Fashion should empower, communicate and ultimately exploit its impact on culture and society. The 2014 established Berlin-based label Richert Beil combines traditional craftsmanship with quality and the dissolution of familiar boundaries, such as gender stereotypes, resulting in an inclusive brand vision.
Numéro Berlin had the chance to talk to the two creative minds behind Richert Beil, Jale Richert and Michele Beil, about their journey into fashion, true diversity and the general meaning of fashion.
What made you want to make fashion? And what do you want to move with it?
Jale: Fashion is our way of communication. We are building a platform that is based on community and we want fashion to be inclusive not exclusive. Our identity as a brand and as individuals is linked to this value and it is the core of our clothing’s dna.
How would you describe the vision and key values behind Richert Beil?Michele: Richert Beil is an inclusive brand for all genders that challenges classic notions of beauty, gender roles and elegance. The concept behind our collections is to break with societal expectations of fashion and deconstruct stereotypical ideals and generalized or gendered aesthetics.
How do you two complement each other?
Jale: We both have a very different mindset. While Michele is more restless and interested in knowing everything that is new and on trend, I care more about patiently executed strategic concepts. We always have an open and direct way to communicate and respectfully discuss everything – also if we disagree. You can love each other deeply or have the best friendship: working together long term adds another layer to the relationship. It needs a very special bond for all the extreme situations you are facing together.
Richert Beil stands for honestly meant diversity. What do you understand by true diversity and where is it missing in the fashion scene and in general?
Michele: For us diversity is a lot about listening. It’s a learning process for everybody and in general there is a lack of education in all fields. We have all grown up with too many social conventions and we like to put things in boxes. Diversity presupposes an honest interest in other peoples lives and cultures and then in the next step means accepting and respecting whatever that brings and taken it as a given.
Where do you see the connection between fashion and culture and to what extent do they influence each other? Where do cultural influences flow into Richert Beil, where are they particularly visible?
Jale: Fashion always quotes culture and vice versa, as culture or with it the space you are in always influences how you create and the perspectives you take on or disapprove of. We react in a sensitive way to moods and movement in culture and society, but as designers, we also want to lead the cultural movement that we believe in: That is why we go against the habits of the establishment and common culture with every presentation, lookbook, advertising and visual language we put out in the world while consciously pushing the boundaries of traditional expectations. Our core is to stimulate emotions, because that’s when interest is awaken and a dialogue can be held between old and new fashion industry. Thats how fashion and culture and society can connect and grow together.
Whether you’re into fashion or not, at the end of the day, we all dress ourselves. But fashion can also be a statement. Why and to what extent is and can clothing be a staked medium to move something?
Michele: Fashion always offers a first idea on peoples personalities, even if you are the type of person just grabbing something and not caring too much about it. Fashion is something very relevant to people, highly personal and bound to emotions, that’s why it’s moving so much.
As a brand you have the chance to reach many people with your vision and message and when someone buys from us, they also invest into certain values, quality and craftmanship. But on an individual level it is as important that the person is then able to feel like themselves and feel comfortable and safe in whatever they chose to buy, however they want to wear it. If clothing supports people in that way, that’s a big movement and empowerment already.
You are “de-gendering” your fashion by making your collections unisex designs and breaking gender stereotypes implemented by the fashion industry in particular. Why is this so relevant for you and why do you think so many designers stick to the stubborn image of usual woman & men collections, although breaking the boundary would mean more freedom for everyone?
Jale: We don’t question the relevance of feminine and masculine presenting identities and tailoring. We just want to strengthen the awareness for diversity and that when gender is not a fixed concept, collections should be fluent too. We create fashion as a proposal to everyone and the society doesn’t get to decide who is wearing a suit or a dress. In general it means more effort when developing inclusive collections and higher costs. When respecting body shapes and addressing more than just one gender you have to manufacture more samples, offer more visuals and address a bigger target group which process of course at the same time increases the price for developing a collection much.
Then in the next step unfortunately the whole concept of selling fashion is based on society’s value propositions. Of course most people identify with the overall picture presented by the media and unfortunately they also trust the messages they receive here. There is less space for authentic diversity in advertising, because then brands wouldn’t sell the product as easily as they do now. At the moment, you still have to explain diversity. People call our work niche, because we also include non-binary and trans people in our visuals. They keep saying that typical women and men cannot identify with pictures showing queer people, but its definitely also the other way round, also for us. We want everyone to feel welcome and safe in our community and no matter how someone lives, openness towards different identities should always be the aim. That’s why we are doing inclusive collections.
Likewise, you focus on an ongoing collection supplemented by seasonal limited editions. Often you try to create the ultimate, especially in creative areas, the unfulfillable desire for perfection that people often chase in principle, which is unattainable. What freedom does that give you to be in the process of a collection for so long and to be able to evolve with it, so to speak?
Michele: Our freedom is that we launch the items at the time we believe is right, to react rather to our clients’ needs, than to what an outdated fashion schedule dictates.
Your last show was part of the Reference Festival “Protopia”, a quasi “counter-movement” to the usual Fashion Week in Berlin, celebrated as an innovative fashion culture. What meaning did you find in “Protopia” for you?
Jale: Protopia, other than the perfectionist Utopia, is a continuous striving towards a better world achieved in small steps. This means that each and every one of us can work on it. This is an encouraging thought and ultimately what inclusivity means to us: Everyone is welcome and involved towards more diversity. Protopia is both an imperative for improvement and an expression of hope for the worst moments – because looking into our society and the world, there is obviously still a lot of stigma, trauma and discrimination.
The theme of your show, which shows a collection, was “Tagesschau”. Why “Tagesschau” and what was the message you wanted to share?
Michele: Richert Beil Tagesshow was a runway show performance that invited to a critical view at society’s system and how it addresses and represents queer people and people of color. Staged within the abstract setting of multiple screens displaying imaginative television news, we challenged the status quo of different discourses and with that normative thinking. The performance was highlighting the lack of diversity and all-gender inclusive information in todays society.
When you look to the future of fashion, what changes would you like to see and where do you see your part of impact on it?
Jale: The discourse of inclusive fashion and with that showing and normalizing different characters, skin tones, gender identities and body types while delivering outstanding design, quality and fair conditions in the whole value chain should be a given industry standard. This is what Richert Beil stands for and what we work for. At the moment we establishing our brand globally as we know we can reach a big audience also outside of Berlin. We want to lead the change in the public consumption of fashion into a diverse and inclusive perspective.
Interview Carolin Desiree Becker
Credit Richert Beil