You know the feeling when you finally finish university and the elation pretty quickly morphs into panic when you realize the next step is soberingly scary and you probably should have taken some business electives after all? When you realise your degree should become a sign you wear stapled to your shitty flea market jacket reminding the world that ‘AN UNPAID INTERNSHIP WILL NOT PAY MY RENT’? Maybe that’s the time to go solo.
Or at least consider going solo, because that’s a seriously ballsy move. I finished my fashion design degree at the end of 2010 and made the move from Melbourne to Berlin about a week later, where I’ve been ever since. In Berlin I came across a new German label called Großer Heinrich (that giant ‘B’ is a cool German letter that you pronounce like a double ‘s’), started by two friends who met at university and decided to put it all on the line and start their own fashion label. I wanted to know how recent graduates get it together so soon out of the gates, so I got in touch with designer Gerti Heinrich to talk connections, collaborations and “takin’ it easy.”
Before they graduated in mid 2009, Gerti Heinrich and Astrid Großer studied in Hannover, Germany at the University of Applied Science & Art. Gerti explains how at university, “it doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not, you’re always safe in a way”. After graduating they saw the safety net of working for an industrial company, “such as H&M,” just for the money as “out of the question”. Gerti admits they didn’t think they had the experience and connections required to release two collections a year, deal with production companies and get in touch with buyers. Despite that, the duo thought, “we are young, we are free, we aren’t bound to anything—there is nothing to lose. We never wanted to run our own label when we started designing together in 2005, we didn’t think we’d be able to do it.”
However after their joint graduate collection won Best Female Prêt-à-Porter Collection at the Baltic Fashion Awards in 2010, the friends realised they had enough funds and advice to take the jump and start Großer Heinrich.
“One of the judges said our collection was arty but with enough base to work in a commercial direction. The word commercial sounds negative, but it just means he saw the potential for us to start our own label. Now it’s somehow unimaginable not to work on our own thing.”