A life-long passion for craft and extensive experience in tailoring inspired Hanna Fiedler to launch a brand that melds these design principles with sustainable priorities. The designer shares the story behind the business.
What inspired you to launch HANNA FIEDLER?
I have always wanted to start my own brand and the inspiration for the brand story is closely tied to my own personal story as a designer. I started my journey in fashion as a bespoke tailoring apprentice at the Berlin Opera House where I was incredibly fortunate to be trained in traditional craft techniques in the purest form. The experience instilled in me an appreciation for materials and how you can truly transform a flat piece of cloth into an artwork, simply through the dedication of time and skill. After finishing my education in Berlin I moved to London to study at London College of Fashion and started working in the British fashion industry. I felt that the values and skills that I had previously learned to appreciate in tailoring seemed to be overlooked and undervalued in fashion, and there was a disconnection between craftsmanship and design. Very often the focus appeared to be entirely on the visuals. I couldn’t quite understand why craft didn’t play a bigger role in fashion, as for me the two truly go hand in hand. That was when I started to see that I had a unique approach to making clothes which then inspired the origination of HANNA FIEDLER.
How did you become interested in fabric and textiles?
My first memories of fabrics and textiles are all connected to my mother. I watched her creating quilts and pillow cases as a child and loved helping her with it. She taught me how to use a sewing machine and from there I started to make things on my own. Eventually, I began to use patterns from sewing magazines to make my own clothes. I remember how frustrating it was for me when things didn’t work out or look as neat and professional as I wanted them to be. During my summer holidays I was then able to intern in the tailoring department of a theatre in Hamburg. That was when my passion truly began.
Photographer: Maria Jose Contreras
What are your sustainable priorities for the business?
We approach sustainability from a very holistic point of view. It is an essential part of the business strategy and always a decision factor. At the foundation of everything is transparency about our practices, which allows everyone to judge for themselves if they resonate with how we operate as a business. Our main priorities are the use of natural fibres, designing for longevity and producing locally.
Additionally, there are many steps we take in order to improve our impact on the planet, such as using recycled packaging materials, reusing fabric leftovers for smaller-sized products and offering aftercare such as repairs and take-back scheme.
How challenging has it been to maintain your eco principles?
As a designer and creative, there are a lot of beautiful fabrics that I like the look of but they are not a sustainable choice. As much as I like them, I keep choosing to not work with them because, in my opinion, the footprint of a garment has just as much of an impact on its beauty as the design.
How does your eco strategy impact the products?
I did initially question whether designing with sustainable principles in mind would be restrictive. However, I learnt to embrace the challenge and actually try to use it as inspiration. I also rediscovered 10 design principles which the German designer Dieter Rams introduced in the 1970s. His idea of using sustainable development and good design to counteract obsolescence really resonated with me and I have consciously integrated them into my design development process.
According to his principles good design is: innovative; makes a product useful; aesthetic; makes a product understandable; unobtrusive; honest; long-lasting; thorough down to the last detail; environmentally friendly; is as little design as possible. I think he shines a great light on the fact that a good product not only needs to be designed and made with sustainability in mind, but also makes sense and holds aesthetic value. While a perfectly sustainable product is exciting in theory, fashion caters to consumer demands and also retains a high emotional value which goes beyond necessities.
What have been your biggest milestones and triumphs so far?
HANNA FIEDLER is about to turn one year old! It has been such a whirlwind that it would be difficult to single out any moment. As the brand is a true passion project, even the smallest things and steps are incredibly exciting, momentous and rewarding. We went from launching our nine-piece capsule collection in December 2018 to showing the first collection at London Fashion Week in September 2019, with each day bringing new surprises. It is so fantastic to see the brand grow.
What have been the main prohibitors to your progress in building a sustainable business?
Time, resources and financial budget can be challenging for a young business aiming to improve the traditional fashion system. There are so many things where improvement could be made, and it can be frustrating to not be able to implement it right away. For example, we would love to explore innovative fabrics or packaging materials, but the minimum order quantity is often a multiple of what we would need, so we simply can’t afford to buy into them just yet. Then again, being a small and independent business allows us to be a lot more flexible and quicker in implementing changes, which is an advantage compared to large corporations.
Do you feel pressure from your customers to be more eco-friendly?
I feel encouraged by my customers to constantly better our practices. I am so happy to see more and more clients asking questions about how the garments are made and interacting with the history of each design. The brand narrative is very much built on the idea of transparency and taking the customer on a journey behind the scenes. There is so much beauty in this process and instead of hiding it behind smoke and mirrors, we genuinely love to share that with our audience.
What advice would you give to anyone hoping to launch a sustainable business?
One thing I have learnt is to take things step by step. It can be nerve-racking to see the mountain of things that you can’t do in a sustainable way just yet. It really is impossible to be perfect and actually not even that helpful. In order to truly make an impact, we do not need one person to be perfect, but millions of people making the effort to do things right and constantly striving to improve.
Who or what inspires you?
A combination of art, architecture and nature. I can sometimes have a visual image or theme brewing in my mind for weeks but can’t quite grasp what it is exactly until the last puzzle piece appears and it all starts making sense.
I think being inspired perhaps does not quite fully capture how it works for me, given that I have an active process of continuous curiosity and truly taking in the surroundings in all details and from all angles. One of my favourite ways of seeking inspiration is through food; I am a big foodie and fascinated with the innovations in high-end modern cuisine. There has been such a shift from luxurious settings with a rather stiff atmosphere to a more relaxed and personal dining experience with open kitchens, where the chef interacts with the guest. I aspire to bring a similar experience to fashion, where the interaction isn’t limited to a transaction, but clients can truly experience the beauty in the process of making.