Designing unique apparel that appeals to both the home crowd and international shoppers is easier said than done. But when two artists—Nando Cornejo and Silvia Salvador—decided to transfer their ideas from the canvas to a new medium of knits and silk, they hit the sweet spot between à la mode and avant-garde. Berlin-based Potipoti launched in 2005 and ever since, they've been producing collections that echo graphic design and paintings—but it was their recent A/W 13/14 collection that put them on our radar. We spoke with Salvador to learn how a decade of experience as designers manifested in bright colors softened by strong black patterns.
Born and raised in Spain, Salvador moved to Germany—her mother's birth country—13 years ago. Fluent in both languages, she has a major advantage in navigating the city as well as any Berliner but also fitting in with the international crowd that the capital attracts. She studied fine arts and graphic design—not fashion—in university; this is where she met Cornejo, another fellow artist, who would later become the other half of Potipoti. "I think you can see that in our designs; our background comes from graphic design, because we do everything with a lot of graphics," Salvador tells CH. "We used to call ourselves 'fashion graphic design.'"
For an independent brand that launched its first collection in 2005, Potipoti's look is still as fresh and playful as its name. Salvador says, "When we started with a label, it wasn't really, 'Let's have a brand, let's have a business, let's look for a name.' The way we started, we had an art exhibition and we had a few screen-printed T-shirts. I said, 'Let's put a logo on the T-shirt,' and just for fun, we put the name Potipoti on because it was kind of my nickname at the time. So we got stuck with this name. People really remember it because it's easy to say, in different languages."
"When we started our label, we were designing what we liked, just for ourselves, we didn't care so much—it was a little bit crazier." For instance, one of Potipoti's first collections featured knitted masks they made for the runway shows—but ended up selling extremely well in countries including Japan. Finding that they had been growing from their original spontaneity, the duo resolved to revisit strong graphics that were familiar in their earlier collections. "We wanted to go back to the origins for Potipoti. We were mixing old inspirations to get our old style. With the blankets, for example, we like traditional folklore celebrations," Salvador explains.
Salvador noted the complexity of designing for an international audience without staying too basic: "In Berlin, it happens to many designers; it's really difficult to have a product that works really well in Japan and at the same time, Germany. The market in Germany is quite conservative. A lot of the independent designers [based] here, with a kind of big name, they only produce for Japan." Potipoti strikes a balance by maintaining traditional silhouettes and toying with patterns and colors from the viewpoint of a visual artist.
"For last summer's collection, we did these silk scarves. Everything was hand-painted on paper, we scanned the images and then it was digitally printed. When you see it, you can feel the texture from the water colors. For us, it's a way to continue doing something artistic."
Potipoti also has the advantage of having their own brick-and-mortar store, which also carries pieces from other independent designers such as Franzius and Reality Studio. "I learn a lot because I'm in our shop many days and I know who my customers are, who I didn't know before," Salvador says. "Before starting to design a collection, it's good to know what kind of people you are designing for—a part of yourself."
This winter collection expands to interiors, including cushions and a hybrid scarf/blanket (which the pair will be transforming into a picnic blanket for the spring). Potipoti produces their collections in Castilla y León, Spain and Germany through small, family-owned manufacturers.
Peruse the S/S 2014 lookbook on Potipoti's website, which is sprinkled with bright watermelon colors and picnic blankets. While the S/S 14 collection won't be available for purchase until March, Potipoti is currently having a sale on their winter collection. For those in Berlin, be sure to check out their brick-and-mortar store at Rosenthaler Strasse 66.
Images courtesy of PotiPoti; lookbook photographed by Maya Kapouski