Sitting on the couch, wasting my time scrolling through Facebook, I come across a video that one of my friends has shared ‘This, this is art.’ The cover picture and title immediately intrigue me. I put my earphones in, turn up the volume and sit back.
Six minutes later I’m in awe of what I’ve just seen. The video follows Paola, a young woman living in Berlin – on a night out in the city’s techno scene. She takes you to another world, an alternate reality with at its core: freedom and expression. Red flickering lights illuminate the darkness of the portrayed concrete space and amidst the thumping bass of hard techno ravers express their emotion through dancing. It shows a community that comes together to celebrate life, to connect with the dance floor and with themselves.
Not only do the aesthetics of the video convey a near perfect reflection of the underground vibe the scene contains but the integration of classical music and people raving on the dance floor also add to the multidimensional artistic expression of the video. Undoubtedly, the storyline and message behind the video represent how us ravers all feel about the scene.
Immediately I start to wonder, what or who is behind this video? A few months later, I’m sitting in NAKT studio with designer and founder Moritz Danner, who’s fashion brand is behind the video. We talk about how he created an army, and how he uses his brand to empower and seduce.
Where did the idea come from to set up NAKT?
One and a half year ago I was working at a styling company and I really wanted to learn how to sew. At one point I really needed an outfit for Berghain. My mother then gave me a sewing machine, and I thought OK, it can’t be so hard to do it. I put an old flat Ikea table on my bookshelf, put my sewing machine on it and made my first piece ever.
I started creating all sorts of outfits, people liked my clothes, not only I wore it but my friends started wearing them. That’s when my brand really started to grow and I didn’t even have investors.
At one point a girl came to me and told me to try to make bodies, as they are quite popular. I got myself a body from a friend and started experimenting with them. This was pretty hard. You have to make the patterns, and I had never done it, I studied media psychology and never did a fashion study.
I thought, ‘How can I create something that is made out of good material, but is also good for dancing? I always wanted to do something with leather and metal, but they aren’t good for sweating, for dancing. So I decided to try out neoprene. This material is way better for the body, it helps against sweating and it’s easier to wash.
With the bodies we create there is a lot of freedom and there are a lot of options. There are several angles where we can cut out something, put the stretch – everything created by us is either stretchy, tight, tied together on the body. I think for a lot of people this is fetish.
Your brand is young, but has grown so fast in such a short time –
Yeah, at first the name was not NAKT, but Black Line, the letter I in the word ‘line’ was a cocaine line.
Yeah it was too obvious [laughs]. So in one month time I came up with a new name, NAKT, and I think it fits perfectly.
Do you design everything yourself?
I have the idea for the designs. In the beginning I designed, sewed and sold everything myself. And that’s of course not possible anymore right now.
The men collection was designed by me and partly by one of the models, Crista. But if people come with designs and they are cool I say yes let’s do it.
Right now there isn’t too much offer on the men section of your brand, is this going to expand?
Yeah, we have new stuff for men coming soon. We have new harnesses and cardigans. But we’ve also got pullovers and bomber jackets with the message ‘no photo’s, no GHB’.
Where did the inspiration for this message come from?
Well of course at the clubs, they don’t want you to take pictures and there’s a strong dislike against GHB because people go out from it.
But yes, I will come up with more stuff for men. Mostly I like to design girl stuff. Because I like the aesthetics of girl’s bodies more. For men it’s a bit harder. Girls have so much options to choose from, there is so much to work with and with men there are fewer options.
This means there is a gap to be filled then!
Definitely, that’s what we’re doing. We’re slowly progressing with the designs and you also have to think in a business way, is this going to work? We have a big shooting and the new designs for men will be published soon.
Do you also work together with other designers?
All the girls who sew the pieces and create them are also designers. The idea behind a design is just like a super small part, but it’s a super important part.
What gives you inspiration for your designs?
I go to a techno club and I look around me to see what people are wearing. But I also look at the demand, what do people want to wear? Because people normally don’t wear something totally different than they do before. So then I try to create my version of the piece. I see a lot of people wearing bodies and tops. Which means the popularity of it is big, and then we give our own touch to it and start creating our own versions. But of course products inspire me, architecture, looking at a body on a puppet and thinking ‘What can I do with this?’
So what’s the Ausstrahlung that your brand has – people who wear your designs, what is the vibe it expresses?
Very seductive, because it’s pretty naked all the time. I come from an architecture family. My bodies get inspired by all of the modern cuts. It should give the feeling of a strong woman, that’s what I wanted to create.
Something that I always kept in the back of my mind is that when I see naked people I think, ‘Ah naked people are not so interesting.’ Then I questioned myself, where is the border of like being really naked, but still very interesting? Because if you see everything – it’s like giving a present without wrapping paper. You lose interest if you already know about everything that’s there.
However, if it’s just a little bit hidden and you free parts of the body – but just not everything – that’s when it becomes really interesting. And that’s the vibe I wanted to create. And then of course there’s a lot of vibes of being together, a collective, being in the army, being like this hard structured woman.
How did your brand gain popularity at the start?
There were a lot of girls wearing all of my stuff and this pretty much helped out a lot. This is how NAKT Army started. A lot of people were excited about my designs and helped me all the time.
What really comes forward the most with your brand, is NAKT Army. You have all of those models wearing your designs, going out in them, walking fashion shows, sharing them on Instagram, but also creating a video together about the techno scene integrating your brand. In this way your brand has gained attention through so many channels. So where did the idea come from to set up your own army?
For real like, I was watching the story of Alexander Wang and he mentioned this thing about the Wang army, ‘That’s a nice idea, I thought.’ I could also have a NAKT Army. It’s also fitting because this techno scene, is kind of like military, the buildings are strong, the industrial vibe, the aesthetics of the techno clubs in Berlin, and the music is really hard.
It’s like a community
Exactly, there is a lot of connection to military. And this is also reflected in the clothes, they look pretty hard and the cuts are hard, the colour is just black and that’s actually why I thought let’s do it. So then I created NAKT Army for the whole team.
Where did you find the models for NAKT Army? Were they your friends already?
Most of them I approached through Instagram, and they became friends over time.
When was the breakthrough point of NAKT in terms of attracting a lot of attention to the brand?
I think it’s since the big fashion show. It gave a lot more attention to the brand. Griessmuehle also helped us a lot at this point. They let us use their property for an afterparty. The names in the line-up were big ones, some of which we could never afford. We never attracted that many people and the event at Griessmuehle generated a lot of attention. After that, every little thing; for example last loft party, gave us even more attention and of course the NAKT girls, the people who wear our stuff, bring so much attention to our brand every day. But also our show at the Berlin Music Video Awards.
The loft parties are quite an interesting way of brand promotion. You’re hosting a party which fits perfectly with the brand and the concept. Aside from being a celebration – people visit your parties, see the clothes in the setting it is ment for: an industrial venue, people in dresscode, hard techno, this edgy underground vibe. It’s a cool and smart way of integrating your brand with something fun and giving it the right attention. Mostly when you have a brand, you just have a brand you know. But you have parties, fashion shows, an army. I also saw that you have NAKT records running? Can you tell me more about that?
I thought about doing it; setting up my own recordlabel. We have a few DJ’s. We always have them at our event because I know they play the kind of techno that I like – hard techno.
We thought of creating a NAKT record label. We still have this idea, but we haven’t published it or put a lot of effort in it because we want to keep our focus on NAKT. It’s nice to have new ideas. We also want to set up a model agency but we thought, maybe this is too much for now. At one point when the time is right we might put a lot of effort in it and publish it big, but at the moment we keep it all together.
On your website you wrote ‘The clothes are reviewed by the club crowd selectors of Berlin.’ I was intrigued by this statement – do you mean the club’s bouncers?
I mean, we have bouncers that are wearing NAKT. This Berlin techno scene still is and tries to be, sort of underground. Of course they don’t want to connect to any kind of commercial brand. This is totally OK. Of course it would be super nice if the bouncers at Berghain would be dressed in ‘No photos, No GHB’ jackets [laughs].
Yeah that would be an interesting proposal!
Yeah maybe I will give them the jackets for free [laughs]. But style is an important factor to getting in somewhere, however it’s not just about style it’s also the vibe you have. We also don’t want to tell the people, ‘with our clothes you can get into any club.’ We don’t want to make this promise. And also, that’s not the point, you should feel good and comfortable inside of the club when wearing it. And most of the time you wear a jacket over it so you can’t even see it.