"Düsseldorf is always like a vacation"


"Düsseldorf is always like a vacation"

The name of the Düsseldorf-based Schneider-Esleben family clan is world-famous. Paul Schneider-Esleben left a trailblazing mark as a star architect, his son Florian Schneider-Esleben was one of the founding members of electrical pioneers Kraftwerk, and his death in 2020 was mourned worldwide. And - Sophia Schneider-Esleben, the architect's granddaughter, is known as a fashion designer who creates sustainable, fair fashion. On the occasion of the exhibition "Electro. From Kraftwerk to Techno" at the Kunstpalast, we spoke to her about her collaboration with Kraftwerk graphic designer Emil Schult. 

The famous "Haniel Garage" in Düsseldorf was designed by your grandfather, the architect Paul Schneider-Esleben. Today, as a fashion designer, you turn his watercolors into dresses and blouses. What memories do you have of him?

My grandfather painted me two watercolors, one for my birth and a portrait when I was about 8 years old. Thereupon I always drew him pictures, quasi as an answer. This then got a bit out of hand, so that he inquired about my school career ... He was strict, but also loving and playful, full of stories and ideas: always a source of inspiration. I found his studio and workshops particularly impressive. I still thrive on his watercolor boxes and paper pads that were always lying around open.

And what personal connections do you have to the fashion city of Düsseldorf?

Düsseldorf is my home due to the former family seat. Now I am drawn here professionally, for fashion fairs and customer visits. I love coming to Düsseldorf, it's always like a vacation.

You are going your own way as a designer and fashion producer: you have reinterpreted your initials SSE to describe your attitude - "Slow Smart Eco". Where can you buy your designs? Also in Düsseldorf?

First internationally in my online store, in Düsseldorf at Roberta The Store, a concept store for sustainable fashion - and in many more boutiques, to be found in my Shop Locator.

A new collection of yours is dedicated to the legendary train fleet, Trans Europa Express, TEE, which connected the cities of Europe between 1957 - 1987. You collaborated with the artist and Kraftwerk graphic designer Emil Schult, who, among other things, designed the original cover of the LP "Autobahn". How did the collaboration come about?

At the funeral service for my uncle, Florian Schneider, co-founder and electro pioneer of the band Kraftwerk, I met Emil Schult - "the eye of Kraftwerk", as he is also called - in April 2020. Emil is a longtime family friend, so we reminisced and at some point made plans. As a guest gift he brought his book "Fluxus to Future", two kilos of art history! Emil immediately supported my enduring concept of reviving my grandfather's watercolors as a tribute. Spontaneously, he offered me to choose one of his artworks and include it in my collection. I chose the TEE as a motif.

In the song "Trans Europa Express" by Kraftwerk it says: "We run into Düsseldorf City and meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie". What music do you like to listen to when you work, what inspires you?

It depends on work, time of day and my mood. Pretty much every genre of music has its highlights. What always works for me is electro, funk, soul and classical.

You can find a fitting article about Emil Schult and his art here.

Our author

Gerrit Terstiege was editor-in-chief of the magazine "form" for many years and edited three design books. He writes regularly for Mint, Art, Monopol and Rolling Stone, among others, and has conducted numerous interviews with Diedrich Diederichsen, Bazon Brock, Klaus Theweleit, Richard Hamilton, Donald Fagen, Klaus Voormann and Leonard Cohen, for example.

Cover image: © Markus Luigs
Gallery: © Sophia Schneider-Esleben
Portrait Terstiege: © Wolfgang Armbruster

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