Fashion with a Firm Stance
Vienna would be far worse off in the fashion world without Wendy & Jim. Behind the label name are Helga Ruthner and Hermann Fankhauser. At the end of the 1990s, following the Helmut Lang era, the duo breathed new life into the Austrian fashion scene and took it to an international level.
Helga Ruthner and Hermann Fankhauser studied under Helmut Lang in the fashion class at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. Following graduation they were the first Austrian fashion designers after their teacher who would present their collection in Paris. That was 1999. And how naïve they went about it at the time, they admit in an interview with the daily newspaper Die Presse:
“We had the collection packed in our bags, and we just assumed that we would approach people on the street and ask them to be our models. And then someone would also do the make-up and hair for us,” says Ruthner.
Fankhauser continues: “And that’s exactly how it happened. Then Jean-Charles Castelbajac let us use his atelier for our show.”
According to Ruthner, the place was “jam-packed”. They immediately drew attention with their new presentation style: the still performance. It marked the beginning of an unprecedented success story, which would transcend the borders of fashion.
They cooperate with Comme de Garcons, Nike and Levis, but also with the Austrian artist Peter Kogler. Wendy & Jim are interdisciplinary, fashion on the edge of art and beyond. Numerous performances, installations, and exhibitions followed, for example, in Hara Museum in Tokyo and in the Centre Pompidou in Paris. They designed stage costumes for the Canadian electro-punk musician Peaches and also for the Junge Theater Göttingen.
Womens and menswear collections by Wendy & Jim are everything but fashionable – call them radical.
They describe their fashion as “slow and dry” – for them it is about attitude. Their first commercial experiment was the jeansline “New H Denim” in 2008; a year later they designed an underwear collection in collaboration with DJ Hell, one of the most popular German techno DJs. In 2013 Wendy & Jim launched “Drop No. 01”, the first designer perfume with natural ingredients. Not only the scent but also the flask – a porcelain fox skull manufactured by the traditional Viennese porcelain company Augarten – rocked the boat.
But what does Wendy & Jim stand for actually? For normal people from both sexes that make fashion for normal people from both sexes, they tell in conversation with the platform austrianfashion.
WENDY & JIM