Ever in search of inspiration, designer Sabrina Dehoff took a bit of a continental tour—obtaining a degree from the Royal College of Art in London and working for French heritage houses Guy Laroche and Lanvin—before returning home to settle in her native Germany. Since 2005, she has channeled these travels and other life experiences into whimsical and ironic, sweet and strong Sabrina Dehoff Jewelry. For Spring/Summer 2010 she took a brave leap into womenswear, developing her ready-to-wear collection into a full line, which debuted this past month at Berlin Fashion Week. Here, she sits down with Dossier’s Berlin-based contributor Chris Fillipini to discuss the impetus behind her eclectic and often splendidly contradictory creations.
Christopher Filippini: What is your strong connection to nature; where did you grow up?
Sabrina Dehoff: Well, I didn’t really grown up in the countryside. I grew up in a smaller town near a big city in the south of Germany near Manheim/Heidelberg—little house with a big garden, nothing special. I think I’m really a city girl. I’ve lived in big cities and that’s where I feel the most comfortable. I came first to Berlin after the [Berlin] Wall came down in 1990 and I was here from 1990 to ’94. Then I was six years abroad and came back in 2000. I love being in London and Paris and Berlin, but I can’t really imagine myself in a small town again or even in the countryside. But there is, because of that, this longing for nature. Especially with the Naturesque collection. It was really extreme at that time. I really felt like I needed to partly live in the country, more trees and flowers and nature. I could really see myself living life there, baking lots of cakes and making marmalade and playing in my garden. That kind of stuff… It’s a bit of an ideal. I’m always trying to find a way to combine everything, like to live in the city but to have a house in the country where you could escape. But, no, I haven’t found that yet and I don’t really believe that it will happen.
Chris: I’ve been wondering if your jewelry is meant to be sort of a drug. Not so much a party drug, but more like American drugs. I guess I’m thinking of anti-anxiety ones. It’s like you’re offering people a little piece of paradise around their neck.
Sabrina: Definitely one of the ideas throughout my collections is that [the jewelry] should really give you a positive feeling. I think that when you buy jewelry, it is something very personal because you wear it on your skin or you wear it every day. You get it from someone really important or you give it to someone really important. I think you have quite a strong connection to the things you are wearing— with jewelry even more than something you would put in the washing machine. You handle it with the most care and you collect it. Even if you don’t wear it anymore, you might have a little box where you collect it and it reminds you of a certain time. Jewelry is also meant to personalize your style.
Chris: It’s also something that you tend to play with.
Sabrina: Yes, you touch it and feel the texture… You know when I did the first collection, which was Little Helpers, it definitely had this kind of character of something that should be your companion, something that should be with you like a token—something that should be symbolic to you. Also with the Little Dreamer collection, it was a little bit about escapading. This fantasy…
Chris: When I was a kid, girls would get these little gold charms and put them on bracelets.
Sabrina: I like playing with those kinds of symbols, like hearts and stuff. And, of course, there are always animals reappearing [in my collections]. Lots of people ask me if I’m really into animals and actually, I have no pets at home and I’m not so into animals. But I like this kind of ideal where you play with what is cute and what is sweet because it symbolizes something for me. It’s not that I’m into cats or dogs. Some people get it wrong; they take it too literally. For me it’s important to not take it too seriously. I just love what I’m doing and want to enjoy what I’m doing. I’m having fun placing non-serious things in the collection. At the same time, I love the abstract pieces. These are the two areas that I’m always sort of shifting between.
Chris: You even have a super hero necklace. It’s tipping between sarcastic and fun.
Sabrina: Yeah, I’m not just doing Hello Kitty, where it’s all merchandising around this one figure and it’s all kitsch. I’m trying to balance it out and also have fun with it. I like things that are kind of pure and simple, not overworked. At the same time, I like to fiddle with some things and make them really precise, but then I want to be generous again. It’s not cynical as you said, and if it’s irony then it’s a mild kind because I love the pieces as well. There’s a really tender relationship to them.
Chris: Why did you decide to start a clothing line?
Sabrina: I had a really small collection of clothes for the last two seasons, so it’s not the first but it’s the first really big one. It started with this Nokia presentation I did at Bar Tausend, where they approached me and asked if I would do a presentation with my jewelry and I said, ‘Ok, but I’ll need some models.’ So I did some dresses, which were nice to use as a backdrop for the jewelry—to use the clothes as sort of an accessory for the jewelry. It’s so much bigger and you can really focus on the jewelry; I really like the combination. And suddenly I got really into developing these prints for the dresses. So it felt like a natural progression from the last two seasons. Then IMG offered a catwalk show this season, so I decided to do a big collection. Sometimes you have to push things and sometimes you have to just go with the flow. Sometimes when things happen you have to think of it as fate and really go with it.
Chris: And allow things to take shape during the process?
Sabrina: Yes, I think that’s nice because you can’t always plan. You have to have the idea of where you are and where you want to go, but then you have to allow for things to change as well. I think it’s too stressful to try to hold on to your plan, so I try to leave it a little bit open and always hope for a happy end. I’m very much a happy end girl.
Chris: How did you decide to do this collaboration with Nike?
Sabrina: Well, it was because of this collection of dresses that I did, Hop Dresses, which are silk dresses with an oversized cut. The idea is to have something that you don’t have to squeeze yourself into; where you’re free to move and to eat a lot, but still you would look quite chic. That’s what I was thinking about for the presentation with these trainers. At first I wanted to do something with different people wearing the Hop Dresses and trainers and doing some sort of dance. That was from the Amusement collection in January. So that’s why I approached Nike, because I wanted to do this kind of play presentation with my collection and with the shoes. Because it was such short notice, we moved it to the summer and while I was thinking about the trainers, I had this idea about sneaker jewelry—thinking of sneakers not only as comfortable shoes but also as a fetish; people wear their trainers and collect their trainers. So then I changed the concept to Sweet Surrender because I couldn’t work on an idea that I had a half a year ago. There were no dancers anymore, but we kept the shoes and the jewelry and the dresses.