NoNovember 1944, a cold winter in every respect. In Bornstedt the contractions started early in the morning. Charlotte Joop and her sister Ulla started the vegetable cart to reach the hospital in Potsdam. The father was in front. The car broke down and Charlotte was in labor and she was cold. Eventually the soldiers took the women away. It was quite a difficult birth, but finally the dream baby arrived. Wolfgang. The women loved the name, it sounded so wonderfully Germanic. The boy was supposed to grow into a sturdy and respectful man. Like Father Gerhard Joop.
As soon as the baby was born, everyone had to go to the air raid shelter to see other mothers and babies. As soon as he roared for the first time, little Wolfi was infected with whooping cough. He was the sickest of all, always. But also so pretty, with dark hair and ice blue eyes. He was a child of war, raw and brutal, with death always present. Many refugees sought refuge on the Bornstedt Crown Estate, where the Joops had settled. But there were always children there for, from today’s perspective, cynical games and poor people in this struggling extended family who protected and supported. And enough pens. The sickly child drew during the many winter weeks that he had to spend in bed due to shortness of breath and the dark angel sitting on his chest. Who could have guessed that it was mainly an allergy to the many cats in the house and that it did not end in the winter months without being outdoors? Who could have guessed after the onset of whooping cough?
It was the little prince. I knew exactly that too. Until his father returned home from the war. This strange man who returned from the front was emaciated and had nothing in common with the handsome blond man that his son only knew from photos. And he didn’t know what to do with the boy. The distance remained. Or as Wolfgang Joop once said: “I could never console him.”
So it was in those cold Novembers. Today Wolfgang Joop turns 79, he will go with his grandchildren to the Friedrichstadtpalast and see the wonderful costumes of fellow designer Jean-Paul Gaultier in the great magazine “Falling in Love”. He likes this party more than a party. In the morning he will probably sit at his desk as usual and do some sketches. For his “Looks!” collections or Hess Natur and all the other projects that he and his life and work partner Edwin Lemberg still have in store. Creativity does not go into retirement. And no matter how sickly little Wolfi was, he always remained tough.
He has become as handsome a man as the women around him thought he was, and just as disciplined when it comes to achieving, creating, and providing for his family. Versatile, he also knows how to cook very well, he could have had a truly important career on a global level like Jil Sander and Karl Lagerfeld, they were and are the big three in Germany. But Wolfgang Joop never could and did not want to subordinate his private obligations to his career. There is no reason to complain, his wealth of experience is still enough to cover many lifetimes. His education, his humor, however the creation of him.
A few years ago we created a column for ICON magazine, at first we called it “Haka” and “Dob”, a kind of conversation, we borrowed the names from boring German fashion categories: Haka = man and boy and Dob = women’s clothing. These terms alone say a lot about Germans’ relationship with fashion.
We then moved on to “Wait a minute,” little comments on the zeitgeist. Fueled by decades as an observer of the times. To celebrate the day, we’ve put together a few of them here. Basically the candles on our birthday cake for a great, generous, unconditional free spirit.
“Every breakthrough starts with a bang. We continue to obstinately celebrate the beautiful, the romantic, but also a modernity that celebrates stable values. Every zero requires a one, every utopianism requires rootedness and feeling.”
“I was in a high-class hotel in Miami and there was a woman getting on the elevator on every floor and I thought, ‘Are they all related?’ And are the butts and braids really cultural appropriation? But more importantly: where do they actually get these numbers from so quickly?
“The luck of winning a million in the lottery lasts a month. Then come problems, they can quickly disappear if you translate happiness with euphoria. But how then? By chance? According to studies, successful cosmetic surgery makes you happy for a long time! Emphasis on success. – If you think about it, you can understand it. Having it in your hands to deceive fate. Something that has always bothered you is gone. Or something you never had is there. The luck in life of having the chance to correct something.”
“The underground scene, the corniness, the chaos, made and still make Berlin ungovernable, but then there is also this maternal quality. A strange city. I would like to ask Kennedy what he really meant. Maybe because Berlin killed 1,000 people and always got back up again?”
“What I would like to borrow now is a compass. Or at least someone who can explain to me why, on the one hand, we are still faced with the Middle Ages, when the Muslim brothers think they have to bury their sister in the forest because of the miniskirt, and, on the other hand, tourism is so vehemently applauded of space travel. Both are a rejection of reality: is it no longer valid? Shouldn’t we care more about cleaning up our planet? Learn more about science and technology instead of controversy and politics? If the Mother of God in space asks for tea, then I will be happy to come. But until then, with my feet on the Brandenburg sand, I am not looking at “Star Wars”, but rather at the horizon.”
“We laughed at the fact that there was a fashion police. Now they really exist. And the laughter gets stuck on the edge. Fashion has always entailed disobedience. The provocation. Rei Kawakubo’s sleeves at Comme des Garçons, which she cut so twisted you couldn’t get in. So you can understand how they actually work. Insolence, transgression, disobedience: this is the origin of designs. In the painting of the church we pray upwards, but we do not want to go into silence, but into the crowd. I miss it, I miss it very much: creative disobedience!”
“Enlightenment is not about prohibition, but about being enlightened. People can be manipulated if they are not enlightened. What is freedom? Ours is unlimited. This is why cancel culture sucks. Fashion is important again now. Because it consoles. But it is also renewal. I’ve had enough of recycling now. All my friends crave haute couture. According to the individual part, the particularity, the ability.”