Backstage with Marke

Giulio Polverigiani

Mario Keine is the creative force behind the fashion brand MARKE, one of the standout labels at Berlin Fashion Week AW24. Launched in 2021, the brand embodies a philosophy centered on embracing the ever-evolving nature of the human spirit and personality. Drawing inspiration from a diverse range of historical epochs and future trends, the brand creates a distinctive world where conventional and alternative approaches intersect and complement each other. Hybridity and eclecticism are key themes, with a focus on blending traditional and contemporary manufacturing techniques. This season, Mario Keine presented his collection titled “Allezeit bei mir – Always with me” at the Pressecafé in the NEWEST Showspace during Berlin Fashion Week. We had the privilege of chatting with him during one of the most glamorous weeks of the year, capturing the bustling atmosphere before the fashion show.

Thanks for inviting us behind the scenes of your fashion show. Could you share with us the main inspiration that influenced your new collection?

The collection represents the second phase of what I refer to as the “reflection cycle.” Last season, I delved into how my personal design signature has evolved from within, examining childhood fascinations that continue to influence my sketching process subconsciously. This season, I turned my focus outward, paying tribute to every individual I have encountered in life. I enjoyed envisioning life as a blank canvas, where each person you encounter and every exchange of words leaves behind a small talisman. These talismans accumulate over time, shaping who you become, resulting in your own eclectic collection.

Mario Keine the designer behind MARKE, all images courtesy of Szymon Stepniak

What specific historical references did you draw upon for visual inspiration, and how did you reinterpret them in a contemporary context?

In general, it’s the combination of baroque menswear uniform buttons, a code I established last season, and the voluminous renaissance sleeves. These sleeve volumes are created by deep pleats in the armhole seam but only become apparent when pushing up the sleeve. Otherwise, they appear as a normal, slightly oversized sleeve. This concept was inspired by my own habit of pushing up sleeves on blazers, sweatshirts, and even coats, creating volumes that always reminded me of the puffy sleeves of the renaissance or Biedermeier era. The button rows are modernized by adding them onto bomber jackets and denim jackets, styled with workwear pants and soft volumes.

Can you share some insights into your collaboration with artist Alesha Klein for the backdrop sculptures and how it complemented the theme of the season?

The collaboration marked the beginning of the entire process. Alesha and I have been friends since high school, and last year I asked her to collaborate on a project for an art gallery in Düsseldorf. Since my first collection celebrated my childhood and its influence, we wanted to honor our shared past and long-standing friendship. Alesha proposed the idea of presenting sculptures that embody a fusion of our creative identities, reflecting how we, as artists in the rural countryside, have supported each other’s work over the years. These sculptures, reminiscent of monoliths from our past, incorporate elements of my textile work—such as natural wool for the body—and her expertise in sculpting, with plaster exteriors. When she showed me the initial sculptures, I began to contemplate this hybridity and the dynamic interactions between individuals, leading me to pay tribute to all those who shape, inspire, and accompany us in life. Ultimately, they all contribute to shaping our greater whole.

MARKE includes clothing, jewelry, and accessories, embracing a variety of aesthetic forms and styles. Are there certain types of fabrics or materials that you were particularly drawn to for this collection?

Firstly, regarding clothing sourcing, I exclusively collaborate with a supplier who specializes in overstock and deadstock materials from Italian production, ensuring a 100% circular approach. Consequently, none of the fabrics used in my collections are newly manufactured, as I am committed to working with existing materials. Additionally, my fabric selection process is guided by sustainability principles, prioritizing the production of garments that are of the highest quality and durability. Therefore, I exclusively opt for natural fibers such as wool, cashmere, mercerized cottons, and silks, available in soft and understated hues such as ice grey, soft rose, eggshell, and navy.

Could you delve deeper into the inspiration behind the hand-painted prints featured in your design?

These prints hold additional symbolism, paying homage to the individuals who shape our lives. The flower is a forget-me-not, serving as an expression of the enduring impact of those significant people. It represents the idea that we carry the memories and influence of these individuals with us always.

Do you have a personal favorite piece of this collection that holds special significance for you?

It’s the last look. The ice-grey jacket draws inspiration from baroque justaucorps, incorporating sleeve volumes reminiscent of Renaissance painting cloths. However, these influences of the past are fully reinterpreted by contrasting them with the contemporary shape of a bomber jacket. This eclectic blend of references embodies MARKE’s essence. Essentially, it’s the first look I envisioned when beginning the design process.

This season, you’ve incorporated traditional tailoring elements for the first time. What challenges did you face when blending these with workwear influences, and how did you navigate them?

The process unfolded naturally. The pieces that could be considered most tailored in the collection are crafted from denim, creating an inherent contrast in textures as denim is inherently rougher than virgin wool. Take, for example, the tailored ‘bar-jacket’. While the pattern draws heavy influence from 1950s couture volumes, the choice of denim fabric was the initial step in creating this contrast. Subsequently, I focused on refining the details. Coated buttons and a high lapel collar enhance the sophisticated couture influence, while contrast stitching highlights the workwear aspect of denim. It’s the subtle elements like decorative stitching and pocket shapes that ultimately transform the overall effect, seamlessly aligning the pieces with the collection.

Can you share a moment of creative breakthrough or realization while working on your latest collection?

Actually not. Since the collection is the second part on said reflection circle, the whole last year build up to this point. My whole design starts with having the overall direction in mind, meaning, when I started drawing the collection, I know how the show will look like. Then the collection was sketched within one day and from that on I started working on bringing the vision to three dimensional life.

You have been selected by trend expert Julian Daynov to be part of the NEUDEUTSCH exhibition at Pitti Uomo in Florence, one of the most relevant men’s fashion fairs internationally. In your opinion, what defines the “new German wave” in contemporary fashion this year?

To me, there are two defining aspects. First, as highlighted by Julian for NEUDEUTSCH: The new German wave doesn’t solely feature German designers. It includes designers from all over the world who have found in Germany a place to nurture their creativity and business ventures. Secondly, the current German design wave revolves around sustainability and community-minded thinking. Achieving a better, more sustainable future necessitates collective effort. As we all work toward this common goal, the industry has embraced a spirit of mutual support and collaboration.

How do you handle these tight deadlines and high-pressure situations during fashion shows or presentations?

Discipline. MARKE is a one-man show. I don’t have employees, nor do I have interns. Showing two collections a year, while taking care of all press and sales acquisitions, administration, social media, being present at fairs etc. is only possible with pure dedication. This is only possible with having family and friends who support you in your vision and passion.

Looking ahead, what future directions do you envision for MARKE, both creatively and in terms of sustainability initiatives?

I’m already in the process of designing the next collection. Although my reflection cycle has ended, I remain deeply inspired by personal connections, my roots, and local traditions. The upcoming collection draws from the traditions of the countryside where I grew up. My focus is also on expanding MARKE’s presence in physical retail and strengthening its wholesale network. I recently participated in TRANOI in Paris and am in discussions with stores in Japan and Taiwan interested in featuring the collection. Additionally, I’m working on concepts for pop-up shops and trunk shows in collaboration with art galleries and cultural institutions, offering private clients an immersive experience with the brand’s creative direction. As for sustainability, I’m continually evaluating and optimizing our processes to strive for improvement. Now that BFW AW24 is over, I’ll be reviewing our practices to move towards a more sustainable future. Always head towards a better version of yourself.


Giulio Polverigiani

Szymon Stepniak