Michael Michalsky is the founder and head designer of the fashion label Michalsky. He is also the creative director of the luxury handbag manufacturer MCM. Besides his fashion business, Michalsky runs the agency Michalsky DesignLab, which offers design services. Today, Michalsky is considered one of Germany’s most influential designers. His StyleNite at Berlin Fashion Week is followed by the global fashion scene. Prior to this Michalsky spent 12 years at adidas, of which 6 as Global Creative Director. During this time, Michalsky initiated and developed cooperations and product lines with the fashion designers Yohji Yamamoto and Stella McCartney as well as with Rap musician Missy Elliott. Michael Michalsky is a passionate art collector, and a huge fan of photographers F.C. Gundlach, Erwin Blumenfeld and Herbert List. We sat down with Michael Michalsky on the eve of his StyleNite at his Berlin Studio. The photo gallery above features beautiful photographic works courtesy of F.C. Gundlach and the Estates of Erwin Blumenfeld and Herbert List whom we would like to acknowledge here and thank all very much.
Florian DAVID: Please tell us about the moment you discovered Karl Lagarfeld!
Michael MICHALSKY: I had already been interested in fashion from a very very early age because I had always been very inspired by music and when I was a teenager that was the time when music and fashion became one and were influencing each other. So I always used fashion to express myself and to create my own personal look, and in Germany there is this really famous print magazine called Stern which used to be really massive in the seventies and eighties with being a really great print magazine and every Thursday it would get delivered to my house because my parents had subscribed to it, and every Thursday coming back from school I had of course lunch and then I started reading this mag from front to back because I was too lazy to do my homework; and once there was a documentary about Karl Lagarfeld's work as a creative director for Chloe, and that was like a whole documentary with all the facts and all the jobs and everything he had to do, and that inspired me so much that I really knew then that what he was doing was something that I really would like to do. And what's really funny is that I know him quite really well now and he knows the story and he says well that is really cool because he also became a designer because he also had read a story in the fifties about Jacques Fath, so...That's why I wanted to become a designer!
'I THINK THAT KARL LAGARFELD IS THE GREATEST DESIGNER ALIVE'
DAVID: What is it about Karl Lagarfeld that inspires you?
MICHALSKY: I think that Karl Lagarfeld is the greatest designer alive, usually designers have a life cycle where they are really relevant for a particular time, but he has been successful since the mid-fifties, he has turned Chanel into the biggest and most influential luxury brand, he is also very open minded and extends his design work into architecture, interior...He was the first to do entry price points clothes for the Scandinavian mass market brand H&M, and I think that he is very very cool, because although he is over eighty he is still very very interested in what happens with young people, I mean, you have the feeling he gets better every season, and I think that is very very very fascinating because considering that he has been working as a designer since the fifties, I mean we are talking sixty years! And there is no designer who has been working for such a long time and has been doing such important things over such a long period, and that is why I really really love him, and on top of it he is also very smart he always says very interesting very cool things!
DAVID: Amongst all the creative endeavours where do you put fashion?
MICHALSKY: First of all I believe that everything is fashion: what music we listen to, which restaurants we dine at, and what holiday destinations we pick, what kind of furniture we have in our houses...This is all fashion, but the root of all fashion is mode, which is really about what we wear, and this is where I am coming from and I think that we live in a time where a lot of things influence traditional fashion and there are a lot of areas that are inspired by fashion, it's a give and take thing today. I think that is why a city like Berlin is very fascinating because you have a lot of creative people and a lot of different creative areas and it all goes hand in hand; and that has really really changed ... I think that in the 50s and then 60s fashion and fashion design were like sort of quite private, quite exclusive industries, and when you look around today so many people are really interested in fashion and so many people write about fashion and so many people judge fashion and fashion has really become an entertainment, and so I think that this is a really really really interesting time. The root of everything I do is related to fashion.
DAVID: A lot of people talk about you those days, what do you reckon is the reason for your success?
MICHALSKY: Well first of all I live and breathe fashion, that is the thing that interests me most and I have been working a very very long time in the fashion industry; I really enjoy fashion because what I really like is that every season something new happens and you get to meet a lot of people and you can explore a lot of different areas...So that is the starting point. The next point of course is that I am very ambitious and because I live and breathe fashion I am always looking for new things and I always have more and more ideas, and maybe I do things like thinking outside of the box to explore areas that I have not explored before; and then I am a very professional person, because as I said before I used to work for Levis' it was my first job after college, and then I worked at adidas and then I set up my own brand...So I am interested to make sure that the ideas that I have are going to be presented to as many people as possible and then it is up to people to make up their own minds...But basically I live and breathe fashion I do not know anything else!!
DAVID: With the introduction of your new Haute-Couture collection, is your original mantra and line 'real clothes for real people' still relevant today?
MICHALSKY: Of course I am showing haute couture, but you know I am also very successful at doing sneakers; I know that not everybody can afford an haute couture evening dress but if people like my work as a designer, my aesthetics, my feeling for beauty, my points of interests, then there are other products that enable people to buy into my vision of beauty and aesthetics, be it either sofas, or my sneakers or sunglasses or perfumes, so it is real, and also just because something is hand-made does not mean that it is not real!
DAVID: From my prospective what makes you succesful is your nose for spotting the trends. What do you think?
MICHALSKY: I am always interested in something that is new, be it art, be it music, be it fashion, be it sub-culture. And for me also this is not a job. A lot of times I am being asked something and people tell me oh you have a really hard job and what does your job look like?...I dont feel this is a job! I am very very lucky to do what I am personally interested in and turn it into something that might be of interest for people and put it on the radar screen for people. I think that is why I was so succesful at adidas, because I have a vision and I can see if something happens that it might be of interest to a wider audience, and maybe that is one of my biggest talents.
DAVID: What would you say makes great artists?
MICHALSKY: This is a really interesting question, because a lot of judgment regarding whether something is good art or bad art is just like in fashion, it is a very subjective thing you know; you go to a museum and some people will say that painting is so ugly I dont understand why it's art and other people will say I think it's the greatest art on earth...For me it is something that I see and that I fall in love with immediately. Sometimes I dont have reasons and I can't justify it and I only discover it later, but there needs to be a spark in that particular moment, when I look at something, be it a painting, or a sculpture or a photography, and I think then in my head I relate to something that I may have experienced in the past and maybe it is taken out of context, or it is something that I have never seen before and it makes me think. For me it is very important that I get inspired to think about something in one way or another.
'FOR ME IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT I GET INSPIRED
TO THINK ABOUT SOMETHING IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER'.
DAVID: Is there someone you would love to meet that you have not met yet?
MICHALSKY: I am very lucky i have met a lot of people that I find very very inspiring. But everybody knows that I am a very very big Madonna fan; I have met her on a couple of occasions and I never said more than hi and she never said more than hi, but I would really like to meet her more properly, because I think that she is very very inspiring and she is a very very important pop artist. I think that if Andy Wharol were still alive today he would see that she is equally important in the world of art than his art was...And what is amazing is that she is driven and always looking for new things and is breaking boundaries; and also each and every one of her albums corresponds to a certain phase of my life that I relate to, and I just really really like her.
DAVID: Any cause that is particularly dear to you pertaining to the current times we live in?
MICHALSKY: First of all I think it is very interesting how we live, what times we live in. Because I think it is really sad to look to the past and say everything used to be better in the eighties or nineties. I think yes those decades were really interesting but I think that it is cooler if something new happens. And I am very very open, there is only one thing that I really really really hate that is racism and intolerance. But everything else I find interesting and I try to experience everything. Sometimes I discover that it is not for me, or I don't relate too much to it, but I am open to find out everything.
DAVID: Have you ever experienced intolerance?
MICHALSKY: I have not really experienced intolerance, because I'm a very strong person and I am not scared of fighting. Of course I am sure there are intolerant people, but the people that I surround myself with are definitely not intolerant, because otherwise I would not be hanging around with them!