I was born in British Columbia, Canada in 1958, and grew up on the West Coast. After finishing high school I went on to study Architecture, first in Winnipeg and later in Ottawa. This was the late 70s and early 80s. When I started, Modernism was the unchallenged orthodoxy, and those ideas made a big impression on me. Then in the early 80s Post-Modernism came along and everything changed. Suddenly, decoration for its own sake, a love of colour, humour and historical references became part of design.

Looking back I see how I was formed by both. From Modernism I learned the dictum ‘Form follows Function’. Almost all my designs start with a concept to solve a problem (e.g. how to design a shirt as a three-dimensional, sculptural object), and decorative effects are an organic outgrowth of that concept, not superficially applied. My designs are tectonic, so that the way they are made forms the primary design interest. And from Post-Modernism I learned to incorporate colour and playfulness, and to celebrate the decorative.

After my studies I worked as an architect for thirty years, mainly in Toronto and later in New York City. And in 1996 I met my partner (now husband), the artist AA Bronson.

In 2013 an unexpected chain of events lead my husband and me to leave my beloved New York and settle in Berlin. Initially, my visa did not allow me to hold a job, so I started designing clothes to have an outlet for my creativity. I’ve always loved clothing and fashion, and it was a lot of fun. When I first started, I had only a few vague notions and had no idea whether they would amount to anything. But years on, I continue to have more and more ideas and build on what I’ve learned so far. I’ve developed new seam types and details to execute my designs, and I now have the technical ability to sew things I had thought of years ago but didn’t know how to make.

I have no training in sewing or tailoring, I’m 99% self-taught. Apart from a few Youtube videos, I have learned simply by examining my own clothes.

Because I only work to please myself and have no program or external pressures, I’ve never tried to be logical or coherent in my efforts. I’m only guided where my interests lead. But over the years, the values and principles that underlie my efforts have become clear:

  1. Thinking about a fundamental problem – how do you take a flat piece of cloth and shape it into a three-dimensional form to cover the body? What are new ways of doing this?
  2. A desire for wholeness and integrity, wanting to find one overall concept that guides the design of the entire garment. This is in contrast (to take one example) to a normal dress shirt where the pattern pieces are determined by functional concerns but have no esthetic relationship to each another.
  3. My intention for each garment is to have one clear concept, and to develop that concept as far as possible to its logical end.4. A deep questioning of norms and traditions. When I hear that something has ‘always been done like this’ or ‘has to be this way’ I know there are new things to discover, and new territory to explore.

Most of my garments take a lot of time, both to research and develop the patterns, make tests and samples, and then to sew. The prices reflect this.

Mark Jan Krayenhoff van de Leur

Berlin 2022