We are concerned about the crisis in the fashion industry during this time of uncertainty. Throughout this new series, Fashion After COVID-19, we will follow up with independent fashion designers who may have been previously featured in our Designer Spotlight series. We look forward to sharing their unique points of view about how this will affect fashion and, by extension, their brand, in the long run. Many businesses have shut down, and small businesses are the most vulnerable, so it’s important to show up and support independent brands however we are able. Today we are connecting with designer Saskia Diez.
Fashion After COVID-19 With Saskia Diez
Since 2007, Saskia Diez has envisioned unique accessories through her jewelry line. Her eponymous label mixes strong and more subtle pieces while exploring unusual materials, less used frequently than precious metals in jewelry, such as leather or paper for her “Papier bag” or chain mask. Based in Munich, the designer creates fresh designs with a sharp brand image, which showcase her unique style. Handcrafted by goldsmiths in her local atelier, Diez’s collections have been shown in New York, Tokyo, London, Berlin, and Paris. Behind her signature ear cuffs or jewelry for men, her work has pushed trends for more than a decade. For All the Pretty Birds, Saskia Diez explains the challenges that follow the COVID-19 pandemic for brands like hers and, most importantly, the approach her team put in place to avoid sinking during this period of uncertainty. Diez recognizes that in terms of inclusion and sustainable development, it is urgent to us to wake up and do better.
Amanda Winnie Kabuiku: In this time of confinement, how do you perceive this situation weighing on Munich?
Saskia Diez: Now, things are slowly opening up again. I would say Munich has the luxury of being quite a green and airy place, with a lot of nature. This made it easier.
AWK: When it comes to fashion, what is most important? How do you stay in tune with your values as a designer?
SD: I have the feeling that values like authenticity, locality, the value in the making, and the materials and in the design, beauty, and so on got more important to people. Those are values that are super important to me, and I also feel the need for “real”—also, the need for beauty.
AWK: Having to slow down has made us understand that we’re all facing a global pandemic and that our habits must change imperatively for the future of this planet as well as for generations to come. How do you see the future of fashion? The future of your brand?
SD: The rhythm had sped up to an unbearable and unhealthy degree. This pause shows how artificial this speed was. It is a relief. You have to create space and time for your stories to unfold, for developments to be thought through to ripen.
AWK: Can you please share the state of your business at the moment. Have you had to lay off staff? How are your online sales going?
SD: We are doing fine, and of course, having our physical store closed for months cut off quite some. But we are a lean business, pretty small and flexible. We are going through this together. You get to know your team and colleagues very well in an unknown time of uncertainty. Always remember, you will meet twice, at least. Online sales saved us. Everything works a bit slower for sure, but it works.
AWK: Did you offer online shopping before the pandemic? How is your business faring with retailers? How did you adapt your shipping procedures to protect your staff and customers?
SD: I built my first online store in 2009; I programmed it myself, very simple, of course. So it is pretty well established, which made it more accessible. A lot of retailers had to close their stores; it is not sure who will survive. But they are slowly coming back, and partly they do online. We always had only one person at a time preparing the packages, to reduce interaction between people.
AWK: What is the flow of work at your design studio? How did you feel creatively considering the moment?
SD: I first thought I’d come up with tons of new designs after the lockdown. But there was so much other stuff to do, including ensuring suppliers, producers, and team plus taking care of the right spirit, of finances. I found we had done so many things in the time before whose stories hadn’t been appropriately told yet, so I decided to take advantage of that. I came up with a project that hit a point much more than I expected, and now we are swamped producing and selling. I came up with simple masks with detachable chains.
AWK: Have you been in contact with other designers or retailers? How are you supporting one another and the fashion community at the moment?
SD: We support with communication, on social media, promoting, telling stories, doing little side projects for each other. Partly this made us get closer together.
AWK: In your opinion, what brands and retailers can do to spread the message about Anti-racism and support racial equality in Germany?
SD: A sticker at the entrance door is the simplest thing to do, including people from different ethnicities in campaigns, promotions, jobs, educate themselves, taking part in demonstrations and before all: spread love, create an ambiance of fairness and integrity. I think a bit of good advice is to educate before all yourself, your kids, your friends and assuming that you are not free from prejudice. Observing how you are privileged in various situations, training empathy.
AWK: Have you seen the open letter that Dries Van Noten spearheaded? What do you think, did you sign?
SD: Of course, I signed. I think it is high time that things slow down and get adjusted to sustainable aspects. We have to change; things have to change. We have to work on saving the world from us.
AWK: How many collections did you show a year? How many do you expect to do now?
SD: We did 4-6. Crazy. I expect it to slow down to smaller stories, launching a few new pieces now and then. And “officially” more or less going back to two main seasons.
AWK: If you had to create only one piece, which would it be and why?
SD: A pendant or ear cuff to protect from bad vibes. I think everyone needs protection.
Shop Saskia Diez’s collections online.
Product images by Stephanie Braun.