Johannes Warnke: Dressing the Angels
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Lady Gaga wears a custom Johannes Warnke dress in her 911 music video

The idealism of youth has never been more evident than in the work of Johannes Warnke. The designer tells Ella Slater about his graduate collection, ‘Windows of Perception', and his plans for the future.

Johannes Warnke has a lot to say. I spoke to the 26-year-old Central Saint Martins BA Fashion graduate whilst isolating, his odes to human connection and the sensory a stark reminder of my imprisonment. Warnke has a habit of turning up at the right time. His graduate collection, Windows of Perception’ is a potent warning of the quicksand virtual world in which we now live. No wonder he’s dressing Lady Gaga.

 

The Windows of Perception collection launched in December, featuring dresses of hand-dyed silk organza in the sherbet shades of modernist German stained glass, and bioplastic crowns of intricately twisted wire. The garments appeared in Gaga’s recent surrealist music video, 911, following selection by stylists Marta del Rio and Nicola Formichetti: a draped underdress of blushing red, and a sculptural gown of steel frames spouting golden silk. Warnke is modest when I ask about his new connections. “I’m not a businessman, I’m more of an artist…” he says, “but I suppose you have to be a businessman.”

I'm not a businessman, I'm more of an artist... but I suppose you have to be a businessman

 

The young designer speaks tangentially, meandering from idea to idea. He tells me about Wings of Desire, Wim Wenders’ 1987 urban fantasy film, in which angels look over a divided Berlin, longing for mortality. “I think that is how we live today,” he says. “We are those angels that watch everything and yearn to experience it.” He also comments sadly about our increasingly reliance on social media.

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Dresses made from steel frames and hand-dyed silk, and headpieces from bioplastic and wire, both from Warnke’s graduate collection, Windows of Perception – Johannes Warnke

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Boots made from silk, tapestries, and steel wind chimes for Windows of Perception Johannes Warnke

"Freedom is having confidence in what you want to say," Warnke says. Does it not occur to him that freedom is being able to say what you want?

However, Warnke is young, and slightly naïve. “Freedom is having confidence in what you want to say,” he says. This bears scrutiny. Does it not occur to Warnke that freedom is being able to say what you want? And what does he want to say? It seems that he prefers - whilst attuned to sustainability - storytelling. How much he loves fashion is uncertain. “There is something sustainable in garments that are not reproduced,” he says. “I always wanted to dress performers.” 

 

Indeed, Warnke does not want to categorise himself at all – as either a fashion or costume designer. Future plans include a sustainable product line inspired by his jewellery, and ventures into film and theatre. “Fashion is so much about collaborating,” he says. “It’s like any other art form; something that grows because of experience”. Warnke is lucky; many have lost this young idealism, or do not have the same privilege of believing so firmly in their own future. Although it is too early to decipher a signature, Johannes Warnke is clearly talented, and his current collection is a song of innocence. The experience will come later.

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Warnke works on the hand-dyed silk which forms his collection Windows of Perception – Johannes Warnke