In Conversation With Textile Artist Paula Kunkel As She Collaborates On Reebok’s Next Write Your Legacy Drop
We chat humble beginnings, creative growth and Reebok’s brand new Club C Legacy.
Always full of loud, colorful and creative ideas since she was a child, Paula Kunkel turned her dreams into a reality. After training as a fashion and design assistant and securing a job as a Levi’s saleswoman, the artist later became an in-house tailor for the brands Tailorshop. Today, she has created her very own profession: textile artist. Having worked with materials such as Styrofoam and curtain rings, she has collaborated with various musicians and artists to create some incredible stage outfits. Her latest collaboration comes in the form of the next installment of Reebok’s Write Your Legacy platform.
The Club C Legacy, a new iteration of the iconic Club C, is Reebok’s latest ingenious offering. To inject life into the campaign, Reebok enlisted the support of three “Classic Collaborators.” Musical artists Dan D’Lion, Ella May and Awa reinforce the campaign’s message of focusing on the self away from the pressures of modern life by embracing calmness and the space needed to create their own legacies. The Club C Legacy combines both textile and leather materials, providing a simultaneously deconstructed and tranquil aesthetic. The clear EVA sole is punctuated by bright bursts of color in the midsole, devising a casual color palette that makes the sneaker perfect for everyday wear.
What's the biggest difference between your first and your newest designs?
The difference is smaller than expected, but the feeling is just as invigorating after all these years. And the approach is pretty much the same too - just start, experiment, take your time, get used to the material, be open and believe in arriving at a meaningful solution or processing method. Since my demands on aesthetics and quality are of course higher now, the solution process is a bit more tedious, but balances out with the knowledge and experience that I did not have when I first started.
The Club C Legacy campaign focuses on breaking away from the demands of everyday life and taking care of yourself. What do you do to relax and recharge?
I am the Queen of "Powla-Naps"! On very burning days I like to take a little nap, during which I wake up automatically after about 20 minutes without setting an alarm clock. I also make sure that I create little “oases” for myself throughout the day in which I practice self-love and self-care. I incorporate that into my whole day to avoid greater stress.
How did you begin to get your designs out into the world?
Back then I only had Facebook. I followed fashion photographers whose work I admired. I sent them my works and after a short time I joined forces with them and we created some wonderful imagery. Then there was the chance to do an exhibition in my wonderful district on City Art Day. In a sweet atmosphere in a small garden between flowers and plants in the old town of Köpenick, I displayed my clothes on dolls. For me it was a MILESTONE!
How could the fashion world benefit when functionalism takes precedence over aesthetics?
One never excludes the other!
Where do you get your main design inspirations from?
By getting involved with the material and "connecting" to its potential. My inspiration comes with my motivation.
You have mentioned that when designing clothes, you tried to avoid sewing at all costs, a statement that could be revolutionary for aspiring fashion designers. What advice would you give to those who are just starting out?
My advice would be not to look left and right too much. To go one's own experimental path so that you don’t run the same path as others before you. This is how you leave your very own footprints. Let yourself be guided and trust in a journey on which you may no longer strive to reach your goal, because you are already the best of YOURSELF - despite struggle! GO WITH YOUR FLOW!
What is the first piece of clothing you ever created?
I remember too well! This was in 2010, when I enrolled in my training as a fashion seamstress at Modenschau AG. I wanted to make a knitted jumpsuit that was made from different types of wool and integrated floral details. Since I could neither knit nor crochet, but held fast to the vision, I asked my classmate to crochet me flowers. I tried to imitate the openwork, knitted look by working in old crochet doilies. To save myself the cut, I simply took skin-colored support tights and a skin-colored body and infused both with all the parts that came together in the short time. I spontaneously decided on a wide hood, which I had always dreamed of from the fairy tale "Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella". I reached my goal very amateurishly and arbitrarily, but the result was impressive. It was a dream in pastel on which a cute flower landscape climbed up on me.
How did you make the leap from being an in-house tailor at Levi to becoming a self-employed textile artist?
That was almost a sure-fire success. I had no other choice. I was so busy with the work of customers and events that Levi's gave me I could hardly keep up with the usual work of the tailor shop (repairing and shortening pants). I asked Levi's to give me some time to work away with the parts in my own studio that I already owned at the time. This break lasted 3 months in which they hired a temporary worker. I never went back to the store... from then on I was self-employed and my creativity had space and time. I am happier than ever. That was the best thing that could have happened to me.
Reebok is one of the most famous fashion brands in the world. How does it feel to work with such an inspiring label?
Powerful! Especially since it was one of the few brands that I really related to from when I was a teenager, as I rarely wore brands. It is exciting when an established and renowned brand like Reebok exchanges ideas with my own ideas on sustainability and creativity. Such contrasts guarantee innovation!
As the new drop is part of the Write Your Legacy platform, how would you define your own legacy?
In addition to inspiring, experimenting and sensitizing, the great thing about my art is that you can see it, touch it or wear it. That means in the best case scenario, it is still in circulation when I am no longer there. That means my sustainable art is sustainable in two senses.
Paula is part of Reebok’s #WriteYourLegacy platform that aims to support young artists. With the new Club C Legacy campaign, Reebok wants to encourage everyone to embrace the calm moments in the daily hustle and to make space for themselves to create their own legacy. The Club C Legacy is now available on www.reebok.de/club_c_legacy.