An interview with Antwerp-based German designer Daniel Andresen

Despite a natural inclination towards discretion,  Daniel Andresen is all over the menswear scene. The Antwerp-based German designer uses seduction to carve out gentle and elegant silhouettes in which craftsmanship and imperfections play a central part. We spoke to him about his passion for knitwear and how he got into fashion in the first place, particularly his penchant for customising clothes as a teenager.

Is fashion something you’ve always been into? 

As a teenager, I loved sports and skateboarding. I come from the island of Föhr in Germany and started customising clothes when I was 12. I sold them to the kids on my island and they became quite popular. I transformed military trousers and other vintage clothes, using patchwork techniques while adding extra fabric. It’s something people did in my family with their own clothes. I asked my mother to sew pieces for me then.

What happened next?

I took a sewing course when I was 15 and enjoyed it. Later, I moved to Hamburg and was not sure what I could do. I became friends with this guy in Hamburg whose parents owned several clothing stores, including a skateboarding one. They also sold designer clothes, like Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons, but I didn’t pay much attention to them at the beginning. I worked in their skateboarding store for a while as a sales assistant. They had their own knitwear brand called Omen and as our relationship developed I started researching yarns and advising them on the collection.

How old were you when you moved to Hamburg?

I was 18. I found out more about fashion and designer clothes when I lived there and I guess it changed my vision of the industry. I wanted to pick a fashion school and considered New York or London, but they were both quite expensive. I went for Antwerp in the end, even though I didn’t like the city at first. Before enrolling at the Academy, I did this preparation class to build my portfolio for enrollment and was very happy with the teaching. The staff were great and I learnt a lot.

When did you start your own brand?

I launched it in January 2010. I had gone back to Hamburg after graduating and worked for Omen again, this time as their creative director and production manager. I had a great job and many luxuries to match, but I always had to compromise and couldn’t do what I wanted. I didn’t want to be someone’s assistant or head designer. I was always independent as a person and it felt natural for me to have my own label.

People often refer to your knitwear pieces as special and unique items. What is it that you love about this technique?

I love the textures and the imperfections. I like combining different yarns to see what happens. It feels like possibilities are endless with knitwear. You start knitting something and are not always sure where you’re going with it. It leaves room for surprises and experimentation. Knitting is a physical act and you don’t even have to make a pattern. You can be strict about it or completely spontaneous.

This season, we produced 600 knits in two months. All these pieces were hand-made and each one is different.

Your pieces are hand-knit. How do you manage your production?

You just have to get it done. This season, we produced 600 knits in two months. All were handmade and each one is different.

What do you think about traditional menswear?

For me, a suit is like a fridge. It’s so rigid and uncomfortable. I offer tailoring in my collections, but it’s always easy to wear and can be layered with other pieces. I like lightness and hate stiff clothes. Everything I do is made for movement and I really take the body into account. It’s important for me. My clothes are engineered, but they’re not hard or constrictive.

Do you think buyers react strongly to this?

Yes, they do. My clothes don’t feel manufactured. The more knitwear I add to my pieces, the better it sells. People seem really sensitive to it.

Do you have references in fashion?

The Japanese designers were ground-breaking when they started showing in Europe and changed the way people wore clothes. I love an Italian brand called Carpe Diem, which is more about a design philosophy than trendy fashion.

Your clothes are sold in exclusive and influential stores, such as Dover Street Market in London, 10 Corso Como in Seoul or Lift in Tokyo. How do you explain your success?

I don’t know. I guess what I design is real. It’s not gimmicky or insincere. What you see is what you get.