The latest addition to Paris’ revived young fashion scene is ioannes, the near-eponymous brand by the recent Central Saint Martins graduate Johannes Boehl Cronau. Born in Germany, but trained in the fashion capitals of Paris, Antwerp and London, Cronau has in just a few seasons displayed a confident know-how of constructing contemporary female silhouettes that evoke emotion, timelessness and surprisingly technical attention to detail. His SS19 collection, ‘Walz’, gathers nostalgia, tradition and past-time habits to present a collection which honors skill, patience and the female form – inspired by the figure of the flâneuse, the collection wanders maturely through a variety of narrative threads, effortlessly pairing wearability with couture detailing. What began as a video installation post-grad is now an ambitious womenswear label on the rise – we caught up with ioannes to discuss his recent move to Paris and navigating today’s fashion industry.
What is the origin story of ioannes – what led you to fashion design, and to starting your own label?
ioannes was born out of a video installation piece commissioned by the Palais de Tokyo in Paris right after graduation in 2017. It also was a signature i started using years ago, and is the latinised origin of my german name Johannes. I like that it comes back to the origin, the essence of my name that found so many variations in European language. the lower case follows the democratic spirit of 1920s german bauhaus movement, which free from hierarchical formalities abandoned any association with power, authority or tradition. I am following this example and still trying out various forms of working independently and building my own structure out of this project into a brand that moves in a pace. Creation, before fashion design has always been my main ambition in life.
Your practice is rooted in a tradition of craftsmanship and tailoring – what do you find the status of such terms to be today?
My design approach is deeply rooted in the craft of dressmaking, I only can design when working directly in 3D on the stand, model or friend. The aim is to make garments that I really feel confident about and wanted to see people wear. I wasn’t doing that in any of my previous professional experiences nor at University.
How does one work towards the production of timeless garments in fashion’s current frenzied temporality?
My aim from the beginning for my professional career is to reintroduce an intellectual and discursive attitude towards the creation of garments that carry a unique manual gesture, in cut, textile or finishing. Something that is completely unpretentious. I am sure it has always been difficult to enter the fashion industry and set up a brand, every era has its challenges and I try to approach the current state of frenzy with a more clam and focused point of view. The creative part needs to be much more in advance of the market in order to offer something that is not out there. That requires a lot of research, trial and error and self trust. As a new brand it is more important to challenge your design and signature in order to create unique pieces than that people also want to wear and feel genuine and independent from your contemporaries but also works as a product. Working tight with different manufacturers from knit to tailoring can really improve your design ideas and help to translate your vision into a valid garment.
Your collections are very wearable, but gravitate to couture silhouettes and form. How do you locate yourself in the retail spectrum – who is your ideal customer?
With all the metaphysical framework and ideas that surround a brand it is essential to have a product your customer can relate to. The puff sleeve gloves, for example, are completely unfunctional but are beautifully produced, especially in the tapestry fabrics. They become objects in their own right. Indeed, I gravitate towards a more wearable and elegant wardrobe but I love having these fun pieces scattered across the collections. When I think of the ideal customer I think of all the friends in my environment and how they dress or things they surround themselves with. Who have an emotional approach towards dressing but also don’t take fashion too serious.
Story-telling seems to be a fundamental aspect of ioannes. How do you pursue this across garment- and image-making?
Everything turns around the act of dressmaking, garments either devolve towards or evolve from a blank sheet of cloth and I am interested in these points of transition. It is the same for styling and image making; I am interested in various moments of dress and undress, very intimate moments in which it is all about feeling good in ones own skin. There is a playful innocence and also carelessness that I find exciting. For image making there’s the ongoing work dialogue I have with several friends. My main ambition with ioannes is to enable a sort of continuous workshop with the people close to me, where ideas are generated and I’m able to develop my work from the resulting energy. The Paris presentation is a perfect example of what can come from long conversations with friends whose work I admire, the entire show was documented by several friends from different points of view. So don’t need to rely on external documentation and can tell the story the way I want it.
You are of German origin, but studied in Paris. Do you find that ioannes belongs to a certain local fashion tradition? Which place do you call home?
I grew up in Germany, studied and worked in Paris, then Antwerp, then London (for the MA at Central Saint Martins) and finally started this project which again lead me back to Paris. My education and work witnessed a lot of different point of views on this industry but ultimately lead me back to Paris. Home is still my childhood home back in rural country side of Germany where I escape to from time to time. I hope that I will have a place of my own some time soon where I feel equally calm.
Tell me about the current collection – how did you become interested in the idea of the flaneuse?
The attitude I am aiming for is an elegant yet playful approach towards design but more importantly dressing. I love to use outerwear to appear in stages of dress and undress, and reveal all the layers of thought that are going into a look and present it in a manner that is intuitively and even careless as possible! The flâneuse for me stands for that Parisian nonchalance and a bit of self indulgence in purely being and wandering the street. It is that easiness that I hope to pass on with my clothes.
Which garments are you the most excited about?
My favourite this season is a reinterpreted carpenter’s utility belt crafted as a luxury bag, and functioning as a pannier under the cinched tailored jackets. All that functioned as a very engineered framework of the collection, to which I later added more spontaneous elements such as the archival tapestry kimono fabrics I bought during my travels to Japan during my MA. These items continue weaving their way into my collections, this time clustered across chiffon shirts and dresses. Last season’s puff sleeve gloves are reinterpreted in artisanal fabric also inspired by the tapestry I bought back then, while the paper-bag dress re-introduces itself in a light chiffon..
What’s next for ioannes?
We just moved the studio to Paris, so I hope to get into my workflow quick. My aim is to find my own place designing and releasing work in a pace I am happy with yet considers the official rhythm of the fashion industry. I also aim to be more accessible through an own online shop and an exciting rhythm to release work when I feel its right.
For more information, see ioannes