Marion Strehlow in her studio, standing at a cutting table and cutting fabric.

Three questions for Marion Strehlow, fashion designer

|

“I love it here. It’s cool. It’s small. Düsseldorf is my home.”

Marion Strehlow is known for her purist fashion. For more than 20 years, Düsseldorf has marvelled at Strehlow’s exquisite collections, created in her studio in the Oberbilk district. Born in nearby Mönchengladbach, Strehlow has adopted Düsseldorf as her own: “I love it here. It’s cool. It’s small. Düsseldorf is my home.” But Marion Strehlow is more than just a fashion designer. She has already created eight sets of costumes for dancer and choreographer Maura Morales, whose Cooperativa dance company regularly performs at Düsseldorf’s Forum Freies Theater, or FFT. When Morales’ latest stage show, In-Side-Sense, premiered in December 2023, the costumes were once again designed by Marion Strehlow. We were curious to find out how this collaboration works, so we interviewed her.

You’ve been a successful fashion designer for quite a while. That means every decision related to your collections is entirely down to you. You’re basically like a solo artist. How did your collaboration with Maura Morales come about, and how do you like working as part of a team?
Years ago, I watched a performance by her dance company and was inspired, so much so that I wanted to work with her. A friend introduced us and it turned out that Maura liked my collections. So then we really wanted to collaborate. The great thing is that Maura’s team is always the same, from the lighting designer and some of the dancers to Michio Woirgardt, her husband, who composes the music. It’s fun, and we have a very close and creative dialogue.

Two dancers on a stage that is bathed in a blue light.
(Photo: Klaus Handner)

Could you describe your creative process for us?
I come on board when the theme and the title of the show have been decided. My work begins with the first rehearsal, where I hear the music and see how it is expressed in the dance. I am guided by my collection, from which I reinterpret certain pieces. My focus is on materials and freedom of movement. These days I have more experience, so I know, for example, that low-crotch trousers are not suitable for dancing. Leggings are infinitely better. I learn something new with every show. Sometimes I try the costumes out myself and dance around my studio. For In-Side-Sense, the set design was in place quite early on and I was able to compare notes with the set designer. That was important, not least because the stage represents an interior room. So I asked myself how I could reinforce this idea of an interior space. There’s a point at which Maura is coming in from outside. It may sound trivial, but it is an important moment for me as the costume designer, especially because the scene is near the start of the show. It’s a crucial point. So she is wearing a coat, to let the audience know that she’s entering the interior from the outside.

A dancer on stage wearing a brown and white outfit.
(Photo: Klaus Handner)

From the outset, you decided to create designer fashion under your own name rather than working for a fashion house, because your creative freedom and independenec are important to you. Your costume designs for Maura Morales are also instantly recognisable as your work. It seems to me that your fashion is profoundly shaped not just by your aesthetic sensibility and feel for design but by your own character, your spirit if you like. Would you agree with that?
That is certainly true. If you purchase a piece from my collection you are also buying a part of me. There is love in every piece. I am truly passionate about my profession. It’s the best there is. And I love the freedom that I have. I would do it all again, exactly the same. As far as I’m concerned I’d like everything to just keep going exactly as it is. Sometimes I meet people who bought something from me 20 years ago, and they make me feel that I’m part of their journey, of their life. A woman told me recently that her 16-year old daughter had discovered one of my skirts that she had bought years before. My customers hang on to my clothes. I’m a sort of constant for them. And I really like that.

stre-low.com

Interview: Cynthia Blasberg
Main photo: With kind permission of Marion Strehlow

Want to stay up to date with what's going on in Düsseldorf? Then subscribe to our newsletter!