We have been huge fans of Nina Athanasiou (Athanasiou and Not Just a Label) for years. So when we discovered Nina and Frederike von Cranach had come together, during this Pandemic, to create TheMASKeteers, we were very excited.
German Fashion Designer, Nina Athanasiou, came onto the fashion scene in 2013 and ever since has been presenting her Label successfully during Fashion Week, across New York, London, Berlin, and Vancouver, as well as Boston. This talented creative also has three fashion films under her belt and is known for working with extraordinary models such as Shaun Ross, Melanie Gaydos, Diandra Forrest, and Elliott Sailors.
Frederike von Cranach, who is originally from Germany, now resides in London. She was a fashion designer by education and spent a couple of years at different labels, such as Cambio and Cut for friends, before turning exclusively to art. Egagropili, the source of inspiration behind her artwork, is a natural, straw-like species of seagrass that are most common to the Mediterranean Sea. Her roots in fashion have never been lost, as she incorporates sewing, and uses thread as one of her mediums.
Once COVID-19 hit, Nina decided to send her friends and loved ones beautiful masks as gifts, to lift their spirits and keep them safe. One day, Frederike was ecstatic about the mask she received from Nina and was immediately up for joining The MASKeteer enterprise.
1. Tell us about your brand style….
Our style is very eclectic and open when looking at the different mask models. Embroideries range from simple text slogans (for strong woman) to a panda, floral motifs, and even cowboy-themed masks. It’s a small space we have to send a message but a very effective one too. We wanted to use it in the best way possible and hope we have succeeded. By not committing to a certain look or style we keep possibilities open for new designs and ideas. Who knows, hopefully it’s not just going to be masks in the future but other clothes & accessories!
2. What is the message behind The MASKeteers brand name?
This pandemic has brought a lot of suffering to the whole world, we are trying to at least bring some colour and fun into it when people have to wear a mask or decide to wear one. Maybe these masks even are a conversation-starter and make strangers talk to each other when queuing – that’s a nice thought 😉
The brand name The MASKeteers is inspired by The Three Musketeers, who always had good intentions and tackled problems and injustice – there were never female Musketeers, so we thought: it’s time!
We also really like the idea of women supporting women, so 20% of our sales will be donated to two charities based in the UK and Germany especially helping women, young female adults, and kids. We hope to do something good with this whole project and make a change even if its a small one.
3. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we see you started making masks. How did this come about?
FREDERIKE: It happened very spontaneously and fast. Nina and I met a couple of years ago through a mutual friend and an amazing project she did “Old Masters”. Since then we really liked each other. Nina sent me a surprise one day – a beautiful embroidered handmade mask! Once I saw it, I thought this would be an amazing product to sell here in London or anywhere really. From that moment we just started working without overthinking. Nina came up with all these cool mask models I came up with the name The MASKeteers and since then we are on it sewing, producing, and organizing everything.
NINA: For me, it was kind of born out of necessity – a friend of mine asked for my help since he was sewing masks for the elder care and the demand was just so high that he couldn’t get it done all by himself. After I finished tons of regular masks for him I started sewing and embroidering some more elaborated pieces, just as gifts for family and friends. I liked the thought of giving them a surprise, that not only would protect them but also might put a smile on their face because it was personal and beautiful. The rest of the story Frederike just told you: she was one of those friends who received a mask as a gift, and that’s how The MASKeteers finally got started.
4. What was the inspiration behind the designs?
FREDERIKE: Nina you designed all the mask motifs – maybe more your department to answer this one 🙂
NINA: Literally all of our masks are further developed versions of the pieces I did for loved ones. The “Pow Pow Jee!” – mask for example builds upon the one I did for one of my eldest and best friends, Sulamith, which I’ve known since the first grade – she loves Japan and she loves artwork and graphics, so that’s how the embroidery design on it emerged. Or the one with the cranes – “Corona Babies” / that’s a new version of the mask I did for Frederike. She once told me that when she was a kid one of her teachers used to call her “Kranich” (which is german for Crane) instead of “Cranach” (her last name), so of course I had to put some cranes on her mask 😊
I could go on and on about all the single stories of how each mask emerged, but that would probably get boring at some point – anyway, they all are meant to be some kind of special “statement pieces”, small beautiful treasures for you to wear.
We spend a lot of time and effort on every single mask we produce, depending on the design of it, it takes up to 4-5 hours just to get done with the embroidery of it.
5. Many people in fashion are calling masks a ‘trend’, what are your thoughts on this?
FREDERIKE: Personally I think it’s probably a bit of both. In the UK it’s not been made mandatory to wear masks although recommendations have been made. In Germany, wearing a mask is mandatory in certain environments. In Asia, masks have been worn over decades already.
So very often it is a personal choice of the individual to wear a mask which then makes it a kind of a trend.
We are aware of the fact that our mask are not medical, although wearing a mask has advantages as it gives more protection than not wearing one at all, and also helps to not constantly touch our faces, which we do unconsciously very often. There is no reason to not wear a mask as its a small effort in the end! If it helps to protect others and ourselves its a no brainer!
NINA: I totally agree with that: IT.IS.A.NO.BRAINER. We have a proven option to protect other people around us, as well as ourselves by simply wearing a mask. Here in Germany it is mandatory, you can’t even enter a shop or public transportation without wearing a mask – and to be honest, I’m thankful for that.
Special times need special measures, and unfortunately, we live in a time where it is only reasonable to help protect everyone by simply putting a mask on our face.
6. You currently reside in Germany / UK, how has COVID-19 affected your life and your business?
FREDERIKE: The UK has been severely affected by Covid-19 and things are very, very slowly coming back to life. For artists in general, it has been hard, as exhibitions and projects have been canceled to expose ones work to an audience. I am in general a positive thinking person and every crisis also hides some chances. For me personally I was lucky enough to be part of an amazing virtual exhibition (www.contemplatio.art), apart from that I also feel that the chances to be seen on social media have increased significantly as the whole world is online now. Nina and I also probably wouldn’t have started this project without this crisis and I am really grateful for that.
NINA: Here in Germany it was a bit like the whole life came to a standstill due to the rigorous restrictions / besides of closed schools and the stay-at-home order also all shops had to stay closed and so it was clear that there wouldn’t be any financial income for the next weeks or months. With 2 kids out of school and no savings, it was sometimes kind of hard not to get desperate and worry about the future. But just like Frederike I try to see the good in it and all the possibilities for transformation – especially in the fashion business we are more than overdue and in desperate need for severe changes. It’s about time the whole industry starts to slow down and align a new set of principles.