How did you get involved in the world of design?
GAS: I believe that colors, lights and sounds are deeply connected with my life. My parents educated me and my sisters and brother in a creative way. We grew up with music, singing, dancing, painting, sketching and acting. I always follow my heart. At a very early age I realized that I wanted to become a designer. None of my friends knew what a designer is or does! I always told them that it is a kind of ‘inventor or researcher’ who creates different things and finds solutions with design products.
When I was around five years old a girl in my neighborhood was moving to New Zealand. She invited all the girls from the neighborhood and gave away all her toys. I was there with my two sisters. In less than ten minutes all the Barbie dolls had found a new home! One ugly fake-Barbie with curly red hair was lying naked on the ground, and I asked for it. She gave me the doll and I started creating outfits for her. I dreamt of becoming a fashion designer! Karl Lagerfeld was my idol.
As a child in Germany I learned painting, printing, sketching and how to build sculptures. Photography was also one of my passions. After my High School I went to Dortmund for further studies in Art and Design, and started my career with my own company at the age of 23. It was a full service agency and specialist in the field of business communication. We grew very fast and I managed with a team of over forty people in four locations. After 12 years I felt that I must start something new and began to work for different advertising, design and public relation agencies in Berlin.
From 1998 until 2001 I worked for a design agency in Switzerland. After that I came back to Berlin and started my own business again as a Design Consultant. I worked as freelancer for agencies and had my own clients and projects. During that time I got an invitation to work as a lecturer in communication design at a private university in Berlin, where I am still a faculty member. I teach software skills and corporate brand identity.
What is your philosophy as a designer?
GAS: Passionate! I can only do my work as a designer with love and passion. Respect and obey the design rules and find a creative way to leave it. My father always told me, ‘Only dead fish go with the flow’. My philosophy is to being honest to myself, my team and to my clients – and fight!
What does fashion mean to you?
GAS: I will be honest. For me fashion is a kind of art. I love it and respect the designer as an artist. Fashion is a big theme since we use something to cover our body. For western society it is like a fetish. We like to show our individuality in this way. My goal in the fashion scene is to change it. I am a fighter for sustainable organic ecology garments. Fashion is far away from sustainability. Huge brands put round 18 collections on the market every year. Every day we hear bad news about the fashion industry in India, Bangladesh or Cambodia. I support and build brands for fashion labels that produce their collections in a sustainable, organic and ecological way, with GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certificate fabrics and textiles.
Fashion must have substance and functionality. Haute couture, avant garde and high fashion should be innovative. At this level it is performance, art and style.
Tell us a little about your career in fashion.
GAS: My career in fashion started as graphic designer and brand expert. For over 25 years I worked for brands and companies from all around the world in the fields of industry, new markets, B2B, finance, services and B2C brands as well. In the fashion business, the brands have more value than the products they sells. Mass garments are produced in India, Bangladesh and Cambodia at the same prize – the resale prize is different and only the brand is the value. This fascinates me from my point of view as brand expert. Image is the key.
In 2012 I created my first own collection as designer. ‘Peace of Mind’ – Eco Urban Streetwear for Men was born. Indian fashion designer Prakash Chandra Jha asked me to do this. We produce the whole collection in a sustainable and fair trade way with organic and vegan fabrics from India. We plan to showcase this label at the summer fashion weeks in 2013. It will be like a dream come true for me! It’s my new playground and free creative project.
What has propelled the present international interest in Indian fashion?
GAS: In 2011 I presented the first Indian label at the Lavera show floor at the summer Berlin fashion week. The label ‘Gaurang’ by Gaurang Shah showcased a summer collection for women at the biggest show floor for sustainable and organic garments worldwide. It was an amazing show and all the Indian newspapers and magazines wrote about the Indian in Berlin. Now he is not only an Indian designer, he is an Indian international designer. Before he came I told him very honestly that it’s not easy to start a business with Indian looking garments in Germany or Europe. We don’t need saris and kurtas in Europe! We need a fusion of India and the West.
Two years back Karl Lagerfeld showcased his Chanel collection ‘Paris Bombay’ at the fashion week in Paris. The collection featured amazing embroidery and Indian cuts. A year later Jean Paul Gaultier, Dolce & Gabbana and Givenchy followed. Western society loves the Indian color combinations, fabrics and the traditional way of producing and wearing garments. I have met so many talented craftsmen and seen amazing traditional handmade products of high quality.
We plan to showcase four Indian designers or labels at the Berlin fashion week in cooperation with the Lavera show floor. My dream is to build a culture design bridge between India and Germany.
How is the Indian design industry shaping up according to you?
GAS: Something is changing in India, and it makes me happy. I have been watching the Indian graphic and design scene for a long time. Young talented designers have found a way to combine the influence of western design and build a new style with Indian traditions. India has a hopeful new generation. Every year I see more Indian designers with innovative design solutions at the popular design competitions in Germany and Europe. They have international standards and are special. They think differently and have clever ideas to solve problems. I believe the poor Indian people are the real creative product innovators. The bright future of Indian design is coming soon!
What fascinates you about India?
GAS: My passion lies in the creative fields with a focus on communication design. For me Indian culture is so alive and part of every day. It is very exotic from my point of view. Our culture is so different. Indian religious festivals are part of society. Indians are proud of their tradition and culture. All rituals and festivals celebrated in India are full of love, color and happiness. All over India I see creative works, handcrafts and fine art. India has a huge resource for design and art. Hand woven fabrics and traditional dyeing are sustainable and have a bright future in India and abroad. Dancers, artists, musicians and designer have started fusing Indian tradition and western inspired design and culture. They have stopped copying and found their own new style.
I have learned to love all Indian music, from classical to Bollywood, which is a good example of fusion between Indian tradition and western pop music. I started learning Kathak to learn how to tell a story only with body language. All classical Indian dance styles have their own tradition and I love Kathak, Kuchipudi, Manipuri and Gotipua. Emotions and expressions enchant me. Over the last two years I studied Tagorian Dance and we performed Rabindanath Tagore’s dance drama ‘Chitrangada’. I feel a deep connection with the culture from West Bengal and Tagore’s philosophy. Shantineketan is one of my favorite places in India. I want to get old there one day, if I get tired of working.
Books and meditations techniques from Osho opened my eyes and I understand more about colors, spirituality and myself. I have also done yoga and tantra and Far Eastern and Indian meditation techniques and attended satsang and retreats.
You recently tied up with an Indian design company. How did INDI Berlin happen?
GAS: For more than two years I followed Sudhir Sharma of INDI Design on his blogs, groups and on Facebook. Whenever I was in India I would plan to meet him but he would be in Europe. Last September I met him for the first time at his office in Pune. We talked about design, India, and Germany and shared huge visions. I always follow good feelings from inside and asked him why he didn’t open an office in Berlin, Germany. The idea grew and we met again in Berlin. In December 2012 I opened the office and started with public relations and finding clients. We are looking for German clients who will go to India and Indian companies who are willing to come to Germany or Europe. Our first client is the German brand KarmaKonsum. Christoph Harrach, founder of KarmaKonsum and expert in sustainability and marketing, will establish the idea behind this brand in India. The next KarmaKonsum conference will be held in Frankfurt in May 2013. After that we start with planning and strategy for the Indian market.
What are your expectations from this collaboration?
GAS: After the two economic crises in Europe in the last 10 years so many good professionals with a lot of experience in design and advertising agencies are working as freelancers. I have worked with a network of designers, concept and text experts, strategic planners, etc. and I will use these for our new partnership between India and Germany. With innovation and networking we have a chance to change India with some good projects. We are also the perfect partners for German brands in India and Indian brands in Germany or Europe. With over 25 years of experience in design agencies and as an expert in corporate identity / brand identity and communication design, I feel at home in both countries. I do not know if it’s a compliment when I hear constantly, ‘You are so Indian!’
It’s a big change for international business and relationships between India and Germany. ‘Made in Germany’ sounds good in India. I am open to all kind of products and brands and proud that I start with a sustainable platform – it’s an experiment and I am so excited about the reaction from Indians. Berlin is a good place for INDI Design in Europe.
What are your plans for the future?
GAS: I am open to all that comes to me and only follow my gut feelings. My dream is to give my knowledge to the next generation of Indians. I plan to start workshops on brand and corporate identity at schools and universities. I am sure that they can learn a lot from the German way of designing. I want to be here when we build up a new India and see a bright future!
And finally, your dream project would be…
GAS: Complete corporate identity and communication design for an Indian airline – the world’s first airline with solar-airplanes! Some Indian companies are so rich and maybe somebody is crazy enough… I m ready for this adventure. Call me!