Who: Judith Milberg, Artist Where: Munich Judith Milberg is multitasking…
Who: Adrian Runhof
Where: Berlin, Germany
For 26 years, the Munich fashion label Talbot Runhof stands for classic elegance and feminine eveningwear. When US actress Kristen Stewart appeared years ago in a black Talbot Runhof robe during the Oscars, the designer duo also made the international breakthrough. Not just celebs appreciate the timeless look of Johnny Talbot and Adrian Runhof. It is important to both designers that women of normal proportions also make a good figure in their clothes. I have an appointment with the two Munich residents in Berlin, where they live in a pied-à-terre in the back of their showroom, which opened in 2017 in Berlin-Charlottenburg. However, Meet Me for Tea takes place without Johnny Talbot, who spontaneously assists a client with her bridal gown selection. An interview with Adrian Runhof. Not just about fashion.
MyStylery: It’s cozy here…
Adrian Runhof: The apartment has been completely renovated. The previous occupant died in this room. So firstly we had to get rid of the “bad vibrations”.
MS: I always find it exciting to see who has lived in such an old apartment before.
AR: Me too. In my Hamburg apartment in the Schlüterstraße, at the corner of Johnsallee, lived a Cape Horner once…
MS: A sailor?
AR: Exactly, one who sailed around the Cape Horn. I happened to meet my neighbor on the street in the middle of the night, when he told me en passant that the captain had died in my apartment. From then on, I could not be in the apartment any more, imagined a one-eyed person with a wooden leg, saw him ghosting around in my apartment at night. Suddenly, I also realized that something was always creaking in the apartment. That was scary.
MS: Seems like the childish fantasies appeared then. Do you like to think back to your childhood?
AR: No, not really. Although, of course, I am grateful to have been born and raised in this country.
MS: How did you experience your childhood?
AR: As a kid, I felt locked up. My parents’ house was not the environment, in which a child could to grow up happily. It felt more like a bourgeois museum where nothing was allowed to break. My parents were always worried about us, they were afraid of kidnapping. We lived in a huge Art Nouveau villa, from whose windows I could watch the other children playing in the street. I was not allowed to play, because we always had to stay on our property, on which there was a large garden with a swing, slide and sandpit. The other children were not allowed to come to us either. My siblings and I always played in threes.
AR: Do you feel sorry for me?
MS: Yes. Your parents probably had their reasons. But for you children that must have been difficult to understand.
AR: That’s true.
MS: You come from a wealthy home. Did you want to prove anything to your parents by doing your own thing?
AR: That was not the point. It was important to me to never depend on my parents. They made it clear from the beginning that I would not get anything anyway. While other children from the well-heeled circle of friends of my parents were overridden real estates. The fact that I later actually inherited something was a big surprise.
MS: And how did you free yourself from the childhood trauma of being locked up?
AR: I went to Munich, that was always my absolute longing. As a teenager I browsed through the Bild Zeitung and Bunte magazin, saw the column of the author Michael Graeter and thought, there can be nothing better than Schwabing. I studied in Munich and met Johnny. That was my lifeline.
MS: And then came Paris.
AR: I already knew Paris from my youth, was street-smart and felt like I belonged there. Actually, I’m someone who likes to be everywhere at the same time. When we were in Amsterdam, I wanted to move there straight away, and I felt the same way with London.
MS: In which Parisian arrondissement do you live?
AR: In the first. We are there every two months. But I also like to be in Berlin and I am glad that we have our little apartment here. We also visit Zurich regularly and commute between the cities.
MS: Living out of the suitcase. That sounds like a certain restlessness…
AR: …that I do not like very much. I like to arrive. But do not like to leave. But this is brought along by the fashion circus (laughs).
MS: And which of your locations do you prefer?
AR: Munich. Munich stands for continuity, nobody moves away, everything is in its place. In Paris, you never know before, whether it was broken in, there was a water damage or a mouse infestation during your absence.
MS: You have been in the fashion business for 26 years. How do you manage to survive in the industry?
AR: It has a lot to do with discipline. We have to design 32 pieces per collection, the show in Paris is coming, there’s a lot of pressure on us. You have to be good at different things at the same time. Creativity, courage, a good product, commercial know-how, contact care are among them. But you also have to recognize your own potential, explore your own limits, always be honest with yourself. We have a good team. As for Johnny and me, we both do everything.
MS: It did not always work out for you. Your cleaning lady had to help you with a cash injection in the beginning.
AR: That was really the case. Since then it has been uphill, though in small steps. We still have to do our calculations today. Thus we are self-financed. We do not have the big investor in the background.
MS: Your strength?
AR: I can hide my dilettance well. I have learned nothing and cannot do anything really well.
MS: Is this supposed to be fishing for compliments?
AR: I can do a lot a little good. I cannot read balances, cannot draw, have no patience, can not express myself creatively.
MS: That sounds a bit desperate. Maybe you put the scale on yourself too high.
AR: No. That’s my self-image. During my studies, I always bought all the books that were recommended to us. With the purchase, however, I also thought that that’s enough. I had not even read a single copy. Nevertheless, I came through somehow.
MS: You made it fast into the international market. What else can come now?
AR: The industry is very dynamic, new markets in Asia, countries that I do not really care about, but still need to be served. The status quo there and the pure brand orientation isn’t for me. I miss the subversiveness.
MS: Strange that big online shops such as “Net a Porter” or “Mytheresa” do not carry your brand.
AR: Yes, and that offends me. Presumably, it’s because we do not have relevance in the new media. We just do not make printed logo shirts, where you can immediately tell, who they are from.
MS: What do you think of fashion bloggers?
AR: When we had publications in a magazine in the past, there was a measurable demand. On blogs or posts, on the other hand, there are only a few reactions. Then, a Caro Daur must have worn our dress on New Year’s Eve in Dubai. With 70,000 likes, maybe two people will get in touch and ask, where they can buy the dress.
MS: Is the hype about the fashion bloggers maybe a bubble that bursts at some point?
AR: Quite possible. But the budgets of the high-end brands are very high, they do not run out of steam so quickly. It is interesting that in the USA still 70 percent of the advertising budgets flow in print media and only 30 percent online. Here, 90 percent of digital media are consumed and only ten percent in the print sector. We rely on good PR. At the heart of our public relations work is the Defilee in Paris, where not only a great deal of energy, but also a lot of money is invested with the goal of far-reaching media coverage.
MS: What is your own digital user behavior?
AR: Of course, I also spend time on the phone all the time. Recently there was a technical problem. Then the feeling of a slight panic sets in. It’s terrible without a cell phone (laughs).
MS: Are you an online shopper?
AR: Only. I buy every spoon online and nothing in real shops anymore.
MS: The cow you milk should not be slaughtered, they say. After all, you also own stores.
AR: As a customer, I’ve always found stores horrible. How many jeans have I bought in my life, which the sellers claimed, oh, but it fits perfectly. The opposite was the case, as I found out in retrospect (laughs).
MS: Is it difficult to survive alongside the industry giants in Paris?
AR: You cannot make the mistake of comparing yourself to labels or the shows of Louis Vuitton. But it would be stupid to show the best show in Berlin and nobody comes. Whereby the Berlin Salon is a pleasing and important exception.
MS: How do you manage to separate job and private?
AR: Talbot Runhof is our project and that connects at all levels. Even though we now live separately in Munich, we do a lot together. In Berlin, we shop together at the KaDeWe, in Paris, on the market. The German actors Nadja Tiller and Walter Giller were once asked for the recipe for a long partnership: You just have to accept that you cannot change the other one. And there is some truth in it. Johnny stands closest to me, that’s a very special kind of intimacy, and that’s great. We also have a common dog, a Border Terrier, an important and connecting factor.
MS: And you drink tea…
AR: Absolutely. In the morning we start with ginger tea. Detoxing and staying healthy is important to me. By the way, the KPM cups are great. I was spontaneously happy, when I saw them here earlier and hoped that they would be our latest achievement. The colors match perfectly to the green of our walls (laughs). Of the many dishes I inherited from home, there are very few things that I like. A glass series from the sixties of Theresienthal with a gold rim, for example, that stood in a showcase at my parents’. At ours it is being used. Even at the risk that something breaks. That’s part of it.
MS: You manage to reinvent yourself over and over again. Talbot Runhof features films such as “High Society”, you designed “Fashion 2 Sea” for the MS Europa2 and “Couture feather tops” for the Meiersche Art Institution.
AR: That’s right. Whenever we meet people who we find interesting, we say: Let’s do something together. We do not go out of ideas so fast. BvH
Contact Adrian Runhof