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Making it in Germany: an Aussie fashionista

Shannon Smith · 7 Sep 2009, 14:46

Published: 07 Sep 2009 14:46 GMT+02:00

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The Australian’s penchant for functional, high-quality product design has inspired refreshingly original pieces since she founded the label ten years ago. When she’s not growing her existing regalia, Stokes keeps a finger to the wind in pursuit of artistic evolution.


Melinda Stokes



Where do you live?


Where are you from originally?

Brisbane, Australia

What did you do before coming to Germany?

In Australia, I was already a dress designer, so I'd had my own label, I'd worked in a bridal shop, I'd worked in theatre, I'd made costumes, I'd done all kinds of stuff. Basically, I was ready to leave, as there wasn't anything else for me to do there.

What brought you here?

When I first came to Germany, I was really impressed by the bicycle paths, by the recycling, by the freedom that was around. I first came to Berlin in 1992, and I moved here in 1993.

What was your first job in Germany?

I started out as a designer, a trouble shooter and a textile engineer for big companies. Eventually I decided I wanted to have my autonomy, because I can't really get excited about making spaghetti-strap tops, even though it seems to be what every company wants. That's why I started to do my own thing.

What was the toughest part of coming to terms with German language and culture?

I suppose it was just something I did. I still don’t have perfect German, but I can make myself understood. As a dress designer and pattern cutter, I didn’t necessarily need to speak German and it actually took me quite a long time to learn because most people would speak to me in English. As for the culture, it’s something I really enjoy.

Do you feel the country has changed you?

It's changed my syntax, that's for sure. I'm sure I've gotten a lot deeper.

Story continues below…

What's the most rewarding aspect of your work here?

That I've been able to evolve and I’m autonomous. Being here in the middle of Europe is pretty advantageous. Something I've always liked about being in Berlin is I'm surrounded by people who are individuals. That’s much easier for me to relate to than some kind of cult or blind devotion to fashion.

Do you feel like living here has made you more honest about your art?

Definitely. Mainly because talking like a two-year-old for the first two years makes you quite honest. It's very humbling. Directness is something I've now incorporated into my English life. So that has changed me, but it’s good.

What's your best advice for someone looking to 'make it' in Germany?

Listen to what people are saying to you. If you want to go somewhere and just do it your way, that's going to be a problem. I'm only grateful for being here: it’s been fantastic for me. I loved the “kaputtness” of this city when I got here. Of course it's been difficult, but also exciting. I've made things and done things I wouldn’t have if I had stayed in Australia. That really interests me – in fact, much more than if someone's shoes are the same colour as their handbag. That doesn't interest me at all.

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Shannon Smith (news@thelocal.de)

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