behind the brand
We spoke with Bart Ramakers, one of the founders of KASSL Editions, to ask him about the story behind the refined, yet unpolished brand. From starting the label after finding a vintage fisherman’s coat to the high-quality production process and Bart’s personal favourite design from the collection - read along to meet the European collective.
Bart Ramakers, co-founder of KASSL Editions
Photo by Eva Donkers
First of all, how are you doing?
I’m doing well, thank you! It feels like the world is starting to breathe again and spring is around the corner, which makes me very happy.
What was the initial idea behind KASSL?
I think the development of KASSL has always been quite organic. We started as a group of people from different backgrounds who came together through the discovery of a vintage fisherman's coat. We soon found out that we all had the same philosophy of what was to become KASSL.
The KASSL philosophy is to market a product that transcends gender, age and social background. The luxury of the product lays in the simplicity and tactility of the material. Our coats and bags are made to be worn and used: they become more beautiful the longer they are worn.
How would you describe KASSL's aesthetic identity?
Refined yet unpolished, luxurious, qualitative, democratic and timeless. KASSL was developed in the German city Kassel and inspired by German contemporary art. KASSL's DNA is therefore strongly influenced by the harsh German visual culture. I think our taste is quite clean and there are references to utility wear. Our German manufacturer also produces everything for the German police force and fire brigade. At the same time, we work with luxurious Italian fabrics. The contrast that we strive for - between a product that you use intensively, while at the same time making a true statement - defines KASSL. It is exactly that friction what we like.
"Our coats and bags are made to be worn and used: they become more beautiful the longer they are worn."
Where does the name ‘KASSL Editions’ come from?
The name KASSL comes from the city of Kassel in Germany. It’s the city where our factory is located and where the art biennial documenta takes place, which is a huge source of inspiration for everything we do.
Where does the inspiration for the collections come from? Has this changed in the past year?
In our collections you can always find a constant inspiration to some extent: modern German art, utility and army elements. Keywords that come back again and again in the design process are functionality and tactility. KASSL started very conceptually, with two basic shapes. Our designer and creative director Camille returns to these two forms every season. From there, she updates the silhouette to match the current Zeitgeist. In addition, the use of fabric and material is usually our starting point in the design process.
Photo by Peter Stigter
The materials used in the collections are unique and luxurious - where do you find these fabrics and how are they used?
KASSL Editions is a collective of people located all over Europe. Tim and Ilse (the founders and owners of Graanmarkt 13) are based in Antwerp, our head office is in Amsterdam and we develop and produce most of our products in the city of Kassel, Germany. From the start, our focus has been on producing on a local scale. We work together with smaller factories, such as our manufacturer Joseph Koch from Kassel. Joseph's company is not only smaller, but also a family business, which gives us the opportunity to always stay in close contact. Something that I value a lot. In Kassel they are very good at making utility wear and functional workwear. Joseph also draws a lot of inspiration from vintage clothing and materials, which is why he often immediately understands our needs. This combination is ideal and works perfectly for KASSL.
Photo by Peter Stigter
When talking about materials, I can tell you it has been very busy over the past three years. We have tested many materials from many different manufacturers, including several companies in Switzerland and Italy. I have been very impressed with Italian fabrics for years. Our partner Limonta is exceptionally talented in the production of highly technical fabrics. The use of these types of materials is exactly what we want to carry out with KASSL and is exactly the reason why we work with this company. In general, we are very aware of the use of our fabrics. If there is anything left, even if it is only 100 meters, we use it - as we did with our Pillow Sofas in collaboration with Muller van Severen.
"The contrast that we strive for - between a product that you use intensively, while at the same time making a true statement, defines KASSL. It is exactly that friction what we like."
Photo by Peter Stigter
How do you keep your KASSL coat in the best condition?
By wearing it a lot! When I see that a KASSL design has traces of use, I do not see an old, worn coat or any damage to it. I just see the pleasure that someone has had with it – that the coat is being enjoyed. From a practical point of view, it is important that the coat cannot be washed. You simply wipe the coats made of oil and rubber with a cloth, while our coats in the trench fabric can be dry-cleaned if necessary.
How did you get into fashion? Is it something you have always been interested in?
I grew up in a small village near Maastricht. When I was seventeen years old, I moved to Amsterdam to study economics. During that time, I assisted a stylist. Ten years ago, I started a fashion agency, Parrot Agency.
In the beginning, we were always looking out for young design talent with Parrot. Together with these designers, we built on the worldwide distribution of their products. We did this with Vetements and Wandler, for example, and then also with KASSL Editions. I am more closely involved with KASSL since I am one of the founders. I also oversee the business side of the brand. I think everything went very naturally. Fashion has always been an interest of mine, although I was never brought up with it. That part really came to me in Amsterdam.
Photo by Peter Stigter
What comes to mind when you see someone dressed in KASSL?
It still takes some getting used to. The Netherlands was never our largest market, but in Amsterdam I sometimes see someone in a KASSL coat walking around. Every morning I walk to the office and every once in a while I see someone walking by in a KASSL design, giving me a real sense of pride.
How do you like to combine your KASSL coat?
I have a Levi's 501 that I almost always wear. You can draw me out in blue jeans, a blue sweater and Common Projects shoes. My favourite KASSL coat is therefore our dark blue trench coat.
Do you have a favourite style from the current summer collection?
I am a huge fan of the Kimono Coat this season. That is a new edition, in which volume plays the leading role. The use of button closures on this coat in combination with the belt, ensure that this jacket is a true eye-catcher.
What did you learn from having your own business?
This year was quite tough. During the first months everything was upside down. What I learned at KASSL is that you have to stay true to yourself, especially in an uncertain time. You really have to remain loyal to your own identity. For KASSL this comes down to simplicity, our love for craftsmanship and our love for modern art. Last summer we did an extensive collaboration with museum Voorlinden for Amsterdam Fashion Week: we invited fourteen artists to make their own interpretation of the KASSL coat.
Photo by Peter Stigter
Being able to create something like this in these times was only possible because we stayed true to ourselves. We looked in a KASSL way at what was possible at that moment, always adhering to the identity that we want to communicate. Since then we have also implemented changes in the structure of the collections. We have switched from four collections per year to two. Not with the intention to build the largest possible collection every season, but rather to make more room for improvement. More time offers more peace of mind, which creates more creativity and the freedom to think about how we make products and why.
What does KASSL contribute to sustainability?
KASSL makes coats that can be worn differently every season without becoming irrelevant in the market. Our idea of sustainability is to create a product that our customers value emotionally and pass on from generation to generation.
"When I see that a KASSL design has traces of use, I do not see an old, worn coat or any damage to it. I just see the pleasure that someone has had with it – that the coat is being enjoyed."
Future plans you want to share with us?
We are currently working on two super interesting international projects. One of these is all about sustainability and will be rolled out worldwide. This is one of the largest projects we have done to date.
Discover the KASSL Editions collection in our stores and online at Pauw.com.