Introducing ‚Agnes Nordenholz‘ from Berlin
Agnes Nordenholz – Stunning designs with a sustainable soul
»I wish that clothing would become part of our identity and culture again.«
Hello Agnes, would you please introduce yourself and your label?
I am Agnes and Nordenholz is my grandmother’s maiden name. My label Agnes Nordenholz stands for products with soul. The focus is on exceptional handbags. Traditional craftsmanship, high-quality materials from Europe, produced in compliance with ethical and sustainable guidelines.
I was born and raised in Tübingen, Germany, and first learned the seamstress’s craft in Vienna before studying at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna under professors Marc Bohan, Helmut Lang and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. After 14 years as co-founder and designer of the label Hartmann Nordenholz, I moved to Berlin to continue my work under the name AGNES NORDENHOLZ. The move to Berlin was a `back to the roots ́ decision.
One of my great-grandfathers was a merchant in one of the world’s largest wool combing mills, the other was a leather tanner and later a dealer in leather goods.
You describe your collection as “slow luxury”. Can you explain what that means exactly?
Slow Luxury means sustainability for me. I only use natural materials like wool, linen, leather and sheepskin. The production is in Europe, mostly in my own studio in Berlin. Special pieces in the collection are only made to order and entirely by hand in my studio. According to the motto: Less, but better!
What do you look for when choosing leather?
Leather is one of the oldest materials in the world used by humans and is characterised by unbeatable quality properties and durability. I only use leather from animals raised in Europe.
Ideally, it is leather from organic outdoor livestock. The leather is vegetable tanned using natural tanning agents such as olive leaves. It is then pigment-dyed, showing the natural surface of the skin with wrinkles and scars. It is important for me to have constant, personal contact with the tanneries and to exchange information about improvements such as wastewater plants or chemical-free dyeing techniques.
The willingness of the often very old, traditional family businesses is great. To preserve the craft and to work in a sustainable and environmentally conscious way through innovations.
What do you think of vegan leather alternatives or artificial fur?
I am not a vegetarian and I consider livestock farming and the processing of wool and leather as part of our culture and cultural landscapes.
However, with the onset of industrialisation, this human/animal has lost its balance. Factory farming and thus profit maximisation are at the top of the list. We have doubled our meat consumption since the 1960s and the CO2 emissions, caused among other things by livestock housing and feeding soy to animals, have become a massive problem. We absolutely need purely organic and animal-friendly livestock farming. Here, too, the principle is: less, but better.
Sustainable material developments and research in the organic textile sector are important and welcome. However, plastics are not an option for me. I don’t think the term vegan leather is right, because these alternatives do not have the same properties. The same applies to artificial fur made from polyester. While it is good that fur farms are being abolished, the alternative should not be faux fur. The environmental record of petroleum-based faux fur is disastrous, unfortunately. Animal love and sustainability shouldn’t be used as an excuse for this.
I would prefer to see us abolish fur farms and still have everyone wear the fur jackets of previous generations. There are thousands of them in second-hand shops and auction houses and nobody dares to wear them. Yet they are still guaranteed to be very durable and biodegradable.
Is there anything you would like to improve from the generations before you?
When I think of my grandmother and mother, they did a lot of things in the right way. They paid a lot of attention to quality and repaired everything. Handiwork and craftsmanship were valued. In my family, it’s only my generation that has grown up with fast fashion and has increasingly lost touch with quality.
Fashion is rarely associated with culture anymore. Perfect, sterile mass-produced goods are preferred; they are seen as a symbol of modernity. And yet fashion has become a throw-away product and shopping is purely a pastime. The alleged democratisation of fashion through fast fashion has not led to us looking better, on the contrary. Increasingly, individual style is being lost.
I wish that clothing would become part of our identity and culture again, that individuality would be more important than trends. That our society acts less profit oriented. Growth should be sustainable and valuable, and it should be based on ethical maxims.