Who: Fiona Bennett Where: Berlin Meet me 4 Tea Since…
Who: Anna von Griesheim, fashion designer
For 25 years, fashion designer Anna von Griesheim has been an expert in elegant evening dresses and daywear. Born in Munich, she dresses celebrities and politicians such as Chancellor Angela Merkel and advises women on style issues. She commutes between Zurich, Mallorca and Berlin, where I meet Anna for a cup of tea and a little chat.
MyStylery: Anna, has a woman who goes shopping in sweatpants given up on fashion?
Anna von Griesheim: When I go to yoga, I also wear sportswear. And nothing is more comfortable than cashmere trousers for a cuddly day at home. But jogging pants as a constant companion are a no-go.
MS: Why do successful women dress like their male colleagues? Does the trouser suit stand for competence?
AvG: Yeah, still. The pantsuit serves as a shield, especially in male-dominated professions. I encourage my female customers to wear dresses. We live in a time in which intelligence, success in life and femininity are not mutually exclusive. Women in an androgynous look miss their femininity.
MS: You advise female leaders on their appearance.
AvG: Women want to be well dressed without worrying about their outfit every day. When they go on a business trip, they expect a wrinkle-free, comfortable wardrobe that fits in their hand luggage. They don’t want any recognizable logos or a sexy-hexy look. Clothing is a form of communication. It conveys an attitude to life and expresses what one wants to portray and convey.
MS: Not every woman looks good in every colour.
AvG: That’s right. Look, my skin tends to yellowish, which is why I harmonize with warm colours. You, on the contrary, are a light skin type that is well suited to blue tones, for example. I recommend every woman a well-founded colour consultation on which to build wardrobe and makeup.
MS: My wardrobe is really not small. Nevertheless, I stand in front of it and wonder what on earth to put on. Most of the time I wear the same pieces.
AvG: Well, we all know that. Some women have a keen sense of fashion, they start to mix happily: Zara, Hermès, plus a vintage piece, that’s their perfect look. But that’s rather the exception. Most women are overwhelmed by their own wardrobe. Why not go back to the tried and tested? We often find our counterparts interesting because we recognize them. Jackie Kennedy has remained true to her iconic style and always looked great.
MS: It’s like cleaning out clothes that haven’t been worn for two years or more. Now it’s time for velvet blouses, which I disposed of in the 90s.
AvG: But honestly, would you wear them again this time? I advise you to regularly sort your wardrobe. Get an overview by putting together complete outfits, including accessories. If you don’t want professional advice, ask your best friend. First of all, put the pieces aside well packed and decide after a certain time whether you want to part with them for good.
MS: Trends don’t really bother me anymore. When Leo patterns and berry tones are hip this winter, I don’t really care. How do you feel about it?
AvG: Exactly the same. That’s why I’m not looking for the latest trend for my collections. My designs should accompany customers for a few years.
MS: Does good taste depend on the size of the purse?
AvG: The variety of fashion today is bigger than ever. With a bit of intuition, you can put together great outfits at low cost labels. So, good taste has nothing to do with budget. What I find terrible, however, is the production of cheap clothes by child labour, which are so full of plastic that they can never be dismantled again. This is irresponsible from an ecological point of view.
MS: What do you do with mispurchases?
AvG: Don’t let it happen in the first place (laughs). If I want to do something good for myself, I’d rather buy a book, go to an exhibition or do yoga. This is balm for the soul.
MS: What belongs in the wardrobe of a mature woman?
AvG: Two well-cut dresses made of soft material like jersey, which you wear during the day with sneakers and in the evening with pumps or ankle boots. A trouser suit whose blazer also works well with a pair of jeans. The white blouse provides a fresh complexion. And a classic trench coat. My favourite piece is a knitted coat, which I can quickly throw over.
MS: And what should we avoid?
AvG: Too tight tops that emphasize disadvantageous areas instead of concealing them. I find the partner look very creepy in the leisure sector and both in the same outdoor jacket. Leggings may be comfortable, but they are not leg flatterers at all. And please always buy the right size and not a size too small in the hope of losing weight. Beware of wild patterns. With a plain look, you are on the safe side. Combine it with a colourful scarf or patterned cloth.
MS: A friend recently said that she doesn’t wear knee-length skirts. She persistently wears her minis.
AvG: Not everything that looks younger makes younger. Our body changes over the years. Unfortunately (laughs). Often the upper body looks more compact, which is accentuated by a skirt that is too short. Women who used to get compliments for their legs look like a barrel on two toothpicks. Everyone has something beautiful about them and that should be the focus.
MS: Why are French or Italian women dressed so much better than German women? Even when they go to the weekly market, they do it very elegant.
AvG: This is due to the traditions and self-image of women. Elegance seems to be arrested in their DNA. I’ve lived in France for a long time and I know that compliments are part of communication and have something playful about them. They are part of everyday life in France and don’t end up in the Metoo debate. This also has an effect on the dress style. In Germany, the natural feeling for femininity was eliminated with the Second World War.
MS: There is a North-South divide in clothing issues in Germany. While Hanseatic women dress more classically casual and Munich women like to dress traditionally elegant, the style of the Berlin woman has something indefinable.
AvG: Berlin is a reservoir is for individualists. This longing for uniqueness is not compatible with given dress codes. Nevertheless, young women in Prenzlauer Berg all look the same. They want to come across as casual and easy-going, but they seem rather uniform. By the way, also a kind of dress code.
MS: I only think about how German actors walk the red carpet: They come in a T-shirt instead of a tuxedo shirt. What has gone wrong? The liberation from the fashion dictatorship or just bad education?
AvG: Good question. Maybe a lack of mindfulness. Or an after-effect of the 1968ers and the associated urge for freedom, which could hardly be lived out in the closed-off Berlin. A tuxedo is not only a sign of esteem for the artists on stage or the musicians in the orchestra pit, but also symbolizes an attitude to life. I hope for a renaissance of good manners.
MS: Apropos, may I pour you some more tea?
AvG: With pleasure. Tea is my wellness program through the winter. I grew up with tea. My grandparents lived on Sumatra, where they had plantations, from where my father brought the tradition of drinking tea to Germany. And I have been used to drinking tea since childhood. Every morning my mother woke me up with a toast and an Earl Grey tea. Today I drink myself through the whole range of black, green and herbal teas. Always served in an antique silver pot, which is in daily use with us.
MS: You started with your own label in 1991 and have been represented with your own brand in Germany ever since. Have you ever thought about expanding abroad?
AvG: There have been international inquiries. But in retrospect, I’m very happy to be working only in Germany. I decide alone and don’t have to ask anyone. You can only do big things with big partners. And I never wanted to be the plaything of different interests. BvH
Contact Anna von Griesheim
The interview-series “Meet me for Tea” is sponsored by KPM – Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin.
More MyStylery interviews you’ll find here.