Bent, are you originally from Hamburg?
No, I moved here. I have lived here now, with breaks, for 15 years. Two of those years I spent in Copenhagen. I began to feel like a real native of Hamburg since the second year of having been here. It was right after having spent christmas in Hamburg for the first time. Before that, I would always go home for the holidays.
How would you describe your role in Hamburg?
My story starts just like the others who are second-hand freaks. Later on I established the Herr von Eden project – and after this I became this “suit-guy from the Karoviertel neighbourhood,” which then created this identity within the fashion world as Herr von Eden. It’s hard to describe oneself. I see myself as a young, creative entrepreneur from Hamburg – as an understatement. As well I see myself as a designer, hedonist, a little bit of a freak, and an opinion-leader.
Do you have another passion besides fashion and Herr von Eden?
Everything that exists in order to enjoy life. I am a bon vivant in mini format and for instance I love to ride my bike – that’s how I cruise every day through the city. Besides that, I love to go dancing and spend my Sundays in friends’ company.
What are your favourite places in Hamburg?
I think it’s my atelier. Besides that, my flat and everything that is close to the water. I am a passionate sailor and grew up as a child by the water. Alster or Elbe – at the water I feel at ease.
You just mentioned your atelier. For a long time, only ready-to-wear clothing were available at Herr von Eden. What changed your mind to switch to a bespoke atelier?
It actually had been missing for a long time. The atelier has several functions: ready-to-wear clothing, custom tailoring and the realization of small series produtions. We are now more independent in regards to suppliers and external producers. The most important thing is that the massatelier is my laboratory, where I can withdraw with my employees and experiment. Just like a band in their studio.
I am not alone anymore in foreign countries and create the collection with the producers there. Now we create the new items in the studio at Großneumarkt. We give ourselves time with each step of the process. We do fittings, cut corrections, and if everything is in place in regards to look and fit, then the atelier manager Pedram takes care of the production and duplication. As as fashion designer or at least as an approaching one, as I like to call myself, it would be impossible to work and keep growing without having an atelier. This has been the best I have done in years. Instead of having opened a Herr von Eden boutique in Munich, I should have gotten myself an atelier. But I like be self-taught and learn every day something new. I am very happy where I landed so far.
What is a very important characteristic to have for an employee of yours? Is it all about the craftiness or is the possession of a common spirit on first place?
It really depends on the position. If it is in regards to the atelier, then of course it’s a lot about the know-how. It simply doesn’t work to create this with friends, like I have done already in the past. Even though it has its obvious advantages, like for instance being able to trust that person and be on the somewhat same level, it all quickly changes within the working atmosphere, thus their is a lack of expertise. If you have all your friends in the company, then your private life will be filled with employees, which can sometimes be quite difficult. But I don’t want to exaggerate this too much either, because my private life and professional life very much intermingle with each other and are at the end inseparable.
It’s also such a different feeling to stand on the dancing floor with one or two pure friends than to be there with people that you only share a business connection with. But I am able to be myself around my employees, since chemistry and the spirit are also very important to me. We share a peaceful atmosphere, because we possess mainly the same kind of humour and other such things. Most employees stem from a creative or artistic field.
Do you want to talk a little about the art in your flat? For instance this painting with the big cut – is there a story?
There is a very interesting story, of course! It’s an oil painting of Thomas Grundmann. Tom won a Talent Award of Art Cologne about four or five years ago – with reason naturally. After this, a gallery owner gave him a contract which asked for the creation of more works for Art Cologne. Tom painted and painted, eventually neglecting his family, friends, etc. But the paintings were so popular that even before the next Art Cologne many of them were sold. This lead to the fact that the gallery owner only wanted to show the pieces that have not been sold yet at the exhibition.
Tom was furious and basically drove immediately to the hardware store to buy a carpet knife. He went back to the gallery, passed the owner without mentioning a word and began to cut all paintings that had been already sold. Of course this was an extreme reaction, but I can understand it and actually admire it. I guess back then it had to happen and I think it also served as a wake-up call to gallery owners. He essentially didn’t want to become a prostitute but solely exhibit his work. So then the paintings ended up in the basement and eventually after two years or so, Tom’s girlfriend from back then began to sew the pieces together –it looks great.
Do you often like to invite your friends to your flat?
It has lessened a bit. I very much like to have visitors, the flat’s size is perfect for this. I don’t have problems with my neighbours in regards to being too loud. Cooking for my friends happens perhaps three or four times a year. We organized the christmas party of Herr von Eden here. If nothing is happening anymore at Golem or Pudel, we also end up here. But this flat is not a party institution and definitely not the city’s after-hour-club.
Your ceiling looks very lively, though.
Yes, it’s almost like a starry sky. It began with me having painted a champagne cork which then flew to the ceiling. This continued to happen now and then. But when I first discovered it, it occurred a lot. It’s a lot of fun with which the guests can immortalize themselves. I can even remember some of the spots’ creators. Others I can’t.
Who can you still remember?
For instance, this stain is from Daniel Josefsohn who works with me on the campaign motives and he also took this picture here. It relates to a very famous picture of Helmut Newton: “They are coming.” In Newton’s images, women in the 80s were dressed in trench coats, were styled and wore make-up. Daniel portrayed these women naked in the exact same position. Daniel is also self-taught and not that established within the art scene, since he works more with advertising. With this, he has a strong desire to reveal his talent in the arts. This is how the piece “Helmut Josefsohn – I also want to play with the train, once” was created. I think his piece very much resembles the original – besides the shoes, of course.
Do you know most of the artists that are exposed in your flat?
Yes, mainly I know them all. This distorted image of Marilyn Monroe symbolizes for me the every abyss one can find himself in. Icons like Marilyn Monroe, or whoever, are known to have experienced very dark times within their life time. Where there is a lot of light, there is also a lot of shadow. People like Marilyn Monroe suffer constant abuse. In this picture she clearly releases breath and one can tell it hurts.
In this picture, also by Tom, Pete Doherty and Crusty from The Simpsons are portrayed together in an absurd collage that rises questions about the sexuality between man and woman, or the same sex, and equal absurd practices that exist. Those kind of pictures fascinate and disgust me at the same time. They make me think and keep me awake. The position in which this woman is in is absolutely brutal. I would never like to be in a position like that with a young woman. The images are not beautiful. It challenges me to look at them every day. Facing this confrontation makes me stronger. It does not turn me on but pushes me away, because I don’t understand it.
This picture shows my depressed sister in the 80s and I think she looks amazingly good. Then I have these weird posters here that I brought home from India. I needed something spiritual, a small light, next to all these heavy objects.
Do you travel a lot?
It became less. There were times during which I lived out of a suitcase. But since I have gotten this flat and the atelier, I began to settle. I have friends who are traveling to three to four different European cities during the week. So if I compare myself to them, I don’t travel much. But I have seen a lot. I have been to Asia, Africa, America, etc.
Where do you like it best?
North, South, East, West – at home it’s the nicest. I like Hamburg a lot, but I don’t wish to stay here forever.
Who is the gentleman on this sofa? (Pointing at the skeleton)
This is Alfons, the best roommate one can have. I bought him at a thrift store in Marktstraße and it’s almost too embarrassing to talk about this. But I thought if one already thinks like that, you are allowed to do it. Besides, I needed someone to talk to.
Let’s go back quickly to the old Herr von Eden, the second hand era. Do you still like to go back to flea markets or prefer designer shops?
Nowadays, I guess I go a lot more to designer shops. Nothing against second-hand stores, since all their clothes are witnesses of time. To own an amazing dress or a wonderful smoking from the 20s is simply invincible. Those things are sacred jewels that nothing compares to. However, I have a hard time finding things in second-hand stores, because people had different body types back then. The men were sturdier and not as tall as I am. So I have a hard time finding something and also think it’s absurd how much those stores want for uncleaned clothes. Also, there are just so many current, amazing designers.
Which designer from Hamburg do you really appreciate?
In Hamburg? I think that Kathrin Musswessels has great style. I cannot really talk about the quality since it’s only women’s wear and I have not worn those items yet. It’s very important in fashion to possess a great security in style and Kathrin owns it. But besides designers from Hamburg, Rick Owens is the shit: amazing materials and a new look. I sometimes spoil myself with buying something from him.
And finally. What relaxes you?
My girlfriend’s kisses.
Thank you so much for this wonderful afternoon, charming Bent.
Interview: Anika Väth
Photography: Sarah Bernhard
Translation: Lara A. Konrad