re:future Lab featuring
Heiko Storz (*1966) is a textile entrepreneur based on Lake Constance in southern Germany. The trained pattern maker and graduated fashion designer is an outstanding expert when it comes to shirts. For many years he was Managing Director for the men's and licenses division of the traditional company Schiesser, where he launched innovative cooperations with Kostas Murkudis (ex Helmut Lang and Diesel), Adidas and Yoshi Yamamoto, among others. In 2012 he founded his own company FIL NOIR Finest Casual Wear, where he combines his vision of highest craftsmanship with contemporary design, all this at affordable prices.
In a pioneering entrepreneurial spirit, he was amongst the first in his industry to embed sustainabilty as a key element of his corporate philosophy. From the very beginning, his shirts have been produced exclusively in Europe and all packaging is made of recycled paper. Recently his 'FIL NOIR respect' line was awarded the leading certificate for organic textiles and fair trade 'GOTS'. His success proves him right: his shirt collections are now present in over 400 locations worldwide, including New Zealand and Japan.
Tomorrow must be built on knowledge, experience, perception, imagination and intuition.
You are well-known for the perfect merge of tradition and quality, paired with a certain enthusiasm on innovation. With your shirt brand FIL NOIR you are continuing a tradition of more than 100 years of an Italian family business, thus continuing the idea of high-quality Italian fabrics and perfect cuts. In your latest project, the sportswear line 59 inches, you even go one step further as you link two worlds together: Western design and Japanese virtues such as focus on value, dedication to perfection and innovation are blended into a product for a new generation, for whom sense and respect are a natural part of good design. This brings me straight to my first question:
In view of the great challenges that characterise our current epoch, such as climate change, global overproduction and the drifting apart of rich and poor, to name only a few - can we possibly ever dare to hope for a better future? What role do you think the principle of storytelling could play in dealing with these large-scale problems?
I fully agree with Joseph Beuys, who once said: 'The future we desire must be invented, otherwise we will get one we did not intend'. In other words, we in fact might hope for what we actively participate in shaping; hope alone however does not seem a good remedy to me.
In your eyes could the works of designers or artists be a source of stimulating personal and social change? What could be the role of artists in society?
Before answering this question, another one arises: What exactly is art? In its original sense, art is a human cultural product, the result of a creative process. Given this, FIL NOIR can be seen as such a good. In the social discourse, especially within the textile industry in the light of climate change, we have a responsibility to proove that eco-friendly and fair production is indeed possible at affordable prices.
I certainly don't want to claim an enlightening role for contemporary art, every artist should have the freedom to set the meaning and intention of his work. Does a work of art always have to put its finger in wounds? If it really does, I think that's basically a good thing. Banksy is one of these artists who repeatedly succeeds in this, most recently with his work at Southampton General Hospital.
What could a dialogue between fashion and art look like when it comes to encouraging social change and designing a better future? With which artists or other disciplines would you like to exchange ideas? What impulses and new ideas could emerge out of this interaction?
Let me go back to the traditional definition of art as a human activity grounded in knowledge, practice and perception. More than philosophical aspects, practical approaches are important for our work. In this respect I have the idea that an exchange with environmental experts would be a very helpful option. Or an interaction with like-minded people to find even more efficient solutions.
You once mentioned that one of the most beautiful moments in your work is to discover new fabrics through touch. You are always searching the best fabrics to realize your ideas. Your own sensitivity and emotional perception play a major role in the choice of materials for each new collection.
So, how do you find the starting point for creating a new collection?
The best fabric is only as good as the shirt o the blouse that can be made from it - this is where all the factors of the genuine definition of art meet: knowledge, experience, perception, imagination and intuition.
What do you personally wish for a better future?
The world would undoubtedly benefit from a return to shared values beyond mass consumption. Growth for growth's sake cannot work out well - the current crisis has made that clear. I hope that people will return to more mindful consumption and that they will recognize the worth of goods again.
Dear Heiko, thank you very much for your thoughtful and sincere reflections.
The interview was conducted in May 2020
Text and interview: Madeleine Schwinge