MCM Dabbles in Innovation for Spring/Summer 2022 Collection
MCM’s Global Creative Officer — Dirk Schoenberger details the globetrotting nature of the luxury maison, looking to the brands past for inspiration, and how the reimagined logo marks the start of a new chapter for MCM.
German-born luxury house MCM is revisiting its storied past and design lexicon while looking to the ever-changing future. Since its inception in the mid-1970s, the house has blended a utilitarian know-how with a particular focus on experimentation that has flourished in recent seasons.
For Spring/Summer 2022, the brand continues to innovate — this time through a reconstruction of its famed monogram. Inspired by signature house codes and drawing from its Bavarian origin, the reimagined Cubic Monogram celebrates the brand’s 45th anniversary while contextualizing its facade for the modern wardrobe.
Not only commemorating over four decades, the collection focuses on blurring the boundaries between physical and digital realities — a theme that has only become increasingly relevant over the past year. First explored as a part of its Fall/Winter 2021 collection where the brand unveiled its M’ETAVERSE concept, MCM is now updating that dynamic universe through confident ready to wear and sensible accessories.
‘The introduction of a new monogram represents our journey from past to future, indoor to outdoor, construction to deconstruction, east to west, physical to digital,” said Global Creative Officer Dirk Schoenberger. “It serves as our new Zeitgeist from virtual to hyperreality. Its multidimensional composition is a visual conceptualization of the brand’s M’ETAVERSE, featuring a repeating pattern which symbolizes a convergence of the lives our consumers lead as well as the voyages and destinations which comprise them.”
Building off of the house’s aforementioned approach to design, the campaign features a slew of exciting creatives like A$AP Nast, Stella Lucia, Kiddy Akita, and Lukas Marshall donning the collection’s energetic pieces. Spanning ready-to-wear and accessories, the collection couples the brand’s masterful craftsmanship with digital manipulation. Italian leathers and textured canvas are juxtaposed with digitally enhanced color ways — projecting the brand’s continued blurring of distortion and reality
Though MCM’s Spring/Summer collection is innately innovative in nature, it remains wholly relevant to the brand’s wider DNA: travel, leisure, exploration, and durability.
In an exclusive coversation with V, MCM’s Global Creative Officer — Dirk Schoenberger details the globetrotting nature of the luxury maison, looking to the brands past for inspiration, and how the reimagined logo marks the start of a new chapter for MCM. Read the exclusive interview below!
V MAGAZINE: So before jumping into the latest collection, I just want to get insight into the making of MCM’s global creative officer? So I’d like to hear a bit about your earlier years and where you grew up. Was there a formative moment that led you to fashion or piqued your interest?
DIRK SCHOENBERGER: I grew up in a pretty small town, next to Cologne in west Germany. So the good thing is, my formative years were probably the very late 70s and early 80s. I was influenced by the music of that time, the fashion of that time, and art of that time. That was kind of an exciting time, when all the hippie-esque 70s were smashed by punk new wave, the rise of electronic music and also very young, wild, and somehow aggressive art that came from the area where I grew up (Cologne). For me, that was definitely something that I never lost—this slightly Gothic, but definitely punk-driven aesthetic.
V: It’s definitely something that comes through in your design aesthetic even to this day. What would you say were some other influences that informed your design aesthetic.
DS: I lived in Florence. I started my studies in Florence at the end of the 80s. I got in touch with Renaissance art and the beauty of it. And I think that this has definitely given another facet to my aesthetic. I have to say though music has definitely been one of my strongest influences. When I was a kid, I was always trying to listen to the newest music back then. I think it had a strong influence on me because It was not as easily accessible as it is today. I’d try to buy the newest records and find what the new sound was, I think that was a part of the allure of it all. All of these things, all a very weird mix of music and art and also the fashion that came with it have definitely formed me to be who I am today.
V: Can you recall your first experience with design? What was the response from your family or peers like?
DS: The way I started to deal with fashion—let’s put it that way—was really to create my own uniform. As a teenager, I took old suits, took them apart, put them back together again and built my own style in a certain way. And coming from a small town, you’ve always been looked at pretty strangely—walking around in a suit when you were 14 was not necessarily something people appreciated. (Laughs)
V: And how did that manifest into actually pursuing a career in design? Was this what pushed you to become a designer?
DS: What really pushed me into fashion was really the rise of the Belgian designers, especially of Martin Margiela, who, again, trashed everything that was there in the 80s. He had this radical approach to fashion through deconstruction and that sparked this love of couture and craftsmanship. I think that this was something that really got me deeply, and also probably helped me to understand that there can be a different approach to fashion than what I knew and what I taught myself in the 80s. Comme des Garcons was always something that was inspiring me tremendously. And then later on, of course, I was a big fanboy of Helmut Lang, even when I was already designing my own brand.
V: It’s quite beautiful to hear all of this. I think it truly gives a snapshot of how all of these various elements came together to form the perfect storm…or rather ethos and aesthetic for your designs and furthermore the MCM brand.
DS: It really has.
V: You’ve been at the helm of MCM for almost three years now. What has your mission or goal been for the brand?
DS: Well, my mission for any brand I come into is really to look at its history. I mean, especially when it’s such an interesting history, I look at the history and I also look at how I can push this history into today. I think that the brand has done an excellent job being connected to culture since it started in Munich. It’s a different culture than it is today, but I always say that the brand has had this feeling of an airplane lifting off in Munich in 1976, [landing] in New York [City] in the ‘80s, settling in Asia for a bit…And now we are here in Berlin. (Laughs)
V: I like that analogy, each place MCM has landed, the brand has kind of taken a piece of that place with it.
DS: Yes and I think that being here, now, in Berlin really shows how this brand is absorbing different cultures and how it has become not like a typical German luxury brand or Korean luxury brand, but is really a true globally influenced brand. Also the success of MCM in America, and being so connected to hip hop and rap culture, I think it is really interesting and adds another nice element to the brand.
V: I agree, I remember in middle school or even high school seeing my peers with MCM backpacks so the brand definitely not only reaches different corners of the world, but also different age groups. What has it been like for you taking all these elements that make up the brand and merging them with your own influences?
DS: I see myself as being in the circus and trying to get all the influences and bring them with a consistent message to a consumer. It’s very interesting that this brand has embraced so many different inspirations and still, it looks like one brand and it all feels [cohesive]. It could definitely be leaning more towards this or that side—more to Asia, to Europe, to America, but it doesn’t. And I like that it’s very playful. My job is to get inspired by the archive and by the history of the brand, but still always look for the next thing to do with the brand and move it on, keep it current, and keep it relevant for a young consumer…for the Gen Z consumer.
V: Segueing from the history of MCM and the Maison. What are some codes from 1976 that you have adopted? You briefly just talked about how you’re keeping it relevant and just always looking for what’s new and what’s next, while also keeping the ethos of MCM. What are some codes that you often look to for inspiration?
DS: Like any other brand with a history, there are, of course, visual codes, like the super famous cognac colored all over logo that we have. But at the same time, I think that what I thought was interesting about MCM is…Munich in the 70s was a pretty rebellious, disruptive place. A lot of pop and rockstars lived there and lived their life there. Some of the codes are maybe very abstract, you know, the most obvious is of course the material that we took over. The next part for me is glamor, that Munich disco glamor in the 70s that right now is very current. But today its much more driven by a hip hop culture, by techno culture. It’s a different kind of glamor. But I think that this glamor is extremely important for the brand. This disruptive element I think is also important for the brand, because we’ve introduced and made it pretty successful. Like a backpack, which was not a luxury item back then. We’ve honed in on this idea of really adapting to a different lifestyle and entering that in the luxury arena. I think that this is something that’s unexpected, this disruptive approach to creating something that people wouldn’t expect from a brand like MCM.
V: Can you share a bit about the new collection? What are some of the key inspiration points for the collection? I also see that you’ve introduced a new monogram, could you also tell us what differentiates this new cubic pattern from the iconic MCM pattern?
DS: The new collection has been developed basically in the middle [of the pandemic] where we didn’t know how long we were gonna be locked up. It was at a time where you really started to feel the heaviness of the lockdown and our inspiration was really to look at something positive, something happy, something almost like a happy utopia. We were looking at things that are very pop. We looked at pop art, we also looked at Miami art decor. This really inspired vibrancy and positive ethos. In the collection, you see a mix of those colors. Not just any colors but these really vibrant, strong colors, but also these sun-bleached pastels. It’s been really driven by the emotion and sentiment of happiness, comfort, and fun.
V: Leaning into that element of fun I see you guys always incorporated new graphics into some of the pieces.
DS: We really wanted to do something that was also engaging, so, we have the graphics of this new French bulldog that we also use all over the collection. It’s something comical yet its juxtaposed by the styles that are also extremely relaxed, feeling almost like pajamas;but very luxurious. So it has a little bit of a feeling of a nice summer in Miami. To be very honest, I can only say that from a distance, because I’ve never been to Miami yet. (Laughs)
V: (Laughs) Oh you’ll love it! You have to go sometime. For someone who hasn’t been to Miami, I think you did quite an amazing job of capturing that effortless playful yet luxurious essence.
DS: Yeah! I’ve been very inspired by the images that we collected in that way. So these are really things that we’ve been working on, to create this happy feeling within this collection. So there was no inspiration of a certain color block or something, but really this emotional attitude or something positive through color, through materials, through the lightness of the whole collection.
V: So much is happening for MCM right now. Along with this new collection you’ve been working on something special for the brand’s anniversary?
DS: Yes! So the brand has been working for 45 years now with the classic all over logo pattern and we really felt the need to go somewhere else. Not to replace it, but to really go somewhere else to welcome this new chapter. A few months ago, we launched a version of this all over logo, which was the Vintage Jacquard [print], and it had this denim feel to it. We had this amazing window display at Saks Fifth Avenue, to launch this in America. This somehow became a transition to celebrating the 45 years of MCM, starting with the Cognac, going through the Vintage. Taking it a step further now we have come up with something that is radically different, it’s a cubic repeat of a logo. The inspiration is from a painter in Asia who creates these really strange worlds of endless stairs and labyrinths where you don’t know where it ends and where it starts and if it’s upside or downside.
V: That sounds amazing. I love how this relates back to how you shared early these elements of art and music were always major influences for you. What about this particular artist or rather their art did you want to reimagine or use to fuel this new design.
DS: The idea was to create almost like an optical illusion, because depending on how you color the cubic logo, you only recognize it as a logo on the second look, so there are very interesting executions. It’s been really interesting playing around and using very different materials from very luxurious mixes in wool, cotton wool, and printing it on silk, but also really using it in knit, in jacquard. So we’ve been really playing around and it always gives a little slightly different touch and feel, which I think is really interesting. So we didn’t want to just print something and that’s it. We really worked on very different executions on this, and it gives it a lot of depth. I think it was important to really create a second all over logo for our brand. It’s definitely talking to a much younger consumer at the same time through different executions. It has a very high, sophisticated touch and feel as well.
V: We see that you are introducing a lot more ready to wear. What was the thought process behind that, and do you think this will continue with future collections? Are you guys going to dive more into the ready to wear world?
DS: We got a lot of requests for ready to wear, and when I arrived, of course, we also had ready to wear, but it was very limited. But now, we really built in the last few years a very strong idea around the ready to wear. Really from this idea of the construction and super luxurious pieces, especially now with the new cubic[logo], with this great jacquard that you can see in the tailoring. We’ve also been looking into debossing it into leather and making it really also a high level feel, that will come next. But it’s very important for the storytelling, I think it’s very important to also to support the growth of the rest of the brand, the most important part, the leather goods. It creates a much clearer attitude for the brand, a visual identity for the brand. And yes, we are planning to extend the ready to wear as well as we do with shoes, which is maybe a much more logical addition to leather goods. But we definitely want to take it very seriously and we want to build a ready to wear business in the future, it’s not just for window display or for campaigns, but for really a very full, rounded collection. It’s a process, it’s not happening overnight.
V: That’s very exciting, very exciting. I think we’d all like to know, what does the future of MCM look like to you?
DS: Now I need a crystal ball (laughs). For me, I think the goal for MCM is of course to keep on growing. But also to find really interesting collaboration partners for the future. We are talking to people outside of fashion at the moment, because I think that a brand shouldn’t be only stuck with what they know, but should explore what they don’t know. You should be looking into how you can collaborate and extend your expertise and also your product ranges in a certain way. I think that the fashion industry in the past 15 years underwent a radical change. If you just think back five years, and how the digital world has entered the fashion industry and how the fashion industry needed to think different and change with the e-commerce world. Everyone was talking about how brick and mortar is alive again, then COVID came and tried to kill it. I think that there are so many challenges ahead of fashion brands that you need to look into. What else can a brand say without necessarily putting more of the same product out there? So for me, my job here is to really look into where the brand goes. Luckily we have a very adventurous, open-minded owner who is really pushing us all very hard to go down that road and really explore the unpredictable in a certain way. And that is exactly what we are doing right now.
V: That’s actually poetic.
DS: Yeah, there are really exciting things happening. And I hope they will come to life because it could really be pretty different for a fashion brand. But collaborating is definitely the way forward.
V: Definitely. And you just touched on collaboration, so I was curious to see how you felt about the new crop of talent that you guys are collaborating with as brand partners. I believe ASAP Nast is one of the people that you’ve also tapped for this new collection.
DS: Yes, yes. I have to tell you, the shoot we had with him together was amazing because he was so involved and so enthusiastic. I think that it’s nice to book a face, but for me, it’s much more important to build a relationship. And that’s what happened with him and MCM. What I want to look at is really a great mix of very established people and unknown people. I want to also give unknown people the opportunity to collaborate with the brand, because they have something interesting to say. And that is where I feel like there is something bigger going to happen with them. That may be through a collaboration in fashion, but also can be a collaboration with a music artist or with someone from the art world. So we are talking to a lot of people from very known to very unknown. I think that this mix of creating your own crew, it’s beautiful, it’s interesting.