Jan Machenhauer - The danish designer that challenges fast fashion
This interview will take you on a journey to discover the heart of the Danish designer Jan Machenhauer’s; a heart that beats for sustainable fashion, a heart that beats for clothes that become “more beautiful with wear”. We at UPTOSTYLE first came across Jan Machenhauer as we began focusing our research on brands whose design breathes sustainability. His studio, which is located in Frederiksberg, stands for quality over quantity with all its being.
A fun fact about Jan is that he’s been working as a dancer for the Royal Theater Ballet in his early years. But what’s more important to mention is that he has a history in the fashion world which spans more than 40 years. During this period he held shows not only in Copenhagen but in Paris too, the fashion capital to which all the roads lead.
Throughout his career, Jan Machenhauer has received well deserved recognition. He has received multiple awards, including the prize of the Danish Council of Craftsmen.
This was a huge honour, as he was the first clothing designer to achieve this recognition. Jan Machenhauer has both the skills and the ambition to pave the way as a pioneer through the unique way he perceives fashion. He has always viewed creativity and skillset as being very closely intertwined.
Keep reading to find out more about the designer who creates with the “everyday woman” in mind. A designer who challenges our thinking and perception of the clothing industry.
Can you please tell us a little bit about your background and what inspired you to start your clothing brand?
I studied at the Danish school of applied art – now The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design – from 1972-1976. In my final year, I was sought out for a position at the company Made In, creating all collections for the brand.
After having worked closely with the industrial end of the clothing making business through Made In for several years, I decided to move away from heavy production and marketing. The desire for a creative laboratory in which I could experiment with innovative techniques away from the constraint of a tight delivery schedule resulted in the opening of my own boutique and showroom Zone 1 – right in the heart of Copenhagen, and I then established my own brand in 1981.
What was one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced over the years and how did you overcome it?
I think my biggest challenge, is the industrial fashion system, which I don’t think makes sense anymore. It is a challenge I think a lot of brands are struggling with today. This cycle of constant following seasons and trends, makes it difficult to focus and refine, because the trends are moving too fast and the rhythm doesn’t make sense. I don’t believe in the fashion systems’ “use-and-throw-away mentality” and that the industry annually chooses certain colours and trends. That does not determine what’s fashionable. I think it is personalities that create fashion. I find the fashion dictatorship of the industry very uninteresting. That is why I am trying to avoid working with seasons and trends. Instead, I focus on classic and timeless designs, and develop new styles in a dynamic flow, in a slower process.
How would you describe the brand’s identity and what is the vision for the future?
The force field between form and function is what interests me. Today the clothes from my tailored line, are still designed, tailored, and sewn in small batches, in my atelier in Copenhagen by a small number of staff. I work mainly with natural textiles: wool, cotton, silk and linen, because they are quite simple, yet the most beautiful. They last the longest and age now gracefully.
In 2012, I launched the diffusion brand Jan Machenhauer Shirts. The growing line of tailored, hand-sewn shirts arose from a wish to focus on one style category, thereby further refining the knowledge and understanding of its frame and possibilities, taking the simple shirt to new levels.
The shirts are classic and in subdued hues, with fine detailing and carefully chosen materials. The patterns are draped in order to achieve the perfect fit. I wish the wearer to feel comfortable and capable of moving naturally.
Have there been any particular role models or / and mentors in your life?
I don’t know if there is a specific person, but I have always been inspired by the “everyday woman”. I design for everyday life. Garments that function well.
What is the message you are aiming to transport through your designs?
I make clothes that are meant to last, to retain their value and to be handed on, only becoming more beautiful with wear. My design is not created as fast fashion which is meant to be outdated and swiftly replaced. I want to communicate quality and make clothes that you will keep for many years.
Thank you very much for your time. If you were to give some last fashion advice, what would that be?
Choose quality over quantity – make it last.