“Art and trash don’t compete, but correlate. The street has aroused from the classicism. Dom Pérignon and burger has always been a perfect match, just as Britney Spears and Nietzsche.” In the wake of this profound declaration, we set out to understand the core of its significance by probing the declarant himself, Mario Keine - otherwise known as Marke. In pursuit of grasping a nuanced comprehension of the ever-lively and unrestrained human spirit, the emerging brand forges a curated world where conventional and alternative approaches commingle, guided by hybridity, fluidity and eclecticism. This world moves through bygone eras and future epochs, and within the bounds of this interview, the designer will accompany you on an exploration of its wonders.
Their latest collection for Fall/Winter 2024 stood tall among the showcased labels during Berlin Fashion Week. This collection marks the second part of a personal ‘reflection circle’, exploring a chronologically organised tribute to family, friends, teachers, mentors, enablers, and even critics who have had a profound impact on the designer. Metaphorically likened to entering the world as a white canvas, the collection reflects on how each word, encounter, and event leaves a lasting mark, resulting in an eclectic mix of reminders and talismans that shape one’s own past. Read on!
As the acronym suggests, Marke is rooted in your own name, and it has me wondering to what extent does your personal journey and identity shape the essence of your brand and the narratives that you seek to convey?
As you mentioned, Marke is acronymic for my own name, Mario Keine. In my view, one can only achieve authenticity in one’s creative work when bringing your own soul, past and understanding of the world into it. All three collections I have created so far are rooted in reflections on myself, on my own upbringing and influences in my life, paying homage to people I met and that have shaped me.
Reflecting on one’s own past is a deeply personal approach but as personal as it is, as inclusive it is as well. Everybody has their own history and personal development, and my work should invite the audience to explore themselves with looking back.
In your own wise words, you’ve expressed “Art and trash don’t compete, but correlate” and you’ve woven together pairings such as Dom Pérignon and burger, Britney Spears and Nietzsche. What does this mean to you? In some way this feels tied to Marke’s overarching drive – the deep-seated desire to understand the human spirit as a free and dynamic construct. Given that both aspects seem to contribute to an inclusive approach in the design process, I’m curious about how you bring this vision to life?
Both the quote as well as the words of understanding the human spirit as free and dynamic constructs were written down during the brand building process. As I wanted the brand to feature my understanding of individuals and the world, I learned that I do understand the human being as not straight-lined when it comes to aesthetic. Looking at myself, my influences are all over the place, coming from classical music (having played in an orchestra myself), Eurotrash, all forms of applied arts, high culture, pop culture, historic decades, and street attire.
This becomes obvious in my own appearance, which can vary from Japanese avant-garde to classic preppy to baggy, sport infused silhouettes within one day. I do think that this variety of contradicting influences and interests is within everybody’s mind, but some people are too involved in finding a stringent aesthetic for themselves than allowing themselves to explore all depths and fields of their own interests.
Therefore, I wanted to create a brand and collections in which I allow myself to explore all those contradicting interests and let them infuse my work. Accepting this ambivalence in the creative process as well creates an inclusive approach, as it allows more people to see themselves in the brand language.
Earlier this month you had your first full runway show at Berlin Fashion Week, presenting your F/W 2024, congratulations! Can you tell us a bit about this collection?
Thank you very much. The collection is the second part of what I call my personal ‘reflection circle’, in which I try to explore and evolve the development of my aesthetic codes based on my past.
The last two collections (F/W 2023 and S/S 2024) were based on the reflection of what has shaped me from within, like, what fascinations from childhood do I still carry in myself that still come through subconsciously in my creative and sketching process. This collection does go a step further, analysing the exterior influences, paying homage to all people I have met in life. I like the metaphor of entering this world as a white canvas, while every word you say and that is said to you, every encounter you make, leaves a little mark, like a little talisman with you. So, through life you collect these talismans and you yourself become an eclectic mix of that said collection of reminders and marks of your own past. While this can generally be attributed to everybody’s lives, for the collection I went chronologically through my own past, paying homage to people, encounters and events that has shaped me sustainably, such as my family, friends, teachers, tutors, enablers and also haters.
Marke extracts inspiration from a myriad of sources, including historic decades, folklore and future epoches. How do you navigate the balance between past and present, historical, and contemporary, when it comes to your collections? I feel as though this fluidity of temporal boundaries comes to life in the silhouette experiments of your F/W 2023, through the exploration of silhouette-prolonging corsages and denim abstractions of baroque Justaucorps.
As mentioned, the collection was the starting point, the first official collection of the brand, in which I started analysing my own design heritage based on my early childhood. Since that time, I do have a constant fascination for historic references and history, being visible in my childhood sketches of drawing woman in crinolines, corsages and puffy sleeves. In my studies and still today my mood boards don’t explore contemporary design, but have a strong focus on fashion history, folk clothing, and local colouring. This I try to juxtapose with modern tendencies and prospects.
But, this not only derives from a pure visual fascination of such topics, but also from my believe that everybody has the duty and responsibility to reflect not only on one’s own past, but with the past in general, to learn from it and its mistakes to create a better future. Personally spoken, this is an aspect that could not be more actual, observing global tendencies of recreating the past without having learned from anything.
Can you pinpoint a specific piece or collection where these varied influences come together and harmonise?
The cumulation and juxtaposition of influences can best be seen in the last look. It consists of a short jacket with a row of coated buttons, echoing the button details of baroque Justaucorps, featuring voluminous sleeves due to deep pleats in the shoulder, which drew inspiration from Renaissance painting clothes, but all combined with the silhouette and allure of a modern bomber jacket. This jacket is combined with a pair of hand-painted pants in the silhouette of a baggy jogging pants but without an elastic waistband but looped strings that are tied in the waist. This technique of closure is derived from the construction of historic undergarments and underskirts.
Photo: Lukas Senger
Your previous collection, Von Anfang An (Eng: From The Beginning) explores the impact of childhood experiences on your own creative signature, deriving inspiration from childhood travels and interests. The incorporation of hand-sketches from your kindergarten days adds a deeply nostalgic touch, and I’m curious about your decision to revisit and reinterpret these childhood drawings. Would you mind giving us some insights on what emotions surfaced when translating these drawings into prints throughout the collection, from bags to wooden pearl necklaces?
As mentioned, F/W 2023 was rooted in the analysis of my own design language and where this is rooted in. After working several years for a design agency in Cologne, where I had to adapt my language every day several times for each client, for my very first collection for Marke I wanted to follow through the question ‘What is my own language and where is it rooted in?’.
My first approach for this was reviewing my old sketches from kindergarten times and I strongly noticed that a lot of elements a sketched back then are still valid in my current design language, since my drawings where much based on historic elements and clothing, having only drawn woman in crinoline, corsages, puffy sleeves. With this review my work for the collection properly started, after noticing how visible and obvious my approach in design always was. So, I decided to rework those drawings and sketches into handmade prints for necklaces and bags, paying homage to my own past.
Marke’s dedication to sustainability shines through in the apparel collections, which are circularly sourced and produced from Italian deadstock materials. Are there any upcoming innovations or strategies you foresee adopting to further elevate the brand’s environmental impact?
Sustainability is one of the pillars of the work of Marke. When founding the brand, I was very much aware of the fact that our world and environment don’t need more product and nobody is waiting for another brand to be launched. So it was a clear fact for me, that when I want to launch the brand, it must be guaranteed to leave the lowest environmental mark.
The full apparel collection is, as you correctly noted, sourced from Italian deadstock material, therefore no raw material is newly produced for the entire collection. The pattern and fitting silhouettes are developed in-house in Cologne, while the final samples and production are in Germany, one hour away from my atelier, and Poland, to have short ways of logistics and best possibilities for on-site quality control and sampling management.
Despite trying to initiate all processes as sustainable as possible, there’s always room and personal duty to improve said processes. Therefore, I’m working on solutions how to make all processes of sourcing, development and production more transparent to customers by e.g. integrating QR codes into every garment, so one can track the history of each piece. As well, being in constant dialogue with the supplier from which I source the overstock material to get better insight in the fabrics past.
How do you hope the wearer feels when donning Marke?
As so often mentioned before, my work is so much based on an introspective view, allowing oneself to look back, learn from themselves, to help a better future grow from within oneself.
Therefore wearing Marke should invite the people to look at themselves, help them understand themselves better, but also allowing them to play with the references, acknowledging their inner freedom.