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Prestige | Fashion | Designer | MARK LUPFER | Autumn/Winter 2012

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Renownecl for his quirky ornamental knitwear, clesigner MARK US LUPFER counts Claudia Schiffer and Madonna among his many fans. After watching him launch an exciting new collection at London Fashion Week, ALISON CATCHPOLE visited his studio in the city’s East End.

HUMOUR Is AN UNDERRATED quality in fashion, and not one perceived as particularly German, yet Markus Lupfer defies all stereotypes. Invited to meet him at his London Fashion Week presentation, I wonder what goodies will be in store, and I’m not disappointed. Casually dressed in black trousers, a forest-green cotton degrade Milano cardigan from his own collection and a Givenchy scarf, Lupfer greets me warmly.


“I’m not into this kind of fashion scene where people’s all so glamorous and it’s all so beautiful and it’s all so nice and it’s all like gorgeous gorgeous. I find that it’s just a bit like...well it’s a little bit old. It’s like there’s nothing new about that and I like the love of pushing it to another level. It’s just more amusing and I enjoy that.” His mischief feels genuine and unspoilt; typical of the abundant energy he exhibits as he talks.


So I’m quite happy to make myself at home with a glass of champagne among the treasure chests of intarsia sweaters, and admire the leggy models gliding over the parquet flooring while Lupfer entertains a posse of editors. “Don’t forget to smile,” instructs one long-sleeved sequinned top unnecessarily, for smiling comes pretty easily with Lupfer’s work (“Kapow,” “Omnia Vincit Amor” and “Carpe Diem” figure on others). With his reputation for quirky knitwear, innovative promotional videos and sheer likeability in an often superficial industry, the Markus Lupfer take on fashion is simple: it should be fun and also thoroughly wearable.


Dominating the wall is another Lupfer innovation: his latest promotional film. Previous films include a 1960s-style “mockumentary” examining the habits of different fashion “types” in their natural habitats; another has models transformed into jungle animals for an “imaginarium”. This time it’s a humorous 1990s-style pop video featuring a Lupfer-clad Japanese girl band from London’s East End called No Cars bouncing around a psychedelic set singing “Let’s go Markus!” while a few champagne-fuelled viewers happily join in.


Markus Lupfer arrived in the UK fresh from a “very strict...very by-the-book” German art college and earned a first- class honours degree from the University of Westminster in 1997. He started his eponymous label shortly afterwards, taking up the role of creative director of Spanish fashion house Armand Basi between 2003 and 2009.


Back at his own growing brand, he took a decision not to present on the catwalk. “I decided to come back and take it from another angle,” he says. “I wanted to approach it from the business angle and from the shop floor, because I wanted to be able to build up a sustainable business. So instead of going and designing for a catwalk collection, I decided to design for the shop floor and for the buyer. If the girls love to have it and really want to wear it, then the chances are they can afford it.


“And sometimes you don’t necessarily have this when you focus on the catwalk. I just wanted to make it a business and make it stronger.”


The strategy has clearly paid off, with savvy fashion icons such as Katy Perry, Rihanna, Claudia Schiffer and Olivia Palermo counting themselves as fans. Even Madonna chose to wear Lupfer’s star intarsia sweater on the artwork for her single “Give Me All Your Luvin’ ”.


But the girls don’t have all his attention. There’s also a successful menswear line, which he dresses in himself. “I wear every day either one of our jumpers or one of our joggers or one of our tuxedo joggers, which I wear and wear. I love it!”


His latest dark and sparkly offering grew out of a childhood spent in Kisslegg, near the Black Forest area of Germany, a district rich in dark castles and forests and fairy tales. On his website, as homage to this rural heritage, a virtual cuckoo clock whirrs and chimes every quarter of an hour.


Tradition is something he really values and is clearly moved by. “My great-great aunt used to make all her clothes,” he explains. “She was a tailor. And so my grandmother took me to her when she got a new dress. It was real old-school dressmaking and it was very exciting to go there. It was special.”


Many companies seem keen to employ his creativity and focus. Recent collaborations have included British high-street giant Topshop, growing luxury brand Mulberry and, this year, make-up house Shu Uemura, which adapted elements of the spring/ summer 2012 collection to create a limited- edition leopard-print case with toning eye shadow and blush.


“London Fashion Week has an incredible energy right now and the emerging design talent coming out of the UK is second-to- none,” comments Selfridges womenswear buyer Gary Edgley, when I ask him about Lupfer afterwards. Selfridges is just one of a number of upmarket, trend-focused outlets that have been stocking the label’s characterful garments for some time, while in Hong Kong, Lane Crawford, The Swank and Joyce are key stockists.


Lupfer seems excited by this. “Amazing,” he remarks. “If you go there it looks so nice, and they’re really on the pulse and young and quirky and modern and everything you really want.”


Later, back in the buzzing Hoxton area of East London — a creative hub that has inspired many different talents throughout the years, from Alfred Hitchcock to Jamie Oliver — I visit the light, airy space where Lupfer weaves his magic and ask him about his favourite pieces in the new collection. “I do like the brocade, I have to say,” he smiles proudly, showing me a short lurex-weave circle skirt. “It’s evening, it’s party, it’s like going out and it’s really nice because it’s so flared.”


His style is hard to define: chic, yes, but it also embodies a crusade against pomposity. He seems to agree. “It can be very hard out there; it can be very tough in terms of politics. You don’t want to be exposed to that all the time. And I think that’s when people go into, like, fairy tales, fun elements; and I think we need that distraction sometimes. I do love the leather and I love some elements of the knitwear, like the eyes.”


He points to a pair of cartoon eyes on another garment. “It makes you smile and it’s not difficult — in some ways it’s like a no- brainer, it’s joy and it’s love. That’s what I like on my knitwear. Love.” 

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