Born: Potsdam, Germany, 18 November 1944. Family: Married Karin Bernatzky; children: Henriette, Florentine. Career: Journalist, Neue Mode; freelance designer for Christian Aujard, Brecco, and others; showed first fur collection under own label, 1978; added Joop! ready-to-wear line, 1981; added menswear line, 1985; opened Joop! boutiques, Hamburg and Munich, 1986; introduced fragrances, 1987; added Joop jeans, 1989; introduced ready-to-wear fur collection, 1990; menswear introduced in the U.S., 1994; reintroduced leather, 1996; fragrances include Joop! Berlin, Joop! Femme, and
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Photogenic Wolfgang Joop is at least as recognizable as his fashion and fragrance products. Along with Jil Sander, one of the major figures of German fashion in the 1990s, Joop is as much a national anomaly as he is an international celebrity. Until Sander and Joop, Germany had few designers of sexy clothing achieving world-class status: suddenly, after years in Germany, both came into international recognition in the early 1990s.
Joop, the design identity with an exclamation point, is the hyperreal, hyperbolic badge of the designer. He has brought the American concept of the designer to Germany, with its strong sense of personal identification and the projection of style. Again and again, he appears charismatically, if a little too prominently, in his own imagery. Further, as he describes in a 1993 press release, "When it comes to designing the men's collection, the man I have in mind for the clothes is myself."
When Joop bought an apartment in New York in 1993, it was the former apartment of Bill Blass, for Joop has cleverly understood the impulse of contemporary fashion marketing to personification and projection. He has expressed his admiration for the work of American minimalists and marketing prodigies Donna Karan and Calvin Klein. Like Blass, Joop projects utmost self-confidence in style, an aplomb that allows him the polymath aptitude to design for menswear, women's apparel, and fragrance. In examining himself, he gives some surety in the ambiguous realms of style.
In telling his own story in a 1993 press release, with a merchant's beguiling fluency, Joop cites as an important influence growing up on a farm near Potsdam: "As the city of Philip the Great it was one of the poorest of the European courts, but the one with the most style," thus enjoying both a simple life and a proximity to high style. His statements on fashion lean to the populist, though his clothing is always on the well-mannered side of democracy (he called a fragrance Joop! Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989). He avers: "Fashion should not just be a blatant expression of money. It should be humorous and give dignity to the individual wearing the clothes."
Among his greatest successes have been jeanswear, likewise in the optimistic spirit of American style and ready-to-wear populism. But the Joop denim collections are not standard: fit, size, and style distinctions bring to the lowly subject of jeans at least a rudiment of tailoring and individuation. Joop's principle is that the ready-to-wear client, even in denim, must be served with a kind of customized distinction and satisfaction, again very much in the ethos of traditional American sportswear. Joop contends that "jeans are fashion's alter ego," and it is his conviction that jeans are part of daily life. His collections work for both casual dress and contemporary high style.
Essentially, Joop thinks fashion is about suspense and surprise and fantasy, not about rules. Flirting with incongruity, he mixes traditional clothing with new fashion, throwing a kimono over a little shift dress, pairing bobby socks with high heels, or mixing military styles with classic schoolgirl/schoolboy fashion items. He also designs his own prints. Having seen countless trends in the fashion industry, he has merged archived print designs with current trends, imparting a contemporary retro look.
At one time a leather clothing designer in Italy, Joop reintroduced leather into his collection in 1996, taking advantage of the new treatments that revolutionized the leather industry. Much lighter and easier to manipulate, the new leather allowed color possibilities beyond the traditional blacks and browns. Yet this collection and subsequent ones featured traditional leather jackets, pants, and dresses in neutral shades.
Joop in the 21st century featured fur-trimmed articles inspired by screen legends Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. In an interview with Molly Knight, a fashion writer for www.fashion.com , Joop declared, "Dietrich was the best designer ever. She combined day and evening wear as well as men's and women's—it was the old glamor."
updated by Christine Miner Minderovic