July 30 2010
Lucia van der Post
It’s not often that I’m blown away by a collection of clothes and I feel that hot rush of recognition that here is the work of a designer of real genius, with handwriting as distinctive as that of Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, Dries Van Noten and other top-rank talents. It happened the other day as I strolled down Mount Street in London and was drawn into a boutique called Wunderkind, a name hitherto unknown to me (though attentive readers will have seen Wunderkind’s garments in some of Damian Foxe’s ravishing How To Spend It fashion shoots, for he too, it turns out, is a great fan). Here were clothes so beautiful and distinctive that I just longed to own them.
It turns out that Wolfgang Joop is the designer behind the label. Some may remember that he had a fashion house back in the 1980s, but along the way the name became more associated with fragrances, produced in conjunction with the house of Coty. These days Wolfgang Joop himself is no longer connected at all with the perfumes or the fashion brand Joop!. All his creative talents are poured into Wunderkind, which he founded in 2003 with his partner Edwin Lemberg, with backing from two of Germany’s most eminent art collectors, Gisa and Hans-Joachim Sander. It arrived in this country in 2008 when the Mount Street store was opened, and it is, as I write, the only place where the collection can be seen and bought in the UK.
How to describe Wunderkind’s charms? First, the clothes are without question the product of somebody with a sense of fantasy, who cares about beauty. Joop is on record as saying that he does not want to show too much of a concept, but that “it’s all about spirit”. People, he reckons, have had enough of excessive calculation. This spirit is combined with a great attention to quality. The fabrics are all designed by Wunderkind and Wolfgang Joop and are exclusive to the brand. They are often hand-treated and washed, while the workmanship shows many of the sort of details and a highly sophisticated artisanal quality you normally find in couture pieces. They’re almost all made in Italy or Germany; nothing is farmed out to faraway factories.
They’re a clever blend of free-flowing, organic lines with an element of structure, so that they are flattering to most shapes. Many of the pieces are oversized, which makes them appealing to those who aren’t skinny beans. Animal prints and prints inspired by nature feature prominently, but Joop also draws on other references, such as indigenous cultures, history and social themes. He manages to make his clothes highly wearable and yet very distinctive, not a combination one finds very often.
There are brilliantly cut dresses, often enhanced by a bit of draping or ruching and some form of asymmetry. There are puff-ball skirts, slouchy or high-waisted trousers, and coats of great beauty decorated with appliqué, beading or hand-stitching. His summer collection features lots of glorious but eminently wearable colour. The mood is romantic, highly feminine. The clothes have a touch of the edgy and the avant-garde about them, but not so much as to make one feel eccentric. They are for sophisticates, for those with an artistic bent, who have the confidence to wear something different, more likely to be at home in Tate Modern than Le Caprice. Dresses start from £700; coats from £1,200; skirts from £365; and trousers from £370.
First picture: collar, £260; dress, £2,280. Second picture: dress, £2,460; body, £760; wrap belt, £120. Third picture: Dress, £2,220.