While making the typical post office trip, eatmoreshoes was lucky enough to run into Wilfried Pletzinger, a truly unique and admirably talented upcycling designer. Wilfried’s schtick is shredding up and stitching back together vintage clothing from famous sports brands to construct creative reinterpretations of familiar forms.
Wilfried, first tell our readers: who you are and where you’re from?
My name is Wilfried Pletzinger, I grew up on the countryside in Nordrhein Westfalen. When I was nineteen years old I moved to Berlin. Later on I lived in Hannover, Bremen, and Stockholm, but eventually I moved back to Berlin in the Summer of 2011.
What’s your educational and occupational background?
I studied Fashion design from ’88 to ’91, worked with a partner under a clothing label I*m Waircraft in the mid-nineties. Our focus was on club-wear and we were already working a bit with recycling. Then in 2000 I moved to Stockholm for an assistant design job at H&M, though the real reason why I moved to Sweden was that I wanted to live by the water. Later on I worked mostly as a teacher for design and textiles. This was something I’d already done before in Bremen and Hannover. Finally, I started my own label as an upcycling designer in 2009.
After all that history, experience, and education, how would you describe what you currently do with recycled sportswear?
My current collection is more basic than my previous collections. I wanted to make a afternoon to evening collection. The idea was for street clothing that could be worn during the day and also party gear for the night. Feeling comfortable and well dressed 24 hours.
What are you trying to say, conceptually, with this idea of upcycled sportswear?
Sportswear presents dynamic activity, and power. Athletic people are ambitious and take care about their health, their bodies, and their souls. I make clothing for people who want to express this feeling whenever and wherever. I produce unique designs for individual expression.
There are two main reasons why I work with upcycling. It’s important for me to work in a sustainable, eco-friendly way, and I also really enjoy to work like this. I’m a person taking care about the environment; whether it’s about the use of energy, water, or other consummation. I’ve worn mostly secondhand clothes ever since I was a teenager, so it feels perfectly natural for me to work this way.
Beyond your past, how did you actually come to this idea? Is there a story behind your first recycled sportswear piece?
As I’ve said, I’d already worked with recycling in the nineties. When I decided to start again it was not the plan in the beginning to focus on sportswear. I started my first collection by clearing my own wardrobe. When I was looking for material I realized that sportswear inspired me the most. I like bright and clear colors, and bold patterns and prints. This is what really inspires me.
And has the creation process itself presented challenges to you?
Working with upcycling is always challenging! There are no rules to follow. For every item you have to find a new way to work it out. Sometimes the material is very limiting and you have to find new solutions. Producing unique items can become a lot of time consuming work.
With such a great challenge at times, what has inspired you to continue along the way?
It’s often difficult to say exactly what inspires me. It can be everything around me, from people on the street, to the graphic designs I see, and even nature too. In the end it’s often the original material that is inspiring me. It’s almost as if it tells me what it wants to become next.
That sounds like a very organic process. So where have you shown, sold, and shared your work so far?
I showed my collection twice at the Alternative Fashion Week in London, two times in Stockholm, and recently on the Copenhagen Fashion Week. In Stockholm there was a PR agency supporting me. I’ve sold in London, Stockholm, and Berlin, and I’ve been published in blogs, magazines and radio programs. Most recently euromaxx did a video interview with me.
Great to hear that you’re getting some solid exposure! Your London fashion shows were amazing, how did you feel about these? Any plans for going back to London in the near future?
They were great experiences. I got a lot of positive feedback and made many good contacts. I don’t have plans to go back in the near future, as the Alternative Fashion Week is a convention specially for new up-and-coming designers. It was an honor that I was allowed to show twice. Now I’d like to focus on Germany, and especially Berlin.
And what about the Patricia event in Stockholm… can you tell us more about that?
One day I got a call from Madeleine from Mady Models. I’d worked with them before. She asked me if would like to show my collection on the party boat “Patricia”, on one of the gay nights. I liked the idea and agreed spontaneously. I showed more than thirty outfits. We had twelve models available. What this means is that most of the models had to be out on the runway three times, which allows them less then two minutes for changing. To add to the pressure, the catwalk was very short and the backstage incredibly small. So, in order to extend the time for changing the models were encouraged to do something extra – something funny – on stage. There was a lot of chaos and stress in the backstage, but everybody did a great job. In the end it was a successful show.
Wow, what a show that must have been! So in general what sort of reactions have you experienced so far?
I get lots of positive feedback. People are often pointing out that my design is unique and special and that they’ve never seen something like this before.
That makes sense; what you’re doing is incredibly unique, very original. But more specifically, can you tell us about your collections? What differentiates them? What are your favorite pieces and why?
While in my last collection I worked with draping and producing lots of volume I kept in this collection the surfaces clear.. The base material was often training jacket and knitted clothing from the eighties. I was inspired by silhouettes from the sixties and I liked playing with the large collars giving them a new shape. My favorites for men are the buggy pants with a low crotch, especially the one with the green stripes on the front. I like the cut and its graphic effect. My favorite woman piece is the purple and white bias cut jacket with the zipper on the side. I made it from a eighties jacket. The silhouette is simple, yet the cut’s clever and complex.
What do you have in store for the future?
Comfortable cuts with amazing play of colors.
Great, we can’t wait to see what you create next. Before saying goodbye, do you have any parting words?
Yes, sure: come by and spend your whole salary!
Jokes aside, Wilfried is definitely someone worth paying a visit to if you happen to find yourself lusting for vintage while passing through Berlin. Thanks for sitting down with us today and we wish you the best of luck in your future fashion career!