Simone Meentzen is a German artist, whose passion for art and painting and her love for fashion culminated in launching a limited-edition fashion label. Based in Berlin, Simone took the time to meet with us and tell us about her work, creative process and the inspiration that drives her.
Tell us a little about yourself….
I am a multi-disciplinary artist specialising in textile surface. My background is in fine art and fashion print. Apart from working with textiles, I design accessories, jewellery, and paint and write poems. I also offer workshops teaching handmade skills, and I am a guest lecturer at HTW Berlin fashion course, teaching MA students.
Where does your artistic passion come from? Did you always know that you wanted to do something creative when you grow up?
I grew up in a small place in Saxony, Germany. I started drawing and crafting at an early age. I had an art teacher who encouraged me strongly to continue developing my creative skills as I progressed through education. I did foundation studies in painting and graphics at the HfbK Dresden, a renowned University of Arts. I wanted to follow on with a fashion course, but at the time when I was growing up, in East Germany, we didn’t have much choice of fashion design courses.
Who was most influential in your life when you were growing up and in what way?
My family was most influential. My parents both worked in our family business and brought me up with a strong sense of work ethics, responsibility and teamwork.
Growing up surrounded by beautiful nature has also deeply influenced me. I can always find peace in nature.
What are your influences now that fuel your creative point of view and expression?
Somehow I returned to my roots – even though I still live in the city, a personal relation to nature is very important to me. I feel an urgency to express in my work the vulnerability, sensitivity, and wisdom of natural cycles…
I am also influenced by travels to Japan, Hawaii, and California, spending time in the desert, on the seaside, in the redwoods… Recently I also joined few women’s circles through which I am interested in exploring feminine and earth-honouring skills and points of view.
How did you enter the creative industry professionally?
I studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design from 1994-98, a very interesting and exciting time. My first job was at Burberry as a design assistant in womenswear, and working in particular on the Thomas Burberry Collection.
However, I quickly realised that the corporate world of big fashion houses wasn’t for me. I had such an artistic background and needed to find an alternative. One of my co-students recommended me to The Collection Design Studio, a well established London based textile design studio. I started freelancing with them and we had a great working relationship for many years.
Describe what you do and specialise in as a freelance designer?
As a freelance textile designer, I have many years of experience in creating handmade textile surfaces. I specialise in embroidery design, applique, tapestry, and patchwork. I also use print and drawing to create unique patterns. For my own brand, FIBER&HEART® I also create jewellery.
What is your creative process?
My creative progress is best-described ” instinctive, intuitive, sensitive.”
You mention you recently launched your own brand. What made you want to set up a label rather than freelance?
My brand was born out of a combination of necessity and of wanting to stand up for myself.
Unfortunately, in Berlin where I currently live, there are hardly any jobs for fashion or textile designers. There are many creatives and yet, not many paying jobs.
I felt it was time to take responsibility and create something beautiful I believe in and see where it leads me.
Rather than waiting for my dream job, why not create one for myself.
With FIBER&HEART I am working in a sustainable way… I let it grow naturally, I nurture it, I take small steps…
Starting your own brand always brings about the problems of manufacturing. Have you encountered any?
I design and execute all of my work myself, as the handmade aspect of it is the main focus. This is my expertise and my signature. Most pieces are one of a kind or small limited editions. No hand embroidery is exactly the same, and sometimes I use vintage fabric details. As this kind of work is not possible to outsource I don’t face the manufacturing problem many do as such.
What is the ethos behind your brand?
I try to work in a sustainable, holistic manner. Using locally sourced fabrics as much as possible, local suppliers, fair-trade materials… etc. For example for many of my products, I use a beautiful fair-trade hand dyed fabric bought directly from a Senegalese master dyer, whom I met recently, while he was visiting Berlin.
I also use organic wool, vintage wool mix and up cycled leather and many of my products would be considered to be 100% vegan.
I work more like an artist, continuously growing my collection with few selected pieces, though I also offer bespoke service when customers approach me.
My design and work philosophy is simple: to be mindful of our resources, on a personal business level. I believe this is a key question everyone should be concerned about.
To me, it doesn’t make sense to create more of the same, as it leads to more waste and lower standards. Instead, it is better to focus on the motto ” less is more” and “less but better”.
Therefore, I produce less, I earn less, but I have a far better quality of working – time.
How do you make your products more unique and fight off competition?
As most of my pieces are one of a kind, fighting off competition is not really an issue. Every product I create undergoes a process of personalisation via simple applying to it a bit of handmade embroidery, applique, patchwork, or other vintage elements. The end product is not about showing what I can do as a designer, but rather it is about my intention of bringing the material to life and offering a sensual experience for the client, evoking a memory, or giving comfort.
Do you sell your brand to other shops or just via website?
I think it is really important to have direct contact with clients in general and particularly in my case. I recently launched my online shop, as I wanted to create a platform for my work, not just a textile portfolio but show my designs within a lifestyle concept and reach out to new clients worldwide.
I also plan to take part in textile art shows and commercial textile trade fairs, as well as approach few select shops for collaborations… My next booth is at the Agape Zoe Festival in Berlin in September.
What is the favourite part of your “job”?
As I am a handmade specialist, I enjoy making things and creating with my hands.
I never use a computer to design. I research and further my expertise of textile crafts and decorative arts through experimentation and as a result, I feel I am constantly learning something.
What aspect of your day-to-day work do you like the least?
Sometimes I get “cabin fever” sitting in my studio, stitching or sewing for hours… but if I’m impatient the results will not be as good. Handmade means time-consuming.
Tell us about living in Berlin and how does this affect your work and business? Are there any challenges that you face not being in say bigger and busier cities like London, Paris, NY…?
The disadvantages I would say would be a certain lack of clients and local industry. After I moved back from London, I had some difficulties to re-adjust. In Germany, we have many fashion labels and fashion events, but the industry is elsewhere…
The most successful Berlin creatives have clients from other German cities and abroad. A lot of international artists have studios here, as there is a thriving creative international scene that is less status driven than compared with other cities.
On the plus side, advantages for me are being closer to my family again and the less stressful lifestyle of Berlin compared to London, and space…..lots and lots of space…. If time is spent wisely, one can really focus on creativity here. And slow down.
I’ve lived in Italy, Paris, New York, and London… But being back in Berlin is right for now…
What are your strengths and weaknesses as a creative business owner?
My creative work suits my personality. I am naturally quite shy and as many other artists are, I find it hard to sell my own work.
If you could start all over again what would you do differently?
I will definitely ask for help more.
If you could, what advice will you offer to your younger self?
I would advise her to trust herself more and in nature. There is an old poem that summarizes perhaps what my advice would be:
“Know things in nature are like a person.
Talk to tornados,
talk to the thunder.
They are your friends
and will protect you.”
~ Anonymous (Taken from Navajo Code Talkers, by Doris A. Paul Dorrance Publishing Co., Pittsburgh, 1973)
How do you define “success”?
Success to me means a holistic balance of personal (family) life and work. Being able to share success with loved ones.
Overcoming my personal fears and demons and staying positive. Believing in the future!