Cashmere passion that runs in the family
Antonia Zander – Cashmere passion that runs in the family
»You can’t lose your own style and at the same time you have to move on. Every season is like a total new beginning!«
Hello Antonia! Your mother founded her cashmere label in the early 80s and named it after you. What motivated your mother to start her own label? After all, it was not a matter of course at that time.
My parents bought a farm in need of renovation in Chiemgau 45 years ago and moved there from Cologne with us children: a big project. They did almost everything themselves in the total wasteland, even until today. After a few years, my mother started her own knitting collection to earn money and be independent, supported by my father, very modern for the 80s (smiles).
Did you grow up knowing that you would take over the label later on or were there other alternatives for you and if so, which ones?
In fact, I wanted to become a designer very early on, just like my mother. However, I couldn’t imagine taking over the label at all. Her style was completely different and the idea of having to work in those footsteps and especially under my father’s eyes was not in my imagination.
Did you already sketch designs yourself as a child and familiarise yourself with the basics of craftsmanship?
Yes, I drew a lot, always figurines with designs, and I started sewing early I think the first thing was balloon skirts. So, it must have been the 80s. In 10th grade I had the opportunity to start an apprenticeship as a tailor, and then I had my journeyman’s exam 6 months after graduating from high school.
What happened in your life between your fashion design studies in Berlin and the decision to take over your mother’s business? Which stations and/or people have particularly influenced you?
After I graduated, I didn’t have a plan, I just knew that I didn’t want to work in a classic German fashion company and just design trousers or blouses for the next 30 years. After I told my parents that I didn’t want to take over the company, they sold it 2 years before. I moved to Munich because a great flat became available and I wanted to move in with my best friend, so you can’t say that was a “career decision”.
To earn money I designed and sewed costumes for film and commercials and also wedding dresses for 3 years, but mainly loved party and nightlife 🙂 In summer 2004 I worked for Marlboro on a promotional city tour and sewed t-shirts for festival-goers and earned so much money with it that I started my first own collection. In the meantime, I was allowed to use the company name my own again. I presented it at the “Premium” in Berlin in January 2005.
What influences and inspires you in terms of design?
Everything, actually! Everyday life, people on the street, my girlfriends, films, artists, etc.. You can’t really define it yourself because you actually record and perceive everything and store it somewhere to use details of it again sometime.
Is it a challenge to find a good balance between continuity and further development of one’s own design language and to constantly rebalance it? Or is your instinct the natural design compass that doesn’t need conscious reflection at all?
A big challenge! If there is a natural design compass, then it’s really just a pointer in a vague direction but working it out and developing it is real work for me and purely a mental thing – almost exhausting, because you can never be sure, you always question everything, throw it over, start again, are never satisfied.
You can’t lose your own style and at the same time you have to move on. Every season is like a total new beginning!
Do you have direct contact with the cashmere producers in Mongolia or is that mainly left to the Italian knitters?
Unfortunately, I have never worked directly with Mongolia, but really only with my cashmere spinning mills in Italy, because I know that they take care of sourcing the best raw material locally. The market is huge and unfortunately there is cheating accordingly, regarding the cashmere qualities, it would be too risky for me to bet on the “wrong goat”.
You almost exclusively use yarns from Cariaggi, a manufacturer in Parma. Does the connection already come from your mother’s time, or did you establish this partnership?
Actually, my mother has already worked with Cariaggi, but also with other yarn suppliers, there are many, even smaller ones, who offer great qualities. For the coming season, for example, we have a yarn made of alpaca with silk or also undyed camel hair, insanely beautiful!
We also work with the smaller companies, but for the classic cashmere yarn, Cariaggi simply has the most beautiful colour card and also strives for great transparency regarding origin and processing.
The handwork for individual pieces takes place in Poland. How did this location come to be chosen and at which other locations is production also carried out?
In Poland, we work with a company that employs older home knitters who can supplement their pensions with it. We have also been working with them for more than 10 years and it was only with us that they learned how to process cashmere and finish it in such a way that it becomes as fluffy as you want it to be. Hand-knitting has its own magic and you can recognize the ancient art behind it.
Otherwise, we have our cashmere knitted in Italy. In Parma, for example, I work with a second-generation knitter, our mothers used to work together. Our ready-to-wear is sewn in Germany, which is easier for us because we can go there more often to discuss every detail.
What does the future hold for your brand? Are there any concrete plans?
2021 was our best year so far, despite Corona! For me, this means that the niche in which we were positioned from the beginning is the right place: we don’t have to quickly and laboriously add “sustainability” to our marketing story on Instagram in order to be future-proof, because it was simply written into our DNA from the very beginning.
Nevertheless, it remains a constant striving to generate even less “bad impact” on the environment, to avoid even more packaging waste, fewer transport routes, more transparency, etc.. We are scrutinising the origin, production methods and so on and are unfortunately noticing that it is becoming even more difficult to keep our bearings in this “greenwashing jungle”.