The Gone Cat: What’s your background in fashion design?
Nina Dornheim: As a child, I was fascinated by my uncle’s garment factory in rural Germany where I loved to sit next to Hildegard for hours while she was sewing on buttons with this huge machine.
Later, I studied fashion design in Berlin and worked as a womenswear designer in the fashion industry for over 10 years. I moved to Italy for fashion internships during my studies and started my first job as a designer for the Zara group (Inditex) in Spain. I moved to NY 8 years ago and worked for brands like Kiki de Montparnasse, Proenza Schouler, Jill Stuart, a Saks Fifth Avenue Private Label and a new collection for designer Cynthia Steffe. Currently, I design for studio-842 besides representing the NGO HechoXNosotros at the United Nations with the goal to make fashion more fair and sustainable.
The Gone Cat: Tell us about studio-842:
Nina Dornheim: Studio-842 started as a vintage boutique in 2013 with a dream to create fashion with a positive impact. The collections combine deconstructed vintage with rare originals and new designs. Many pieces are one-of-a-kind and limited editions. Our upcoming collection in collaboration with Native American Artists and Artisans is continuing the search for fashion with unique stories. We will empower artisans instead of just taking from their heritage as it happens way to often in this industry. We are inspired by the cradle to cradle design philosophy, which believes that industry can have a positive effect on people and the environment.
The Gone Cat: What’s your favorite thing about fashion?
Nina Dornheim: I love when fashion becomes a self expression. It is a mirror of our culture and we can revive ancient traditions that might die out very soon with the last person to know this handcraft. There are so many incredible handcrafts from around the world! Fashion can be a medium with a powerful message. I also love studying vintage clothes. So many of these pieces show so much individuality and personal style as they were often designed and made by the women themselves and then altered or fixed over the years. Those vintage pieces as well as artisanal work both just carry so much history.
The Gone Cat: Where do you find inspiration when you design?
Nina Dornheim: I am inspired by art, vintage and the way people around the world dress. I love to investigate other cultures and their crafts are an endless inspiration for me. I research and visit artisans and artists for the upcoming collaborations. A specific embroidery or fabric weave can be the starting point. Pretty early in the research phase, I make a trip to the garment district to dig through fabrics and make mood boards. This inspiration journey is my favorite part of the process.
The Gone Cat: Who are some other designers /brands that inspire you?
Nina Dornheim: I love brands like Behno, Edun, Lemlem and Studio189, because they show that a positive impact and empowering artisans can result in really cool design. These brands help promote and maintain ancient handcrafts. Through the collaboration with the artisans, these collections become so much more special and precious. I really think those brands are the future and they don’t just create a beautiful surface.
The Gone Cat: If you could have a dinner party with any 3 designers or artists past or present who would you choose?
Nina Dornheim: Sonia Delaunay, Marianne Breslauer and Phoebe Philo. It would be amazing to talk to these strong women who were/are so ahead of their time, about how they found their creative paths. Besides her art and geometric shapes, I love Sonia Delaunay’s textile and clothing designs. The amount of absolutely impressive work she produced is just amazing. I love how Marianne Breslauer who was a German photographer of the Bauhaus and apprentice to Man Ray, is blurring the lines of gender by photographing androgynous women like her friend Annemarie Schwarzenbach. This is what Marianne said about Annemarie:“”Neither a woman nor a man, but an angel, an archangel” Just stop for a second and remember this is the 1930s. And the third woman to complete this inspiring group, Phoebe Philo, has really become a visionary force in fashion. It is just impressive how she turned the label Celine 180 degree around from a forgotten french brand to the most sought after thing on the fashion stage. All of these women have such a unique personal style and have followed through on their visions so consequently.