One half of the design team behind Wendy&Jim and Professor at the Academy of Applied Arts, Hermann Fankhauser stole some time on his flight from Paris to answer 10 questions
1. Who taught you the skills you have today?
My biggest teacher and counterpoint is certainly Helga Ruthner, my partner of our label Wendy & Jim. But there have been many people who have influenced me, beginning with Helmut Lang and Vivienne Westwood, who was our teacher, but also people I work with at the university including my colleagues and head of the fashion department, Hussein Chalayan.
2. What was your experience with your first collection in Paris?
For our first show in Paris we didn’t have any money (except for €1,500 I got from my mother-in-law), but we had a strong will to compete in the world of real fashion. We got a lot of support from Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, who gave us his atelier as a space to do our first show. Friends came from Berlin to do the makeup and hair and we did a street casting in four hours and a short fitting. But everything worked out well and that’s how we landed Paris.
3. Do you still do your own sewing?
No, I don’t sew anymore. I was never good at sewing, but we use sewing as kind of first “draft,” it helps Helga and me start our design process and to get a clearer direction of the collection. Sometimes it’s better to talk about a design with a badly sewn prototype than with a beautiful sketch.
4. Your funniest experience during one of your fashion shows?
The funniest? There have been so many funny experiences and I haven’t ranked them yet.
5. Your biggest challenge as a teacher?
The biggest challenge as a teacher is finding the right words for each student. Every student reacts differently, and my job is to push them in the right direction. I try to do it very individually, meaning that I look for his or her strongest skills. Of course, you never know what will come out, but I enjoy teaching immensely.
6. What does the future hold for Wendy & Jim?
First of all, we dropped the & in our name. Now it’s just a name: Wendy Jim; not connected to a man and woman, but only standing for clothes and products. Also, we’ve started working with a new agent in Japan. We still try to be open to all types of fashion, not only for clothes. We also want to make a new perfume.
7. Who are the designers that influenced your work?
We do not have designers who influence our work, because for Wendy Jim it was always important to make a statement with our own work. Always relating to our place in time, we are like a filter, staying alert. And seeing the results is the most satisfying part of the work.
8. What are the most important things for budding designers to think about before presenting their first collection?
Just do it! But remember that it makes no sense to make only one collection or presentation. If you begin, keep moving forward, no matter what the feedback is.
9. How do you keep up with trends, fashions and designs around the world?
I am a very curious person about what happens in fashion and I register most of the collections including big brands and small collections on my radar. But Helga and I also inhabit our own universe, and we constantly fill it with new ideas, pictures, conversations, jokes, smells, fabrics, people, artists, interns, magazines, collaborations, sport, colors. It culminates in a clear picture of what’s happening or will happen.
10. What was your latest fashion insight?
Retro on young people: YES. Retro on old people: NO.