Postcard from Seoul

From Kißlegg im Allgäu to London: Designer Markus Lupfer

Sent all the way from Seoul, South Korea, Achtung Digital receives mail from Markus Lupfer, the German designer whose brand has long been a playful highlight of London Fashion Week.

When Markus Lupfer graduated as part of University of Westminster’s class of 1997, he did so with a first class degree in his pocket, and orders by directional London boutique Koh Samui for his applauded final year collection. Fast-forward almost two decades – and several high profile awards by the likes of the British Fashion Council and Prix de la Mode, projects with the likes of Cacharel and Mulberry and a successful stint as Creative Director of Armand Basi One – and Lupfer’s name has lost none of its inventive spark, and charm. Today, the brand offers an array of delectable creations, from menswear to accessories.

Markus Lupfer Fall 2015 presentation in London
Markus Lupfer Fall 2015 presentation in London

“I can see some amazing, super modern architectural buildings lit up in neon. In the background there are mountains, which are an incredible contrast against the urban landscape” describes Markus Lupfer the view from his hotel room in Seoul, where the busy designer is currently enjoying some well-deserved rest. The alpine views may also remind the designer of Kisslegg, a small town in Germany’s south, bordering Austria and Switzerland. “It was lovely. I grew up in this small village near the Alps. It was very beautiful, secluded and peaceful. We were always outside, running around and playing” says Lupfer of his formative years. “We did so many outdoor activities, like skiing and snowboarding in the winter and swimming in the lakes, camping and long bicycle rides in the summer”. In 1995, Lupfer traded this rural idyll for London, enrolling at the University of Westminster. “I had already studied for two years in Germany but felt that I needed to nurture my creative skills, and there is nowhere better for this than London. I fell in love with the city on my first visit and I’m still here twenty years later!” His first marks on London’s map were in the city’s down at heel east. “I immediately settled in East London, which has seen a major transformation over the last 20 years. I remember it when it was very run down, with lots of derelict buildings but it was always super fun and very creative. There were all sorts of secret illegal bars and all night raves…It has since become a creative hot bed for everything from Music to Tech and Fashion” he offers.

Shortly after graduating in 1997, Lupfer presented his first collection during London Fashion Week. Incidentally, encouragement to do so came from the Far East, as he tells: ‘I had a Japanese distributor contact me to take the collection over to Japan. I took the opportunity and started with an off-schedule show. The next season we were showing as part of the British Fashion Council!’. Numerous presentations later, Lupfer still remembers those early years fondly.’ It was super exciting! St. Martin’s Lane Hotel had just opened and we had one of our first shows there’, he enthuses. Architecturally, Lupfer has continued in an equally impressive vein; the recent Fall 2015 women’s collection invited to a historic landmark, planting beds of flowers in colourful bloom, their high stems growing towards the stucco’ed ceiling. ‘I was invited to my friend Elaine’s amazing house in London and we were sitting in her beautiful garden. All of a sudden she said: “Markus, follow me…” She opened an overgrown small wooden door, which led to another ‘secret’ garden. It was like entering a fairy-tale. This was the beginning for the Fall 2015 collection’ explains Lupfer his green-fingered inspiration. ‘We created an enchanting interactive experience and guests felt that they were entering a ‘surreal secret garden’. We had floating flowers that filled the entire space and were suspended above everyone’s heads and the models were sat on swings. It was a very special event’. Sets such as these have earned the designer the accolade of ‘King of the Presentation’ and Lupfer fully embraces the format. ’The presentation format is a challenge, however I love delivering something unique every season. I really enjoy the concept of personally presenting the collection to the press in an immersive, intimate way and having the opportunity to talk them through the inspiration behind it’.

Ferns, birch tress and a swing complete the Fall 2015 presentation
“Ferns, birch tress and a swing complete the Fall 2015 presentation”

‘I think it’s always important to have pieces which are immediately recognizable as part of the brand’s core identity- inviting customers to come back for the favourite items’. For the brand Markus Lupfer, this piece is a jumper most likely bearing sparkling, often tongue in cheek embroideries. Currently, these take on the shape of flower festooned anchors, distant star constellations, bees and gilded strawberries among many other delightful motifs. ‘I developed the very first sequin jumper in 2006, which was actually our sequin lip jumper. The lip is a reference to my signature, which are two lips (kiss kiss) instead of an XX. The first time I saw the embroidery test I loved it and it has grown and developed from there. We are constantly developing new techniques, working with various materials including cashmere and lurex as well as introducing new details such as prints, embellishments, jacquards, intarsia and so on.’

With the knitwear’s tremendous commercial success, it is worth highlighting that Lupfer’s collections actually present a wide variety of garments, from gamine cocktail dresses to printed parkas. A highlight of Fall 2015 was the use of intricately woven jacquards and brocades. Lupfer explains the choice of fabrics as a reaction to today’s focus on speed and communication. ‘In this time and age of fast social media, individuality has become an integral and important part of my work. My aim is always to create something unique. This is why I mix classic and traditional weaving techniques with our ever-evolving seasonal inspiration and artworks’. This also hints at a fascination with recent advancements; ‘as technology is constantly changing, fashion evolves alongside too. They go hand in hand and push boundaries in textiles, which I find really exciting’. The men’s Fall 2015 collection is probably the most apt proof of Lupfer’s fascination with science. Parkas and bomber jackets brim in myriad colours, their prints showing city landscapes as captivating as the best of comic books. Embroidered space jets hover across sweatshirts, while intarsia jumpers command to ‘press start’, cursor at the ready. ‘This is a very personal collection to me, because when I was growing up I always wanted to be an astronomer and the cartoon print captured the fun and imagination of this’ offers Lupfer. ‘Visual research plays a key part when I start working on the collection. I create a seasonal mood board and really enjoy this part of the process. It is always the foundation of each season’.

Two models and a rabbit attend Markus Lupfer’s Fall 2015 spectacle
Two models and a rabbit attend Markus Lupfer’s Fall 2015 spectacle

Despite his many years on British soil, the designer can still trace certain Germanic qualities. ‘I would say it has definitely influenced some of my work. I think everything through and do not make any decisions lightly. Everything is always very considered down to the last detail’. So is a visit to his native planned for the near future? ‘Unfortunately at the moment I don’t have any plans to travel to Germany- I still haven’t decided if I will be going there for a traditional Christmas or if I will be in a hot and sunny place instead!’ says Lupfer. No matter where he may spend the holidays, we like to imagine him wearing one of his seasonal designs for the occasion.