Pulsating bass, flashing lights, a state of ecstasy and the feeling of freedom. Somewhere between these hedonistic moments of the night and the lavish aesthetics of French Baroque Krysvinczi has positioned itself as one of the most interesting fashion brands emerging from the German capital, Berlin.
Partners in both life and work, Krystian Sokolowski and Vincent Ludwig, create pieces that resonate with a new generation of people seeking to fearlessly express themselves. Combining their backgrounds in graphic and fashion design, the Polish-German duo seamlessly blends craftsmanship with the technology of the digital age. Through an ongoing dialogue between Sokolowski and Ludwig, rooted in their geographical and culturally distinct upbringings, modernity and tradition manifest in a twist. The results are distinctive silhouettes frequently featuring fast and futuristic ornamentation. We sat down with the two designers to talk about how the brand came to be, about the luxury of sharing knowledge–and suddenly, we were told the story of a prince who goes raving.
Hi Krystian and Vincent. Could you briefly introduce yourself to our readers and tell us how you first got into fashion?
Krystian: Sure. I come from a family of musicians and artists. So my path into the artistic world was a very organic and natural process. From a very early age, I was interested in drawing and sculpture. When I was four, my mum really liked a drawing that I made on a 100 bill at Monopoly, so she framed it. Since that moment, she really pushed me and supported all my artistic endeavours. When I moved to Amsterdam and started to study at the art academy there, I thought I would become an oil painter. In our first year of studies however, we had the opportunity to try many different things, and there it became clear that I wanted to go to the Fashion Department.
Vincent, from what I know, you have a background in Graphic Design; how did you end up making clothes?
Vincent: I grew up with four girls. When we were kids, they would always dress me up, give me makeup, and then take lots of pictures and surprise my parents. That's probably the first memory I have of where I really had fun with clothes and dressing up. Later I studied at the Bauhaus University in Weimar and enjoyed a very interdisciplinary study programme; it was pretty art related. I then moved to Amsterdam to study Graphic Design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy. There Krystian and I met, and we pretty soon became a couple. Over the years, we began collaborating on several projects, even small things like renovating furniture or our apartment (laughs). In our last year at university, we then decided to do a collection for our graduation project. This is how it all started.
Having these different backgrounds, I am intrigued to learn more about your collaborative process.
Krystian: Since we started working together, we had a common idea of the direction we wanted to go and just always brought our individual skills to the table. I am, for example, very hands-on because I have always been painting, sculpting, and sewing, so I always contribute with my handy skills. Vincent, on the other hand, has a very digital approach to everything. He knows how to use all the programmes and how to do the 3D models and all those things. To keep it balanced, each of us has a certain amount of garments we design for each collection, and then we have the incredible privilege of using each other's abilities to realise them.
Vincent: We also give each other much freedom in realising personal ideas. That aspect is essential to keep the collaboration healthy, especially if you are working with your partner.
That brings me to my next point. How do you manage those dynamics of being partners in both life and work?
Krystian: You know, we break up with each other five times a day (laughs). But in the end, there's always this enormous sense of accomplishment because we're working together and fighting for something, for a shared vision.
Are there some aspects in which you are profoundly different? Do you have some topics on which you just agree to disagree?
Krystian: We share a common desire to create something aesthetic, new, and exciting. That is the most important point. Everything else is constantly changing. Initially, Vincent came from a more modernistic perspective, and I loved the Renaissance and many French Baroque composers. Since then, our relationship went through a total eclipse because now I like minimalism and modernity, and Vincent suddenly wants everything in velvet (laughs). So it's funny because, in the course of our relationship, this dynamic completely shifted.
I remember the slogan "Menswear For Your Extravagant Nights Out" in the context of your earlier pieces. Can you talk about what role the nightlife plays in your creations and which audience you are speaking to as a brand?
Krystian: Both of us are very much into the techno subculture. It is also where we really got to know each other, where our first kiss was, and where our relationship began. So this world is an undeniable part of our creative process. In the club, people have the opportunity to be hedonistic. They have the opportunity to express themselves. It is where we can exploit our need for joy in life.
We wanted to encapsulate part of this experience and put it into the DNA of our brand. We want our clothes to transmit something of that hedonistic moment in the middle of the night, where nothing really matters, and it's all about pure self-expression.
Vincent: What we aim for with our clothes is to take this feeling you can have in the club and turn it into a more day-to-day lifestyle. I think this also resonates with our generation because nowadays, more and more people, independent of their gender identity, experience more acceptance and opportunities to dress up as they want without having to be afraid of literally being chased down the street.
It seems like Berlin is the perfect place to launch a brand like this. What made you leave Amsterdam behind and move here? And what influence does the city have on the clothes you create?
Vincent: I have always wanted to move to Berlin. For me, it was always a place that, at least in the time that I've known it, was a very cultural and subcultural place with many people that are not afraid of expressing themselves and showing who they truly are.
Krystian: I wasn't so sure about moving here first. For me, it was always: New York, New York, New York! But Vincent's big dream was to live here, and during several visits to the city, I started to like it here. It is a culturally fascinating place, and the people here are very free. So, in the end, it was a perfect match!
I would like to talk about your collections. This June, you launched Dynasty, the second clothing line since your founded Krysvinczi. How do you approach the creation of a new collection?
Krystian: We are very spontaneous in the way we approach every collection and try not to overly conceptualise them. Usually, it begins almost like an echo somewhere. It comes quite naturally, and we typically ask each other questions like: What could you imagine wearing to that place or that party? Summer is coming: What piece would you like to have? What kind of bag do we need in a club? So the ideas come from all over, and suddenly you have one piece, and you make another one, and then you start to combine them. It's an organic process, almost like an organism on its own.
Vincent: An idea can stick around for quite a while with me. I carry it around until I find where to place it and how to formulate it. We also always create some subtle narrative around our collections. For our first collection, The Prince of Europe, we invented the abstract identity of a young, decadent prince escaping the palace to live in the underground.
I'm intrigued! Tell me more about the escaped prince in the underground.
Krystian: It's the story of a person who lives in this opulence and luxury but then is getting pushed into the world where he's forced to get an edge. This is a story that reflects our way of thinking but also our aesthetics. Vincent is a person that has a lot of edge in his aesthetics; I am more into luxury and glamour (laughs). So we combine these things in the narrative, the fabrics, and finally, the garments we design. The Dynasty collection builds up on the idea of the Prince of Europe. You can say it is the next generation, but now it's even more opulent, it's even more outspoken.
In what way is it more opulent, more outspoken?
Vincent: For this collection, we have designed multiple new objects, such as metal jewellery that is permanently attached to the clothing. We also embellished velvet garments with the Meissen-inspired silicone dragon application and added our first-ever monogram jacquard fabric. The probably most opulent item of the new collection is the Meissen Vest. It is made of velvet and heavily decorated with 29 branded metal studs, permanently installed metal jewellery, and two haptic silicone dragons. This form of ornamentation is a code that hasn’t existed in the previous collection.
The dragon-inspired ornaments in the Meissen series draw on the artistic heritage of the Ming Dynasty. Can you tell us a little bit more about this reference and how it influenced the creation of the new collection?
Vincent: Meissner Porzellan is a very old porcelain manufacturer that was founded in royal times in the German town of Meissen. They frequently used the Ming Dragon on their porcelain. My family always had various items from this manufacturer at home, so that's something I really connect to my childhood. When we had just moved to Berlin, we went to Potsdam, where we found this pavilion in a park. It was a baroque-style Chinese pavilion that King Friedrich II had built, and this pavilion also featured several dragons. So, on the one hand, it's a very personal reference, and in connection with the baroque pavilion, it really spoke to our fascination and aesthetics.
I saw that you recently also started introducing Couture pieces. Is that a direction you plan to explore further in the future?
Vincent: By introducing a couture line, we are basically returning to our roots. For our very first collection, our graduation project, we created a line of ornaments from silicone. It was a very artistic process that we now want to explore again.
Krystian: We thought, let's make unique pieces that exist only once in every collection. We wanted to create ultra-precious pieces that may take a little bit more time to develop but that allow us to dive into the process of creation purely for artistic purposes.
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