Karl had the freedom to test out his own creativity from a very young age. Growing up in Tartu – a small city in southeast Estonia – his mom worked as a tailor, his older sister as a couture dressmaker, and Fashion TV always on in the background.
After his second year at the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn, Karl decided not to finish his bachelor's degree and work as a freelancer instead. He spent 5 years working overseas in London, Melbourne and Sydney, before moving back to Estonia to set up his own label KarlKorsar.
We sat down with him to talk about inclusion, sustainability, inspiration and purpose in fashion.
It’s actually not that different from any other job. My work is very visual and creative and I think every job is creative in it’s own way. I spend most of my time running the business, which means working in front of Excel sheets, writing emails, making orders go out on time...
During times like this, we have a new collection coming up and I can really work on creating different products. Usually I start with an idea of a colour scheme I want to use and a pattern that I want to make. Then I think of a product I want to implement this on. But honestly, there’s no fixed way of how I approach certain jobs. After doing this for 10 years, I think I’ve got the hang of it.
The community in Estonia is very small and everyone knows each other. This makes it very accessible. I always have makeup artists, photographers and tailors on call. It’s a community that really holds itself together and each other accountable. If you do a bad job, everyone will know and it will probably be harder to work with someone.
Usually I balance my life between Tallinn and Berlin. It’s sad that in a time like this, I haven’t been able to see people from the community in Estonia. Designers usually bounce ideas off each other when they meet, and this is what I enjoy the most when going home. In a big city like Berlin, you’re a bit more anonymous. You don’t have the time to create such strong bonds with each other because everyone is so busy.
Nowadays there is no other way to do business than to be inclusive. The time of Victoria’s Secret is really over. When I started my brand, I already had this in the back of my mind. This is the case for many young designers.
We want to have a conversation with everyone instead of limiting ourselves to just one group.
Every year, we work with different charities, like for instance melanoma, skin cancer awareness and fundraisers for cancer. This year we are focusing on The Friends For Life Day and Children’s Foundation. I feel like nothing is really worth much, if it’s not somehow of use to anyone else.
Fashion can be superficial, so I want to create more meaningfulness to the business and have a positive impact.
Back in 2017 we had a major breakthrough. We took part in this competition of creating accessories for the European Union that would lead to an order of 50,000 items. It was a very long and stressful process with a lot of risks, but we were lucky enough to win it!
This breakthrough generated a lot of new business opportunities for us, because we built this trust around our brand and clients know they can rely on us and we deliver on time. The ball started rolling from here and so far we haven’t done a lot of marketing for ourselves – word of mouth gets us clients!
When you run a small scale business, there’s not really any other way. We sell everything that we make, there’s no stock left and we use materials that can be recycled. We also use digital printing, which means that it’s the most sustainable way to print fabrics.
Fast fashion companies who bulk produce insane amounts of clothes just to get rid of them at some point, is not a way of how to do business anymore.
We have to produce according to the needs and stop overproduction.
Seeing the world through a child’s eyes, without being childish about things.
I get inspired by anything from mosaic walls to the interior of a punk bar. Sometimes I take long walks and just absorb what’s around me. The interesting thing about textile prints is that you can use whatever you want. There’s patterns everywhere around us, you just have to start combining them and turn it into something.
It’s really maximalist. We use a lot of colour and the prints are very detailed.
I see it as an antidote to this extreme minimalism.
I love minimalism as a concept, we should all consume less. But I think there’s been a mix up of people thinking having 300 identical white shirts counts as being a minimalist. I think you can still have colourful and opulent things, just don’t have too many.
Thank you Karl for sitting down with me in basement.berlin and our autumnal betahaus | Neukölln Garten! If you want to follow Karl you can find him on Instagram or check out the website of his label KarlKorsar.
''People in beta’’ is a series of interviews started by Vihra Shopova and continued by Zoya Misha about teams and members to understand who they are, what they’re most passionate about, and what brought them to coworking. Read more here and become a part of the coworking tribe.