About feeling beautiful, comfortable, and special. An interview with Silke Skarabis.
How did the skarabis label come about?
I always had it in me, this longing and joy to create all sort of things dedicated to beauty. This is to say that beauty – be it in fashion, art, architecture – is nothing superficial but a huge enrichment of life and a value that runs deep.
This coalesced with another grand passion of mine: the love of silk. I distinctly remember my first attire in silk and the moment of discovery, that amazing feel on the skin that the material brought to me.
This personal motivation and the need I had noticed in women of my age, however, so far untapped by the market to the fullest extent: elegant silk outfits with a flattering cut, as well as a ‘wow’ factor. In my search for such attire, I also noticed a dearth of structured, clean lines and modern aesthetics. The scene I found was often about boring prints, kitsch and pointlessly feminine cuts.
I have this vision of providing gorgeous, contemporary clothing made of silk in a larger context.
What exactly is the vision?
Well, I have mainly asked myself, ‘in what kind of clothing do women feel really good and beautiful’?
Can eco-fashion made to be luxurious and appealing? And is there at all a need for yet another fashion label? And we found: All women feel good in silk. The sensuousness and gentle caress is something that does me good. When I wear silk I move differently than when I am wearing a cotton or linen dress. Most women know this feeling from shoes. The way I walk is different when I am in sneakers to when I wear high heels. The same can be said about silk: when I am wearing this gorgeous material I have an increased awareness of my body and my movements, and even of my skin.
And – all this without having to look in the mirror – I get another perception that says »I feel comfortable, I feel beautiful!« This is one of the basic ideas behind skarabis: we want to turn what is often said about fashion, from »Wear this or that to be pleasing in the eyes of others« into a calmly transformative »Since I find myself pleasing, others will find me pleasing, too.«
To wear clothes in which I feel good no matter what the present shape of my body and yet look very beautiful… Now that, I think, is peacemaking for every woman.
Besides, I also believe that when one feels good about oneself and gracious to oneself, others benefit too from this state of mind. So I often get to hear of how good it feels to touch me when I am wearing silk. (smiles)
skarabis uses a special kind of silk. What is that all about?
When I was intensely doing research on silk production, I came across Peace Silk, also called Ahimsa Silk. In a moment of epiphany it was clear to me that this is exactly the kind of ethically produced silk that I want to work with, and as a corollary also use eco-friendly colours for printing and dyeing. The ethically produced, sensuous, feel-good material becomes a plea for a more well-rounded understanding of the “do no harm!” maxim: if beauty means being at peace with oneself, then it must by extension begin to apply to everything possible; it should be compatible with the cut, materials and in the final analysis also with production processes!
Ms Skarabis, what is more important to you?
Dream / Reality
How did the idea of the “One Size” cut originate, what is theONEdress?
The basic concept of skarabis is to create clothes, which make me feel beautiful, comfortable, and special, that I will possess for long in my life regardless of clothing sizes, trends, times of day and occasions. We kept coming back over and again to clean lines, minimalistic styles that lend best to the glorious fall of silk and soften body contours beautifully without adding bulk. And that is how we came to creating One Size, which on account of its fit and hidden details suits very petite and well-built, short and tall women. We tried it out on different women, from German sizes 34/36 to 42/44, and we ourselves were left impressed by how well it really worked! That is how we came to calling our dresses theONEdress.
If we were to use the cut for dresses in cotton or other materials it would not work. This elegance and sinuous fluidity, this discreet sexiness, that can only come from pure silk!
How did the colour palette and prints come about? Looking at you, I see a predominance of blacks and dark greys…
Yes, that is quite true. (Laughs) A predilection for colours for me is about summers that I spend in my second home, i.e. in Italy at the countryside. But I seldomly come across timeless, abstract prints away from the gamut of flowers, Breton stripes and Co. It was this lacuna that brought us to the idea of developing our own prints from, what were, inspired moments for me. So every print reflects a little of my own passion of spending a lot of time in nature, of photographing and drawing joy and inspiration from these sources. Though equally from my journeys in urban spaces, surrounded by art, architecture and good design.
In short: life in the natural environs of Italy, city life in urban Berlin. There is a strong focus in our monochromatic silk dresses on timelessness and a delicate understatement. By the way, it’s precisely these unicoloured dresses that, I believe, truly accentuate the beauty of silk:
»It’s the fall of the silk, the way that it flows and the hues of light that it reflects. I call this the morning dew effect.«
How would you describe the skarabis style? And do you follow trends or make your own style statement?
If there is a grain of social trend present in the concept of skarabis then that certainly would be the trend of dressing consciously. That is, the movement that departs from the appetite for the quick, cheap and excessive, to the ethics of a mindful acquisition of things that will serve me well for many years to come.
We do not follow any trend on the aesthetic level. Our work consists of a minimalistic approach with clean lines and that is why I place the style more in the orbit of contemporary art and design, rather than in the purlieus of trendy labels. Our dress for us is an object of art. Of course one that by virtue of its functionality is placed at the focal point of life itself.
What is the target group of skarabis?
Our focus lies mainly on women who greatly value fine aesthetics and are past the age that is dictated by fast changing trends and the need for conformity in fashion. After a certain age, the spotlight is more intensely on personal aspects »What makes me happy?« or »What suits me personally?«
I myself fall in this target group: I see so many wonderful women in my circle of friends who are well past their thirties and are interested in design and art and even fashion, but do not qualify as fashionistas in the strictest sense, who give importance to premium quality and want to feel beautiful naturally, independent of trends and set body sizes. And I think it is deeply satisfying to create a product for this target group that is dedicated to »unique beauty« and »love for oneself«, and to the correlated creation of lasting items of clothing in one’s wardrobe. This melds with the present day shift in buying practices of fewer, superior, well thought-out products.
Ms Skarabis, what is more important to you?
Tofu / Cheese cake
must / may
Luxury / Simplicity
Where do you produce your collections?
The process of tying up our requirement of very high quality with our commitment to environmentally safe means of production was rather protracted; one where we often found ourselves in a pioneering role. Our silk comes from a producer in India, for whom harvesting and production of eco-friendly Ahimsa Silk came about as a social project. The “do no harm” concept got linked here to the centuries old knowledge of extracting the finest silk yarn. The unprocessed silk is then sent to Italy, where it is printed in a family run workshop highly experienced in producing premium quality and with a feel for the subtlest nuances of colouring. Italy simply has a particularly long tradition in printing silks and fortunately, in the meanwhile, also of the eco-friendly kind. The solid colours are dyed in Germany for the simple reason that Germany is an absolute forerunner when it comes to eco-friendly dyes. Finally, the clothes are manufactured in Poland in a small sewing workshop known for excellent finishing and vetted for fair working conditions. Designing and conception happens mainly in Berlin. Sometimes in fact, all through seven days of the week; making us even more a case for the “do no harm” maxim (laughs).
Berthold Brecht has said: »Isn’t it nice, when solutions are found to problems.«
Oh yes, we start the day, so to speak, with this aphorism. From personal experience I can say that there is hardly anything that makes me feel better or perhaps even lighter, literally, to slip a dress over my head in the morning that I know will make me feel good throughout the day. Something that makes me feel beautiful, comfortable, and special, regardless of the time of day or body shape. It is this sense of elation that we want to bring to many women through theONEdress and all the creations yet to come.
»We are a laboratory for all-time favourites, and silk is our magical element.«
(The talk was conducted by Diana Doko and Anna Kessel. Berlin, April 2018.)