Spain

The Modern-Day Alchemist

Writer

Nahda Suleiman

Photographer

Alex Cruces

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A firm fixture on the Paris Fashion Week calendar since 2008, Saberi is highly regarded for his functional, nomadic and meticulous designs, which never stray far from the urban culture he holds so dear. It may be a little peculiar for the avant-garde designer to choose to establish his studio away from the fashion circuit, but the 34-year-old is anything but conventional.

‘I never planned to set up my atelier in the middle of nowhere. After graduating from university in Barcelona, I was charmed by the countryside and decided to stay here. This place has a raw feel to it but the Spanish mentality in general appeals to me. The basic things in life like friends and family are important to the people here, unlike in Germany where I grew up. There is so much to get out of this place, creatively and personally. I am right at home,’ he says.

Saberi’s entry into fashion was also an unexpected move. He politely shrugs off the word ‘fashion’ and tells me that it wasn’t the glitz and glamour that fascinated him. ‘I didn’t want to become a fashion designer when I went to university. My aim was to perfect my skills in pattern and shoe making.’
Growing up in Bavaria, Germany, and watching his parents run a small clothing business, Saberi took up sewing at the age of eleven and recalls using his father’s sewing machine to customise his Levi’s jeans. These formative years are evident in the emphasis on function throughout Saberi’s work, however avant-garde the designs become. ‘I’m not interested in making easy garments but something that is simple, yet powerful and captivates attention,’ says the designer, who is stocked internationally in stores such as Harrods, H. Lorenzo in Los Angeles and Atelier New York.

He says his work is influenced by his Middle Eastern roots, as well as his passion for skating culture. Saberi’s signature monochrome hues allow him to deconstruct classic shapes and produce edgy cuts, such as wrinkled armour-like leather jackets (as seen on Kanye West), jeans in heavily treated fabrics, high-neck lamb jackets and gloved coats. In 2012, Saberi teamed up with the Linda Farrow label to launch a line of futuristic sunglasses. Featuring industrial-style shutters, the eyewear collaboration became another Kanye West essential.
Not one to pursue trends, Saberi maintains that his clothes are a reflection of himself and his surroundings. ‘My aesthetic is in my veins and my vision comes from my different experiences in life. I like to do things that are perfectly constructed for the body. When I start a design, I erase my brain and go back to ground zero. I can be inspired by anything from a stone on the street or an artwork.’
To illustrate this, Saberi shares with me the macabre inspiration behind his autumn/winter 2011-12 collection: blood. ‘While working at my atelier one day, I accidentally cut myself and began to watch myself bleed. That was the starting point for me. I ran to the butcher’s shop and asked for blood from different animals. They must have thought I was insane but I managed to convince them,’ he laughs.
‘I ran back to my atelier and started to experiment with different fabrics and colour tones using the blood I got from the butcher’s shop. This is how I came up with the idea of creating sheer, red transparent leather,’ the designer says, explaining how he takes classic garments from the men’s wardrobe such as jeans and polo jackets and ‘destroys them completely.’

In each of Saberi’s collections, the designer ensures that his designs are body-conscious, and the philosophy of ‘form follows function’ is applied throughout his atelier. While most designers fit their designs on a mannequin, Saberi does the fittings for all of his collections on himself. ‘I don’t draw silhouettes; I make them for my body right away. It’s important for the designs to be wearable if you want to sell them to your audience, otherwise they won’t last,’ he explains.