Maria Koch is the designer behind 032c Apparel. We met her for an interview in her Berlin apartment
Toastie, a Fox Terrier who jumps in the air with all fours when greeting friends only to take off seconds later like a flash through the family home – aka the Koch’s ultra-cool loft and consequently the hearth of the 032c gang – is hyperactive in a way that appears to form a magnetic attraction with Maria’s calm and reasoned manner.
Maria Koch is one of those new very special women who you can’t describe with one or two or even three adjectives. For me, she is a walking contradiction.
As graceful as a queen in a Disney film, she is waiting for us at 10 in the morning already half made-up by her friend, super pro Natalie Franz, in her living room, a space completely covered by purple Vorwerk carpeting. She greets us with a girlish laugh and it’s just then that I notice that she’s wearing 032c Apparel tracksuit bottoms with an 80s logo print. Over about the fourth coffee (including cigarettes) she explains to me that this morning was so relaxed because there was no school involved – her son is unfortunately lying sick in the next room – and up until this point in the morning she had “only” had to take the dog out and go buy flowers. Prussian values a stone’s throw from rough and ready Kottbusser Tor in deepest Kreuzberg.
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It’s perhaps specifically for this reason that her look and what she does is so believable and GENUINE. The moment during our film shoot that I liked the most was when Maria was explaining where the street wear hype comes from and why every fashion-conscious person wants to wear a simple hoodie – from a selected source and an explicit saying on it – but is wearing a silk blouse and very high heels by Gucci. Everyone in our team had to start laughing because it was simply too good. This woman isn’t just cooler than the police allow, she’s also unbelievably nice and can laugh about herself.
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For the last year 032c Apparel has been bringing out a new capsule collection every six weeks, and which regularly sell out in record time. The pieces are for sale directly on location in 032c’s exhibition space on the site of the brutalist St. Agnes Church, online through 032c’s own website, and through worldwide 20 selected Stores, among others at Broken Arms, Lane Crawford, Selfridges, The Webster and Ssense. There are also pop-up shops at irregular intervals and the next stop is Seoul.
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There’s more information about this #WOMANweLOVE in these selected quotes:
Veronika Heilbrunner: If you’re going to spend the weekend in Italy, how many suitcases do you take with you?
Maria Koch: I’ve trained myself down, but still at least two. But also a crazy amount of cosmetics. Unbelievable. For example, I take five nail polishes with me because I still don’t know what I’m going to wear, or how the location and mood is going to be, and then of course always want to be perfectly prepared. Which, of course, never works.
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Veronika Heilbrunner: That sounds like a classic perfectionist to me. How does that affect the design process? Are you always improving something?
Maria Koch: Astoundingly, it’s the other way around. When I’m thinking of ideas, I always immediately know exactly what color it should be. I don’t need to do tests. And then there are always big conversations over there (she means the 032c offices, which are about 20 meters away), where we all discuss how it should be because some people always want to see it bigger or smaller. I don’t understand that at all, because I always know what it should look like. There I’m always very curt and strict and absolutely can’t see a variation.
Veronika Heilbrunner: I find that really impressive. That would be really difficult for me.
Maria Koch: It annoys me – and it’s a fairly rare occurrence – when the others are right, when something that I didn’t want to see yet again is the stronger version. But that doesn’t happen so often.
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Veronika Heilbrunner: Is the city of Berlin an inspiration for you? Or do you think that the 032c platform and your way of living would work elsewhere, too?
Maria Koch: Absolutely. It doesn’t matter where. We live in Berlin because it enables us to interweave our private life with our profession in a way that works well for us. But I could imagine just as well living in Los Angeles or in Frankfurt. They are just cities that I like for many reasons. I don’t need Berlin for a sense of identity, but I like it an awful lot because it offers me the setup of feeling very good even though it’s not so amazingly beautiful. I couldn’t live in Paris, for example, because I always have the feeling that I have to uncover things. When everything’s so beautiful, then I get sluggish. I like it a lot when I have to go back and forth between poles and actively and consciously determine “oh, that’s so ugly” or “well, that’s gross!”. Cities like that are too lukewarm for me.
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Shop the Look:
phOTOS: MIRIAM MARLENE WALDNER
VIDEO: KATINKA OMIR
hair & MAKE-UP: NATALIE FRANZ VON MAGIC STRIPES
PRODUcTION ASSISTant: CATARINA MARQUES TELES
Translation: Melissa Frost
Born and raised in Munich/Germany, Veronika’s professional career has developed from being a model to a fashion editor, to online luxury retailing and most recently style editor of Harpers Bazaar Germany. She currently lives in Berlin where in the beginning of 2015 she started a company with Julia Knolle, the ex-editor at large of Vogue Digital.
Oh, and she loves pugs!