It was through a friend I met Jade Helene Shimmin and we started talking about her work and influences. After many exchanged whatsapp messages we set a date for me to visit her in her own Berlin based boutique, Level Eight based in Mitte. Jade Helene studied fashion at FEDISA in South Africa. Her mother worked in fashion as a model and her father is an artist so she very much grew up around the creative world of design and fashion. Jade tells me she has always wanted to be a designer and takes great joy in creating something for people to adore but also make it theirs.
All Tomorrows Parties: Tell me your journey from home to Berlin.
A: After graduating in fashion I was eager to explore the world. I showed my collection “Be Inspired” at Amsterdam Fashion Week. It was an Asian inspired colour fest and I after my adventures in Amsterdam I was ready to change it up. I moved to Berlin in 2013 and I’ve been here ever since.
All Tomorrows Parties: What does Berlin mean to you?
A: The city has no judgment and feels extremely liberal and is most unlike the rest of Germany. It’s open to interpretation which is exactly how I want people to feel about my clothes. The very idea that you can mix a ball gown with sneakers shows the industrial side of the city paired with something striking. It was at first the grey skies set against the hard skyline that first drew me in, a playground of expression and dark moods.
All Tomorrows Parties: How do you feel about the idea of the Berlin Uniform?
A: It’s true that when you ask people who don’t live in Berlin what they expect people to wear here in Berlin it’s black, sneakers and very casual but I think yes whilst people do this it’s not a following of others its that it works. It’s sexy, hip, grungy and practical. Black is a mood, it’s the Berghain uniform. You’re going to stand out if you’re in a pretty pink dress, there’s no judgment but you’ll stand out. I believe we are shaped by thoughts. We believe what we think and it’s a living experience, again this is what I want people to experience with my designs. The very feel of the fabric, the cut, the colour. It’s all selected for a reason. I love to see how people mix up my designs and the same dress can be worn 8 different ways but I’ve formed the foundation of that outfit.
All Tomorrows Parties: Tell me about your work process.
A: I never make more than 6 pieces. I really love that exclusivity vibe which is why I won’t venture out of boutique sales. I love to have that interaction with the client and let them understand the clothes from my point of view and then see how they are going to incorporate it into their lives. I’m a bit of a technophobe, I prefer to draw all my designs by hand, only if I really have to do use the computer. The fabrics are sourced by myself from India, Malaysia and South Africa. I want quality that’s not necessary ridiculous expensive but it makes you feel good. I often sleep in my simple vest tops because the fabric feels wonderful. Life is too short to sleep in flannel pyjamas. I also love to design one of pieces for friends and clients, sitting with them and drawing out ideas challenges me but it’s also great fun.
All Tomorrows Parties: How did you store Level Eight come about?
A: I met Pearly Wong at Berlin Fashion Week 2015, we became friends and worked together in securing the boutique. It showcases both our works along with other works from others in Berlin, namely When Our Eyes Met and Imon Leather. I’d just finished my collection “In the Greys of Dreams” which was heavily influenced by the shitty, moody weather in Berlin and played with the colour of shadows. Pearly too works in black and white so we worked on creating a clean space, very monochromatic that would showcase our works. We got the space in December 2015 and had the official opening in Feb 2016 and here we are now.
All Tomorrows Parties: How do you feel about Berlin Fashion Week?
A: It’s very low scale, it’s definitely evolved over the years and I was pleasantly surprised his year. It’s a real mixed bag of styles, of course you get the fashion hang ons like you do at all fashion weeks. It’s that mixture of looking fabulous and looking like a twat. I’m always looking for inspiration for my works but I feel Berlin needs to showcase more designers, it always seems to be the same showing. Plus I can’t stand that everyone is on their phone, look up and see the show. A designer has spent months of sleepless nights, I’m often sewing on buttons right before the models walk the catwalk and yet the show is over in 5 minutes. Look up, experience it, that’s why I’ve decided to showcase it like that, don’t watch it through your phone or just instagram someone else’s photograph and hash tag “amazing show”.
All Tomorrows Parties: How would you describe your own style?
A: I love to shop in thrift shops and scour vintage fairs and make clothes mine. I live in jeans and only occasionally wear sneakers, I’m a heels girl. I like to utilise what’s around. I was working late in the shop and had a party to go to which was nautical themed. All I had was this red jumpsuit I’d picked up from a thrift store. It was so hot so I chopped the legs off and with the arms I’d also cut off turned them into a top. It was so revealing and my boob kept popping out all night, but I made it so I loved it. I urge people to find their own individual style, it’s what makes Berlin so cool. I’m a gypsy really, when I moved to Berlin I didn’t know anyone and it freed me because I could really be the designer I wanted to be. It’s so liberal compared to South Africa. It’s the trying to stand out without standing out and I oppose this celeb culture where everyone looks the same because of a tutorial a celebrity has posted.
All Tomorrows Parties: So what’s next?
A: To continue to bringing in new designers into Level Eight, I still love the community vibe of the place but would love to encounter more Berlin designers. I shall start work on my new line in August, based on geometry and patterns, it’ll take about four months end to end with the drawing of designs, fabric sourcing etc so if everything goes to plan it should be completed in the winter.
To check out Jade’s work and Level Eight, here are the links:
Interview by Chloe Gale