Functional Aesthetics: An Interview With Berlin’s Performance Wear Star JOHANNA F. SCHNEIDER

JOHANNA F. SCHNEIDER is a Berlin-based designer whose work shifts between between fashion and performance wear. Having designed for German designer Kostas Murkudis as well as for performance wear brands Acronym and Stone Island, the designer takes an architectural approach to the human form while maintaining an equal focus on aesthetic and function. 032c sat down with Schneider to discuss designing performance wear for women as well as her collaboration with Nike, which was revealed last week with a presentation in Berlin.

JFS x NIKE

DARRYL NATALE: Can you describe the collection and the pieces you did for your collaboration with Nike?

JOHANNA F. SCHNEIDER: I wanted to make pieces that are modular and useful in different ways. This collection represents a set of performance pieces which you can combine and adjust, based on your needs during and around your workout. All garments of the collection are build to move and interact with the women’s body. The combination of pattern work and materials emphasize a rotation of hiding and revealing parts of the body in a very sensual way.

unnamed-3I wanted to create new volumes, so I decided to build new patterns entirely from hand. The way I worked from my side was more traditional. We made paper patterns, sewed the prototypes in Berlin, had testing fittings for all the pieces.

All the drawings were made on paper. I wanted to bring the designs back to the basics. The prints were done with handmade illustrations, then scanned, and finally put on the garment in a way that they interacted with the body.

This handmade and physical development process fused with Nikes innovative performance expertise symbolizes a new way to create women’s performance pieces with personality and mind.

The other performance wear brands you work for are quite niche. Was your approach different when working for a brand as large as Nike?

For me it’s essential to first understand the company’s processes, the people behind it, and their way of working and ideology. Working with Nike, everything was on a bigger scale which made it challenging but allowed me to refine my design habits. Every project and collection I work for has its own thinking, rules and parameters. There’s always a different approach and that’s what keeps it interesting.

JFS x NIKEAfter I had developed my pattern work and illustrated graphics I met with the Nike women’s training team from Portland and we fused both sets of expertise together.  They also showed me their innovations in fabric and material. It was a really exciting exchange of knowledge and development processes and it was interesting because it was mostly women designing for women, which is rare. This teamwork was the source to discover new rules and seek parameters for women’s training apparel.

Womenswear has traditionally been neglected in terms of performance wear. Why do you think this is?

A lot of it has to do with how the garment is being communicated to the customer. If you produce a performance wear jacket, a lot of the information being communicated to the buyer is about the function and technical parameters of the material. It’s all function. This way of presenting a garment works perfectly for menswear, but womenswear is a different market altogether. Our decision process is based on aesthetics, how we react on a garment’s silhouette, material, pattern work and details. All this has to be integrated into the function. It’s the first impression that counts, so different methods of communication have to be used.

Are there any innovations in sportswear in the past years that have really changed the way you work?

What I really appreciate as a woman is that the materials being used in performance wear are becoming softer and less noisy. From the production point of view it’s also becoming much less complicated and more wearable. There are also new technologies from Switzerland, specifically from Schoeller. There have been huge developments in energy-conserving materials, which gives you an advantage in sportswear but also for city living. These are all aspects which are relevant and useful for womenswear.

JFS x NIKE

This is obviously a kind of high point for the performance wear industry right now in terms of mass appeal. How do you think we got to this point?

Fashion and performance wear have definitely come together in the past few years. There’s been a growing mutual interest and appreciation between the two industries and now they’ve finally started to exchange knowledge. I’ve always been inspired and fascinated by both.

I think the reason it’s so popular at the moment is due to the way people access their information now. They’re more open to different channels and sources when they’re researching and the result is a new self-confidence in the way people combine and use their garments. Especially for women, there’s a lot more playfulness. It reminds me of the late 90s, but with different reference points and different volumes. From the performance and construction point of view it’s a different way of presenting content than fashion. You can feel and read these pieces. There’s something more going on than just aesthetics. That’s what’s new about it.

JFS x NIKEHow do you decide whether or not a piece will lean towards fashion or performance? Do you separate the two?

I never separate aesthetics from function. I really respect both techniques and points of views and I try to combine them. They aren’t necessarily exclusive of one another either. The historical advances in tailoring and craftsmanship are often a matter of function. And new innovations in sportswear are also often inspired by aesthetics. The bridge between the two is to integrate aesthetics as a function.

NikeLab x JFS will be available from February 26 via NikeLab.

Interview 101
Johanna Schneider
Nike 9