There are jumpers, and then there are jumpers. And
Markus Lupfer's irresistibly kooky knits
fall into the latter category, thanks to their exuberant, sequinned slogans and Pop Art prints featuring lips, flamingos, ice cream sundaes, and so much more.
So naturally, we weren't at all surprised to discover that Lupfer's light-filled studio near Columbia Road Market is just as playful as the German-born designer's work. With pop music playing in the background, punctuated by bursts of colour and crystal-embellished stuffed animals at every turn, this is the sort of place where it seems impossible to have a "case of the Mondays."
Lupfer played host as we toured his wicked workspace and got to the bottom of what makes this celeb-adored designer tick. Click through to see him at work — and play, obviously.
Photographed by Eva K. Salvi
How long have you been in this studio?
“We moved here two and a half years ago and we’ve almost outgrown it already. It’s getting quite small [laughs]. But I like it. It’s cosy.”
What else drew you to this location?
“I love the East London/Shoreditch area, so I wanted to have the studio here. It’s like an old warehouse, like a sweet, traditional old building. I love that. It’s got this really nice character I think.”
Markus Lupfer jumper, Dior jeans, Reebok shoes
How many employees do you have here?
“We have about 10 people working full-time and then we have freelancers as well.”
Markus Lupfer shoes
Tell us about your inspiration for fall 2013.
“I wanted it quite monochrome, quite graphic. I wanted a little bit more texture, and I was looking at a lot of artists. So it’s kind of like these black and white paintbrush prints on the knitwear, so it looks like you painted your jumper. It’s a mix of graphic and our fun elements.”
Markus Lupfer jumper, Dior jeans
You’re from Germany. What made you decide to come to London?
“I really came here for college in 1995, and I just loved it so much I didn’t want to leave. I was only supposed to be here for a six-month exchange, but I was like, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’ I always felt like I needed more [in Germany], and I just felt that I had to go somewhere else. The fashion colleges in London are just incredible, and it gave me more. But I guess I have both sides in me. One is the creative type, but my German side is really [shakes fist] ‘it needs to be like this.’”
There aren’t many designers who can count both Madonna and Pippa Middleton as fans. But who is that woman that you think of when you are designing?
“It’s not really specifically someone, but it’s [generally] someone who loves fashion and is obsessed by it, and someone who takes it in a light-hearted way. I want something you can wear every day and you feel good in it. It’s a bit quirky, but it’s not too much. So it’s a balance of classic items with some quirkiness to them. Once I design it, I think, ‘oh, will my friend wear this?’ or ‘can I see her in this?’ Or sometimes it’s like, ‘I don’t know anyone who would want to wear this.’”
On paper, some of your designs might seem a bit OTT. But in person, you’re suddenly like, I need that hamburger jumper!
“I like doing something weird and unexpected and different. With the hamburger jumper, the theme was sunshine states. It was about America, the sun, and American stuff. Obviously the hamburger is part of that. So I thought, ‘Why not?’ Why not just have fun with it and put a few things in the collection which make people think ‘wow’ and surprises them? I don’t want the whole collection like that because then it’s a bit too much, but it makes things fun and less serious. Just enjoy it.”
Do you have any favourite books in your collection?
“Hate Mail. It is quite bad, but it makes me laugh.”
Since you have a men’s range, do you wear your own designs much?
“I love our jumpers. I wear them almost every day.”
Where do you go in the neighbourhood?
“I go to Shoreditch House. And there’s this amazing, tiny, tiny, little shop. It’s actually a flower shop but it’s also a coffee shop and they have only one table. It’s called Willow and it’s just the cutest little shop.”
Markus Lupfer shoes and (on Markus) Reebok sneakers
What does an average workday entail?
“I usually start about 8:30, 9 in the morning. So on my way I get my coffee and then I come here. Most of the time the very first thing I do is the banking. So usually the first hour I’m doing the accounts, and then that’s out of the way. And then it depends on what stage we are in, like right now we are working on spring 2014, so it’s all about starting the knitwear and then moving to the ready-to-wear.”
Markus Lupfer jumper and scarf, Dior jeans
How do you work best?
“I think I work best when I go into my zone and start thinking. The first thing is when I’m on my own and think about what I really want out of the collection. Sometimes my ideas come when I’m walking down the road and see something and think, ‘Oh, yes, that could be good.’”
What are your plans after Fashion Week?
“I’ve already booked my holiday, and fingers crossed I can actually go. I’m hoping to go to Asia, but I haven’t decided if I’m going to go to Cambodia, or I might go to Burma, because it’s new and just opened there.”
Tell us about your little menagerie here.
“There’s this really old German company, Steiff, which was started ages ago. What I thought at one point was ‘Oh my God, it would be really nice to do them in our jewels.’ So I took one, sent it to my guys in India, and asked them to bejewel them. I loved it so much, so I showed it to Steiff and we did a collaboration with Harvey Nichols. They’re really fun. Like, how cool is that gorilla?”
Comme des Garçons top, Dior jeans