylised and in a way we want to do the opposite and use all the things that go wrong, all the imperfections. It’s also about keeping up the appearances of being a fabulous fashion designer. This idea that we need to be fabulous and glamorous is not what real life or fashion is about for us. That’s what we try to embrace.

What kind of women wear Schueller de Waal?
Women that like to keep appearances without keeping appearances.
You worked for big companies such like Hennes & Maurtiz, Hugo Boss and ELLE. Now you started your own brand and you will have to do it by yourselves. How is that going so far?
We consciously made the decision to ‘scale down’ and be in touch with all necessary processes of making a collection again. Our collections are very compact and focused, usually evolving around one certain garment or silhouette. This gives us more time to properly develop a garment and we really stand behind a design instead of making countless suggestions that in the end just feed one’s demand of visual input. Working in such a concise manner not only gives us more space but we feel is also much more suitable to the times we live in. We like to pursue a personal approach to distributing our work, meaning we physically introduce it to retailers and press. So far that has been very appreciated and we really enjoy being in touch with everything we do.
We love your fashion film called Nine to five. Can you tell us more about it? What message do you want to tell us with it?
We shot Nine to five for our SS16 collection as a collaborative project with visual artists Petrovsky & Ramone and Belgian model Kim Peers. The film is a parody on an ordinary working day in an office.
Why do you choose to communicate your collection through a film?
Today a lot of fashion only exists to feed the visual hunger of consumers of social media. The clothes are actually never being produced or sold. We find the link of our work to reality extremely important. Film is a hyper reality, but it does bring us one step closer to show the clothes how we envision them in real life. We always try to keep it light and express a certain humour towards the fashion system. We’re not anti-fashion but we look at it with tongue in cheek. Film is the perfect medium to transport that.

Your designs are not like the designs we know from your previous employers. Why did you choose to go for a more artistic direction? Who inspired you?
The whole idea behind going independent was to design without compromise, listen to our own voice again but also use what we had learned about sales and good product. The SDW collections originate from an eclectic pool of inspiration, intricately combined into a bold aesthetic – merging clashing visual elements with a romantic hint of surrealism and sci-fi. Unaccustomed colors are applied in a pristine but slightly mismatching manner and teamed with a quirky mix of print, texture and embellishment. A subtle estrangement of classic clothing references, distortion of proportion and reinterpretation of design elements enriches the optimistic garments. Fanatic refinement for construction and finishing of the pieces is key.
What is the story behind the collection?

Initially we were inspired by vintage football portraits and stickers. There is a touch of that in the collection, but it certainly has many more diverse layers. The collection is evolving around our core-items like for example the ruffle-blouse, but this time we are also introducing pants to our range.
What can we expect from Schueller de Waal in the future?
In 2016 we needed to find a structure and a way to exist as a design studio. So we did certain big commissions that make it possible for us to grow gradually with our collections. For this year, we want to perfect that structure to grow our brand and get it out there more.

Nicole Sijbers

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