Malaika Raiss has long become something of a household name for fashionistas. The Berlin-based designer founded her label in 2010 with her feminine designs catching on in a big way, right from the start. A native of the German state Hesse, she studied fashion in Mannheim and worked as an assistant for Lala Berlin and Sabrina Dehoff. We spoke with her about her label, the daily challenges of the fashion industry and the question of whether femininity and power are seen as something of an odd couple.
Malaika Raiss: A collection is comprised of a host of different themes. We thought it was a shame to always just pick out one aspect for the title. So now we use numbers. I want the collections to tell a continuous story. It’s important to me that each customer creates her own look, independently of any trends. Our garments are designed to win hearts.
Yes, absolutely. A woman who declines to allow her look and her views to be dictated by short-lived trends is always strong in a special way. She knows exactly what she wants and won’t be told what is the “done thing”. She has her own agenda and sticks to her guns. She does not dress for others - neither men nor women. She wears what appeals to her taste, thereby revealing how she sees herself. One shouldn’t allow oneself to be coerced into following a certain fashion role model – especially when it comes to office looks. I believe a woman must be allowed to be feminine. Many women think that showing femininity is detrimental to being taken seriously. But that is not the case at all.
A woman has more of a struggle on her hands, yes. I also believe that men really are better at networking. Also, many women reach a point where they have to decide whether to have a child or to pursue their career. It is difficult to combine these two roles in an industry that involves heavy and seasonal workloads. However, those women who have pulled it off show markedly more continuity in their careers than many of their male colleagues. Take Isabel Marant or Phoebe Philo, for example. That is an important point. There’s a lot of coming and going at fashion houses but these women hold their own. One reason being that they produce fashion that sells because their customers identify with it. This is hopefully appreciated by the companies’ male CEOs.
Firstly, get some experience behind you before you set up a label of your own, as this is a very difficult move without financial support or the backing of a fashion group. But above all, it takes dedication. Investing time and money in the fashion sector does not always yield fast rewards. It takes patience and you can only stay the course if you passionately believe in what you are doing.
Definitely. Partnerships provide access to totally different target groups. That is important to enable one to grow. We also enjoy doing projects that allow us to push back the design envelope. The “Star Wars” jewellery collection is a good example. That was very good for the internationalisation of the brand. Today, we sell to Denmark, Japan, USA, Australia – it’s crazy. This collection brought us a great deal of attention. Jewellery also offers a perfect opportunity for our customers to become acquainted with the brand. Not everyone is able or willing to spend 400 euros on a coat. This way, people can carefully try out what the brand has to offer.
I soak up everything – exhibitions, films, music, encounters. So my ideas don’t spring from any fixed pattern. I collect things throughout the year. When I then set out everything in front of me, I usually already have the makings of a new collection. A long process still lies ahead until the models work and match the ideas in my head, though. I’m a perfectionist after all. I expect a lot of myself and of the people who work with me. But you nevertheless have to learn to compromise if you want to work along market lines.
I’m rather a quiet sort of person. I enjoy sitting on my sofa or my bed and drawing most of all. I socialise when I have to. So Fashion Week can sometimes be a bit of a strain for me. But it really touches a deep chord within me when everyone is beaming after the show. That’s the loveliest thing about my job. Above all, friends and family help to keep me on an even keel. I’m often at home. In the summer we all go on holiday together. We also enjoy engaging in long political discussions. That’s always a pleasant contrast to all the fun of the fashion circus (laughs).
During the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin, former race driver and She’s Mercedes brand ambassador Susie Wolff has an exclusive opportunity to put the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé through its paces on the Berlin roads. But how exactly do fashion and car design go together? For Susie, the two sectors have far more in common than just the name Mercedes-Benz. Design is an important component. But it is the passion aspect that is much more important – a passion for one’s chosen vocation.
This is precisely what Susie Wolff is seeking to inspire in young women with her initiative “Dare to be Different”. Since her retirement from active racing, she has been dedicated to opening up motorsport to talented young female drivers – and her efforts have paid off. In Great Britain, she has been awarded the most impressive title Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her work in this area. An event under this motto is also planned in Germany for the first time in 2017.
So, although her official racing career is over, we will still see plenty more of Susie Wolff. She’s never been one for routine and the quiet life, anyway. She loves to feel the blood pacing through her veins, and has always been looking for something different to occupy her in her day-to-day life, too. That shouldn’t be an issue in the near future: Susie and her husband are expecting their first child. It goes without saying that its mother will be more than happy for the child to discover racing cars. For Susie, though, it is more important that her child will later have the opportunity to discover its own passions and realise its own dreams.
Contrary to all the clichés, a self-assured and driven woman like Susie Wolff is also interested in fashion. She describes her style as straightforward and classic. In keeping with this taste, at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin, she attended the shows by Hien Le and Riani at Kaufhaus Jandorf. In the video interview, Susie Wolff exclusively reveals what she thinks of Berlin design and what she saw and experienced on her trip through Berlin.
The rise of a certain Demna Gvasalia, now creative director of Balenciaga, and of London-based designer David Koma, artistic director of Thierry Mugler since 2013, put Georgia on the map of the international fashion scene. Suddenly fashion insiders from all over the globe scrutinised the former Soviet republic by the Black Sea for the next shooting star, and glossy magazines like Vogue, Elle and New York Times T Magazine dispatched editors to the Georgian capital Tbilisi to report about this newly discovered creative hub.
Enter Sofia Tchkonia. A born and bred Georgian with a global mindset and the refined sophistication of a true cosmopolitan, she can be described as the driving force behind the ongoing fame of the small nation at the intersection of Europe and Asia. We met the fascinating founder and creative director of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Georgia for a joy ride in a Mercedes-Benz S 500 4MATIC through Tbilisi’s picturesque old city. Driving past quaint historic structures, we talk to Tchkonia about her ambitious work behind the scenes to further her home country’s reputation as an international hub for design and creativity.
S 500 4MATIC: Fuel consumption combined: 9.3–8.7 l/100 km; combined CO₂ emissions: 216–202 g/km.*
Many good things are happening at the moment. We have a growing number of talented designers, not only in fashion but also in interior and furniture design, jewellery, and much more. Besides Fashion Week, we have countless other cultural events, exhibitions and festivals taking place in Georgia.
I don’t know if this is good or bad, but Georgian creatives are not spoiled by marketing yet and they think more about creativity itself rather than focusing on the commercial side of things.
As soon as one season’s event ends we start working on the upcoming fashion week. I invite guests, work with the designers, and liaise with potential sponsors and the government. There is always plenty to do.
Discovering the most talented designers and keeping up with the changes we see each season are probably the most challenging tasks.
I’ve been studying films and wanted to become a film director. I’m not entirely sure how it happened that I now work in fashion, but the two things I love most of all are fashion and the cinema. I’ve been organising international fashion design contests for seven years now. There we provide scholarships for outstanding participants and finance collections, giving the designers exposure and helping them find work placements. I found that we need a professional fashion week in the country because I felt we are ready for it. We have many talented designers in Georgia who are ready for the international market. This is also a perfect opportunity to promote the country itself through art and fashion.
My family has always been actively involved in Georgia’s cultural scene, sponsoring and also organising events from theatre to art, fashion and much more. They supported many different projects that were vital to the country’s cultural scene and educational sector. My father originally brought major American brands here in 1993, right after the Soviet Union collapsed. My mother had a charity foundation and was organising design contests for young fashion designers. My parents always gave me a lot of motivation to move forward and supported me throughout. I’ve been working since the age of 18 and did many different things. I think most of all it is my passion for what I do that helped me to get where I am now, as well as the desire to constantly improve.
Maybe. I think culture, art and fashion are the perfect ambassadors for the country. My ambition is to enhance the prestige of my country.
It is an annual platform for creative people from all around the globe, bringing together young designers and providing them with the opportunity to showcase their talent and creations to a jury of international experts and professionals. It has been going on for ten years now. Prizes range from financial opportunities, work placements, participation in international study programmes and fashion weeks to participation in major trade shows and showrooms, PR and Sales opportunities and much more.
ARTGeorgia is the place where fashion meets art. Creatives from all around the world from the fields of art, fashion or photography can present their work and their ideas in a relaxed atmosphere to an audience of fashion representatives, specialty fashion buyers, selected VIPs, socialites, journalists, stylists, magazine representatives, and fashion and art professionals.
Our mission is to support, to give visibility to artists and our aim is to build the bridge between creatives and professionals from around the world.
I would recommend visiting the old city of Tbilisi with its narrow streets to experience the real Georgia. Amongst the museums I would suggest to go see the National Gallery or State Museum, the Theatre and Cinema Museum, and the Lado Gudiashvili Gallery. Turn to Gabriadze Café or Keto & Kote for authentic sustenance. Rooms Hotel is a Georgian brand and a popular meeting place for many locals and people who visit Tbilisi.
As a Georgian, this is a hard thing for me to say. For me my country as a whole is unique. The culture, the fashion and art, the capital Tbilisi, the environment – these are all things I love about Georgia.
My next projects will be the upcoming Fashion Week and various projects in Paris, Milan and London. There are many things happening right now, which is very exciting for me.