Wedding gowns by Kaviar Gauche are the stuff of day dreams for many brides! She’s Mercedes met up with founders Johanna Kühl and Alexandra Fischer-Roehler for a tour in their hometown Berlin.
Only thirteen years after it was founded, the Kaviar Gauche label is a byword for bridal fashion with that certain je ne sais quoi. Johanna Kühl and Alexandra Fischer-Roehler met while studying at the ESMOD in Berlin and quickly discovered how similar they were in terms of their way of thinking and their take on design. They founded their label in 2004, and by 2007 they had made it into “Stern” magazine’s list of the ten most important German fashion designers. Today, Johanna Kühl and Alexandra Fischer-Roehler run several stores, and Germany’s top celebrities are keen to wear their dresses – both at the altar and on the red carpet. While the designers now present their new collections exclusively in Paris, they have nevertheless remained true to their home city of Berlin. She’s Mercedes accompanied the duo on a trip around the German capital.
She’s Mercedes: What’s the idea behind “Kaviar Gauche”? How did you hit on the name?
Johanna: It’s derived from the French expression “gauche caviar”1, which translates roughly as “leftie jet set”. That provides a very good description of the clash of styles we have in mind for our collections. On the one hand our looks are very feminine, on the other there is always that bold element of strength that we bring out first and foremost with contrasting details. This all adds up to our signature aesthetic which we have evolved over the years.
1Editor’s note: “gauche caviar” (French, literally translates to “left caviar”) ironically refers to a predominantly leftist French jet set that mainly stems from the 1968 movement. Bored with their own luxurious life, the movement’s representatives sought new inspiration and hoped to find it in the free spirit of the so-called ’68 generation. The term is similar to the English “Champagne Socialism” or the Italian “Radical Chic”.
Your dresses are enormously popular among brides to be. What made you decide to focus on bridal fashion? What makes it such an interesting area for you?
Alexandra: Designing a dress for a woman’s most beautiful day is something very special. For us it has always been a basic need to develop feminine clothes in the French style. We recognised this gap in the German market early on and designed clothes for the red carpet together with actresses. Quickly the first inquiries came from customers, who wanted to wear these evening dresses in white for their wedding. This was the foundation stone for Kaviar Gauche Bridal Couture.
The Kaviar Gauche woman exudes immense strength and dares to show her tender side. It is exactly this contrast and this complexity that most women have in common and that is what you can also find in our fashion.
Did you have a clear plan for your business from the start?
Johanna: Yes, we were clear from the beginning that we wanted to establish a luxury brand. We had both previously worked at major fashion houses. This has sharpened our vision. Alexandra and I are both very passionate. We often give 300 percent and therefore strive for meaningful results, also economically. In the first years, it was difficult to make a living, but you can only have long-term success if you consider the economic aspect.
Is there a typical Kaviar Gauche customer?
Alexandra: Surely she exists. The Kaviar Gauche woman exudes immense strength and dares to show her tender side. It is exactly this contrast and this complexity that most women have in common and that is what you can also find in our fashion. It’s always a matter of finding the balance between the two poles and emphasising personal beauty with the right clothing.
Johanna: Further, we work closely with our stores and bridal managers and get to know our customers. This is often very inspiring and enlightening.
You presented your first collection in 2004 as a guerilla show outside the Boutique Colette in Paris. To what extent is it worth going down new avenues, taking chances?
Johanna: If you don’t use paths off the beaten track right from the start, you risk going under. To be honest, we would hardly dare to stage such a spectacle today. The more mature and established you become, the more you shy away from the effort it takes to get everything up and running and put on a show without a budget. But we had nothing to lose. In retrospect, we sometimes wonder how we pulled it off.
Alexandra: You have to have courage as an entrepreneur and, certainly, often strong nerves. There is always risk, but if you don’t dare, you won’t win.
Your job is all about helping other people to enjoy the most beautiful and happiest day of their lives. How do you define happiness?
Alexandra: Happiness is a very precious moment. To be satisfied with oneself is irreplaceable and the greatest happiness certainly means to spend a carefree time with one’s loved ones.
Johanna: We both like to be close to nature. We have our little abodes that we retreat to from the city at the weekend. Berlin overall is very fast. You keep reaching a point where you know you need a change – for yourself and your family.
If you don’t use paths off the beaten track right from the start, you risk going under.
Kaviar Gauche has been in existence for almost 14 years. A great deal of hard work and discipline has gone into it. How do you motivate yourselves? Do you each have your own clear roles?
Alexandra: Enjoying what we do was always the most important thing for us. Working as part of a team is an important factor here. You take on responsibilities not just for yourself, but for the others as well. We make our decisions together. In some phases one of us attends more to the business side and the other concentrates on design matters, and vice-versa. That adds variety to our work.
You established Kaviar Gauche here in Berlin, but you now show your collections exclusively in Paris. How do the two cities differ for you?
Johanna: Our close ties with Berlin have historical reasons. Back then, it was bursting with energy, and in Paris we probably wouldn’t have lasted three months. The financial pressure there is huge. If you don’t manage a fast breakthrough, you may well never make it. Berlin is more open. At the same time, a consensus is often lacking here. There’s rarely one big thing that catches everyone’s imagination. This is due in part to external factors. In other countries, designers are often able to plan quite differently. Awards for up-and-coming designers tend to offer support over a longer period. In Berlin, the next season’s in the bag – but that’s it. There are nevertheless a lot of great people in Berlin who give it their best, trying to establish new models and approach things differently.
It’s always a matter of finding the balance between the two poles and emphasising personal beauty with the right clothing.
What do you wish for Kaviar Gauche and your team?
Alexandra: We are very grateful that we have a great team and really great customers. In addition, there are a few very exciting upcoming projects in the near future. You can’t really wish for more, except that you always find a good balance to continue growing without overheating the system.