Last week, during lunch with Ralph Rucci at Sant Ambroeus Soho, Ralph spoke about a remarkable German-based couturier, Albrecht Ollendiek, who he discovered on Instagram two years ago. Ralph described a jacket Albrecht created for him, which, as he put it, “only a true designer can complete.”
I am astounded by Albrecht Ollendiek’s artistry and convictions to style and fashion”Ralph Rucci
Made of a very “Pauline de Rothschild” shade of moss green suede, it is faced and collared in moss brown Barguzin sable and lined in a quilted silk charmeuse with a chinoiserie print. “It captures the soul,” says Ralph of the “Kublai Khan” worthy jacket.
Ralph suggested I check out Albrecht’s website. Of course, I did. Unsurprisingly, I was very impressed by what I saw, and I began emailing Albrecht to find out more.
Albrecht Ollendiek is a self-taught couturier with a singular look and distinctive design philosophy. “Designing and sewing throughout my childhood was a way for me to channel my passions,” says this cultured, inveterate world traveler born into an art and music-loving family in South Germany in 1963. Albrecht developed a passion for art, architecture, history, and music at an early age, all of which are intertwined in his designs.
By the time Albrecht finished high school in a spa town near Frankfurt, he had amassed an impressive roster of high-end Couture clients. In his mid-twenties, Ollendiek sold exclusively to specialty stores throughout the US. During these years, he fell in love with New York, and pre covid, he visited the city every six to eight weeks.
After opening his first Couture Atelier in an upscale city near Frankfurt, Ollendiek decided to concentrate on his Haute Couture clientele instead of selling to multi-brand stores. In his late twenties, Ollendiek opened his first boutique in Frankfurt. The former head of Christian Lacroix’s atelier now works at the Ollendiek atelier.
In addition to his own Haute Couture collection, Ollendiek sells accessories, furs, leather, and suede pieces. He also produces a crocodile handbag collection for a French luxury retailer.
Ollendiek combs the world searching for the most exclusive suppliers, top weavers, lace makers, furriers, and tanneries. For example, this ultra-soft crocodile jacket is made from Hermes’s same leather.
For those interested in ordering something from this collection, the process generally involves making one or two sample pieces from a neutral cotton fabric. After this is done, they start working on the original piece. This might take approximately three to four weeks. When it is finished, they send it to the client.
Ollendiek says they usually don’t have fitting problems. And because Ollendiek is in New York regularly, he can do personal fittings in and around New York. Prices range from approximately $1200 – $8500 and up. For more information, email email@example.com
Albrecht loves contrasts, contradictions, and adding an element of surprise. Often, what appears to be a patchwork made of different fabrics is a woven trompe l’oeil jacquard. Albrecht’s designs are formal but not stiff, bourgeois yet rebellious, feminine but rough and tough rather than precious.
He loves to downplay the luxurious and elevate the banal. This is exemplified by a full-length printed all-over sequined skirt shown with a straight cut patchwork coat made of hand-cut suede squares accessorized with an antique starfish brooch. .
Even though the resulting look is effortless, the design process is quite complicated. Take this deceivingly simple bustier dress with a classic white blouse. The top is draped with different fringed pieces of mohair, cashmere, and wool.
The drapery ends in an embroidered pocket. Attached to the invisible bustier, which holds the structure in places, is a full, floor-length skirt woven in horizontal stripes of hand-cut fringes.
“The look I try to create is of a well-off girl, secretly fleeing boarding school on the back of her friend’s Harley Davidson, carrying books by Nabokov and Maeve Brennan and some weed in her 20-year-old LV bag,” says the couturier.
Albrecht treasures his conversations with his “strong, smart, absolutely independent” clients. “I love to create a wild yet hyper-civilized Couture that shows a (very well planned) “I don’t give a damn what I’m wearing today” attitude. I want my customers to always be the most sophisticated and the most unpredictably dressed ladies,” says Albrecht.
Each garment must tell a story. The silk lining in Ralph Rucci’s sable trimmed suede jacket was printed with Albrecht’s design, inspired by an 18th century Francois Boucher tapestry. The suede ribbons on the shoulder seams were cut by hand, using a small pair of scissors to create a wild, unfinished look “so that you will associate it more with Inner Mongolia than with the Upper Madison Avenue.”
Albrecht is an erudite and well-read world traveler. He has enormous respect for the past, but his skill at modernizing elements taken from ancient cultures and civilizations makes his designs captivating.
For example, the hand-embroidered ribbons Albrecht has applied to the leather and suede jackets in his last collection, “Voyages,” were ribbons he discovered in the Center for Traditional Textile Culture in Cuzco on a recent trip to Peru (Macchu Picchu is a favorite destination). They are handwoven in remote Peruvian villages, and with every ribbon, you get the name and a photo of the lady who actually made it.
Ollendiek is put off by the ongoing cynical “money justifies everything” attitude, the constant vulgarization and pornographization of the fashion world, and the fixation on brands, labels, and celebrities. “I’m much more interested in the latest Chinese bronzes from the Tang Dynasty coming up at auction at Sotheby’s than what Kim Kardashian is wearing lately, and I care about which painting by Fragonard I could use as a silk print for the next collection, rather than the new hair color of Ms. Jenner” he observes.
Albrecht admits that he would love to design Chanel in his next life. “I would love to make it spicy again, let it tell stories again, make it unpredictable and less seamstress.”
Touché! A change at the helm would not be a bad idea based on what I’ve seen of Virginie Viard’s efforts since taking over from Lagerfeld. I can easily connect the dots between Albrecht’s work and the Chanel atelier: the use of tweed, boucle, and sturdy woolens, the love of Chinoiserie, the underlying ease that pervades his designs, and the way luxury is tempered with the pragmatic.
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