Johannes Broehl Cronau is the incred brains behind Ioannes — a label that very successfully presented an AW18 collection at Palais de Tokyo during Paris Fashion Week Women’s back in February.
The collection fused masculine and feminine in a way that makes our high school outsider art nerd hearts truly flutter: through cues taken from Virginia Woolf’s protagonist, Orlando. With that, he produces bulky knits, cropped puffers, silky dresses with panels that so elegantly slap the shins, and these flipping gloves that have puffy sleeves attached at the top. Over those, we are dead.
Hey Johannes, when did you first fall in love with a piece of clothing — or the idea of fashion?
Hi, thank you so much for sending me these lovely questions, I am now using my time on the train from Paris to London to go through them. All my strong associations for clothes date back to my earliest memories as a child. Surprisingly I never really cared that much about fashion at all. But I loved to play dressing up using old clothes from my grandmother or parents, even blankets or old curtains, and I still love the idea of playfulness and endless possibilities of cloth, that a blanket could be a pirates raft, a tent or a kings robe.
And what made you realise you wanted to make clothes, or that you were good at making them?
What drives me most now is to keep exactly that open mindset and fascination with the artistic almost naive gesture of creation. I felt fashion held the promise to keep an open mindset, to continue playing and allow myself to create a world that is more than just the product, something that could give me a framework in which to inject ideas. like a laboratory for thoughts.
Is your family creative… or fashionable?
From my mothers side I come from a family with a long history of carpenters, so I grew up in a workshop environment. I also turn a lot to my mum’s wardrobe pieces from the 90s, a lot of Jil Sander, Calvin Klein suits and some brands I never heard of but incredible silhouettes that function as a base to create my own draping around and cutting around. For my current collection there is a picture of my mother in her early 20s in which she is hiking in the Dolomites in pink suede pumps… so yes she used to be very fashionable. My father is an artist at heart, who now lives a very alternative lifestyle. I have always been in an environment of construction and creation.
What was your upbringing like?
As I mentioned earlier I grew up in a very workshop environment in a provincial town in the middle of Germany where nothing was going on if you were not that boy who is into soccer… The first years I lived with my mum who was very young at my grandmothers house and I basically was dragged along when she and her friends started getting ready to go out, I really enjoyed observing and being part of that grown up culture. Other than that I spent most of my childhood playing outside or in the forest and build my own universe around books I found at home about architecture, art and art history. I still have a very old book about Parisian interiors that I used to be my template for my grown up life fantasies.
I see lots of references in your work, from detailed outwear to elegant sleeve work — what points in fashion history/style influence you most?
Starting my own brand I really had to give a garment reality to my former quite abstract and almost formless shapes and cutting techniques. There is either a certain silhouette, gesture or construction that functions as a staring point. I am a bit obsesses with early renaissance painters such as Piero della Francesca, Jan van Eyck or colour palette of Masaccio. Otherwise contemporary minimal art that focuses on an abstract expressionistic gesture, this season I have looked a lot at Pina Bausch.. so it is really about expression and artistic gesture really. I lately turn a lot at workwear detailing as it gives my more draped and floaty pieces are sense of solidity.
I read that you did an internship with Haider Ackermann, what were the most memorable things you got to work on?
A skirt for Kim Kardashian. Well and that aside, Haider is an extremely rare person to work for these days. He is very sensual in his colour palette and fabric choices are just purely beautiful. I worked as an assistant in the studio so not design involved and I learned a lot about the quality and importance of construction, cutting and fitting, all elements that constitute a beautiful garment. The absolute essentials I think — it was pretty tough but one of the most important lessons I learned.
And how did that experience influence your own work?
I went to do my MA at Central Saint Martins after which was the complete opposite. All about expression, research and doing a lot of things very quickly! Completely overwhelming yet the most exciting time of my life until then. I am trying to link the both together now.
I’ve got to ask you about these puffy gloves — what inspired them?
I was sitting in the living room of a really dear friend, a writer, and there was this 1980s puff sleeve costume hanging in her wardrobe, something I never thought she would wear. It was a memory of her wilder days. It is the opposite of what I find beautiful but I got a bit obsessed with its exaggerated and almost vulgar shape. So I started to play with the elements of that jacket and once I was done shredding it into pieces the gloves came about! There is always a lot of elements I take from my immediate environment and friends.
Do you think it might become a repeating theme through your work? For me they almost reference the boots with gathers on top that you’d made previously…
Most definitely! I am happy to say that the Puff Sleeve Gloves are having a comeback next season! I am happy you say that, I think it is nice to have these fun elements to lighten up my usually a little bit too thought heavy collections! They take out the steam a bit!
What you make is quite editorial — not to say it isn’t wearable, more that it must be incredibly fun to style. Do you have an affinity for styling as well as garment construction?
As I just mentioned I really enjoyed throwing completely different elements together. The core collection always comes from one though experiment and it is nice to have some lightness. In the end Fashion should be fun for everyone involved, the designer, the stylist, the model and the customer of course! But to be honest fittings and stylings before the show are my worst nightmare, to be confronted with what you have been working on for many months is sometimes completely overwhelming.
Do you have a favourite stylist?
I work closely with Alessia Vannini who became a very good friend and involved from the very beginning with research and ideas for the collection, story and presentation.
Your most recent collection, AW18, is called ‘Orlando’ after Virginia Woolf’s work, and references her quote, “memory is the seamstress…”. What is it that attracted you to this?
‘Orlando’ was a dialogue between past and present. Usually I do not look at vintage pieces in my research as I want to be as unbiased as possible. But the last time I felt the urge to try a new way of working in which I brought various elements of emotional attachment together to present a distinctive point of view. There is a small number of pieces I have been collection throughout the years; my mums Jil Sander Suit she was wearing at her wedding in 94, a coat that belonged to my grandam and various collectables such as my friends puff sleeve costume… The result were garments that varied from practical to playful, effortlessly oscillated between the masculine and the feminine. Taking cues from each of these worlds, the result was a section of a woman’s wardrobe she collected throughout her life… Virginia Woolf’s eponymous protagonist Orlando lend itself to the theme naturally. I tried to treasure each piece and give them a new beginning.
Thinking of memories… do you have a favourite from your life?
I really am blessed with a very supportive family and close friends. Everyone in her or his ways is leaving a huge fingerprint in my life. Thinking about it I am trying to treasure this very moment of becoming a brand, where my studio and living conditions are still intertwined and far away from glamorous, quite the opposite but very exciting.
And… what happens next for you?
Moving the entire studio to Paris from London! Reason why I am constantly back and forth at the moment. I am very excited to share a more intimate insight of the brand and our way of working!