INTERVIEW: FASHION DESIGNER CONSTANZE ALEF OF FREDS BRUDER
- Serie: CREATIVE QUARTERS RUHR
The successful design of leather bags even works at an unusual location: Dinslaken.Geographically, the medium-sized city is located close to the fashion metropolis Düsseldorf. Yet the two cities are worlds apart. And that's exactly why Constanze Alef (29) decided to operate her label "Freds Bruder" from the site of the former Lohberg pit.
Interview: Jan Wilms
Ms Alef, you design internationally-successful bag fashion. What made you move your business to the tranquil town of Dinslaken?
Opening studio, workshop and office in Dinslaken in 2009 had several reasons: First, I'm from a town named Hagen and I therefore experienced the industrial nation closely through my family. That's why I find a good portion of territory nostalgia at the location. Second, it offers a good future prospects and the necessary calm to be able to work successfully. The fashion industry can be shallow - this is where the pit character, where hard work ethics flow from every brick stone, offers a nice balance.
Many creative heads need a big city and the constant cultural input to do their work. You chose a medium-sized city which is often synonymous for mediocrity. What does this place give you?
For a young company, short distances are important - to people, to the bank, to politics and administration. In a city the size of Dinslaken, people know each other and get along. I wouldn't want to miss this.
Yet you have a showroom in Düsseldorf; close to the Kö. Is this an indispensable presence?
The choice of location for a shop in Düsseldorf is representative - however mainly due to the large catchment area and the purchasing power of the surrounding communities. You simply reach less customers in a smaller city.
By now, "Freds Bruder" has gone from a hot tip for insiders to a best seller in large stores. What does your brand stand for?
Our distribution concept and our target group is diverse: Apart from small boutique shops, we also deliver to large trading chains such as "Goertz" or large stores such as the "KaDeWe" in Berlin, and to online retailers. We mainly work with trade agencies focused on the German market - this is where we still see a lot of potential. Yet we are happy about a small shop in San Francisco that sells our bags.
Did the fast success of your collections surprise you?
To be honest - yes. Naturally, you are hoping for that - but in the last few years, everything went really fast so that we need to be careful not to grow too fast. I have a first apprentice; we work 7 days a week. However, such a bubble may burst eventually.
It doesn't look like it so far. But how do you find such a market niche?
I often had the feeling that the bags I liked were way too expensive. Nice, functional and high-quality bags in a medium price range up to 200 euros were virtually non-existent. And since I match the target group between late 20s and late 40s, I could imagine that not only I was missing something.
Zeche Lohberg was integrated into the supported programme of "Kreativ.Quartiere" within the framework of Europe's Capital of Culture. In the following years, this is to be transformed into a flourishing site for the creative industry. Do you see yourself as a pioneer in this case?
I didn't base my decision to come here on this. If you can still form and grow with the new circumstances - that's even better.
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