Over the past few years, Berlin-based fashion line Don't Shoot The Messengers (DSTM) has cast a very powerful spell. The clothes and brand aesthetic exemplify so much of what The Brvtalist is about, that when we discovered the line, there was a feeling of pure elation. Canadian-born designer Jen Gilpin is the couturier behind the dark, provocative and luxurious collections. Together with her husband, photographer Maxime Ballesteros, DSTM has also contributed some of the most compelling and captivating imagery we have seen in the fashion world and beyond. Drawing from a wide variety of influences and utilizing some of the most cutting edge designs and fabrics, Ms. Gilpin has created an incredibly unique body of work. Further, one of the central design elements is the color black, so it was pretty obvious we wanted to talk. Below please find the Q&A where we discuss Ms. Gilpin's creative process, the brand's new store and the latest collection.
*All photographs © Maxime Ballesteros
The Brvtalist: I would like to talk a little about your creative process. For starters, we love that black is the core element of your designs, and they always carry a dark edge while staying very luxurious at the same time. What inspired you to create this kind of combination?
Jen Gilpin: Yohji Yamamoto says it best, "Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy - but mysterious. But above all black says this: ‘I don’t bother you - don’t bother me." I love the combination of a tough, seductive and elegant woman. My influences come from many places but a short list at the moment would be Art Deco and Art Nouveau, traditional Japanese design, Film Noir, Sci-Fi, Islamic art, architecture, geometry, fetish, nature, and the unconscious.
TB: How do you approach each season? When dealing with monochrome palates, details are everything. What sort of things go through your mind when starting a new collection?
JG: I see the process as a sort of spiral or labyrinth - starting on the outside and working my way toward the center. The big picture starts first with a feeling of the collection, then working in to find the details, lines, and shapes and finally at the end, standing in the middle of it refining the edges. I have always loved craft and try to incorporate a new crafting technique into each collection. Some element of handwork is always present. Also, the beginning of a collection is always exciting - it starts with a feeling, and the process of discovering what that looks like is always interesting. I love the dialogue between the body and the clothing that covers it. There is so much inspiration from the shapes and forms of the body. It is a play of expression of the body origin, describing what is underneath from what is on top.
TB: We were lucky enough to visit the original store when we were in Berlin this past fall. Can you talk a little bit about the new space? What did you want to do with it and how do you think it compliments your designs?
JG: We are now on Torstr. 161 in Mitte. I love this street. It is full of all sorts of different businesses, and the shop front reminds me of a NY boutique. We painted the original pillars in front a shinny black and are starting a collection of vintage Rootstein mannequins to display the clothing. Our studio is connected out the back and we have an amazing workspace with room to grow. It feels sometimes more like home than home. In the boutique, we also have a changing display of Maxime Ballesteros prints that are for sale as well.
TB: Is the city of Berlin a big inspiration for you? Being from Los Angeles, we happen to love the contrast of sleek black design elements with the bright sunny landscape of our city. Do you think about the wearer's environment when designing?
JG: The thing I love most about Berlin is the amount of space. The city is like a choose your own adventure book. It will not get in your way, and you can choose how you want to live here. I try to design collections that can flow through one's life from day to day and night to night - from the foundation layer of body wear to the outer. Pieces that travel well and can work in any environment. I only wear DSTM now except for shoes, which one-day will be part of the collection. When I try to wear other clothing now it doesn’t fit with my skin.
TB: Let's talk about the latest collection, S/S 15 - I noticed some white in there, which I love. What was the idea behind this collection and talk about your favorite pieces.
JG: The S/S15 collection started with looking at the shapes and rope tying of Shibari. My favorite pieces are the rope harnesses; they are at once delicate and strong. I like a few lighter tones in Spring, although I still wear mostly black.
TB: Maxime Ballesteros helps to provide the incredible images and environments you create. I am interested in your working relationship and the dynamic between you two.
JG: When I met Maxime I was starting the first DSTM collection. We collaborated on the first shoot and have continued ever since. Him, his photos and way of being are a huge inspiration for the collection and I. We work together very often. I assist him on shoots and creative projects, and he assists me and shoots every collection.
Thank you to Jen Gilpin for contributing these wonderful, insightful responses. I believe we have found even more reasons to love the brand. If you are fortunate enough to be in Berlin, please visit the new shop, located at Tor Strasse 161 Berlin DE-10115. For more information, collections and e-shop, go to www.dstm.co. You can also find them on Instagram and Facebook. We look forward to covering many more collections from one of our favorite fashion houses.