Five Questions for Natascha von Hirschhausen

Headshot Natascha von Hirschhausen on DWIH New York template background © Portrait: Cherie Birkner / Frame: DWIH New York

The DWIH New York had the pleasure of interviewing Natascha von Hirschhausen and thereby coming back to the 2022 DWIH Focus Topic “Sustainable Innovations”. Natascha is a Berlin-based zero-waste fashion designer and founder.

Hello Natascha, some of our readers might remember you from our FUTURE FORUM 2022 – Fabricating the Future, where you were on a panel titled “Fashion Design of the Future” and showcased your work during the Night Lab. For those, who do not know you, tell us a bit about your background. Where did your career in the fashion industry start and what were some important steps that ended up bringing you to New York?

My journey in fashion began with questioning how sustainable fashion (design) can be. This led me to establish my own label, Natascha von Hirschhausen, prioritizing ecological sustainability first and subsequently determining the economic decisions I would need to make based on that philosophy.

I studied fashion design at the Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee, where I was selected for a designer exchange program with the Goethe Institut Bangladesh. There, my already deep commitment to sustainable fashion evolved towards addressing the waste crisis by researching zero-waste design solutions. For example, we are losing resources for 20-25 billion garments in the cutting process alone. With my zero-waste patterns we reduce the waste to about 1% for the entire collection, where conventional fashion causes about 20% of material loss. Generally, my company is built on the commitment to explore the future of fashion and to go beyond the circularity of our items.

Natascha von Hirschhausen working on garment on mannequin

For my consistent, future-driven sustainability concept, I had the honor of receiving the German Federal Award for Ecodesign in 2017. I opened my first shop in Berlin Mitte at Friedrichstraße in 2020 and was delighted to be invited to the FUTURE FORUM 2022 by the DWIH. Showcasing my work there and engaging in forward-thinking discussions beyond the European and German fashion scene was both exciting and interesting. Thank you again for having me.

Please tell us about your work and what fascinates you about it!

My work is rooted in the belief that fashion should be as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. What continuously fascinates me is discovering new ways to create garments without generating waste. Using and developing zero-waste design techniques requires constant problem-solving and creative thinking to find innovative solutions. These techniques allow me to minimize environmental impact and innovate the design process itself. Each piece is crafted with the intent to reduce waste to an absolute minimum, overturning traditional garment construction and creating something truly unique in the process.

What’s particularly compelling is the transformation of sustainable practices from a niche interest into a central aspect of modern fashion. It’s about reimagining the life cycle of fashion items, ensuring each step—from sourcing to production to the end product—is part of a circular economy. This journey of pushing boundaries, questioning the status quo, and finding beauty in sustainability is what keeps my work constantly exciting and meaningful. As I always say: Design is the key to sustainability.

Looking back at the FUTURE FORUM of October 2022 now that some time has passed, what were your highlights and what outcomes did the event have for you?

Reflecting on the FUTURE FORUM of October 2022, my highlights were undoubtedly the networking opportunities and experiencing the diverse outlook on sustainable fashion from different continents, especially from New York. The event was a fantastic platform for exchanging ideas and it greatly enriched my perspective on global sustainable fashion practices. It was amazing to see how interconnected we are in our mission for a more sustainable future in fashion.

You will travel to the US in March for several events and meetings, walk us through some of your plans, especially the workshops with Parsons professor and textile designer Victoria Manganiello, that the DWIH New York will support.

In March, I am honored to be invited to host a workshop on zero-waste design techniques at Parsons – The New School for Design. Together with Victoria Manganiello, we have decided on two distinct formats. The first is more focused on material manipulation and zero-waste techniques, while the second concentrates on the process of designing fashion true to zero-waste concepts. The second one will be open to everyone and will also provide students with the opportunity to ask their questions in a Q&A session.

Natascha von Hirschhausen looking at papers in her hand

On Thursday, we will host an exhibition and get-together at Victoria’s studio, showcasing different approaches to sustainable and social design with Intertwine Arts, which aims to promote accessibility in the arts and champion the legitimacy of disabled weavers in the art world. Craftswork, a multidisciplinary design and art studio, which explores the nature of textiles and technology through storytelling, material-based research, and installations. Additionally, my own work, focusing on researching zero-waste solutions and fashion beyond circularity, will be featured.

What are your current or up-coming projects?

We are currently in the final steps of developing a new collection for Natascha von Hirschhausen. This upcoming collection continues our commitment to sustainability and innovation in design, focusing on zero-waste production techniques and the use of sustainable, natural materials. As always, our aim is to push the boundaries of eco-friendly fashion, offering pieces that not only look beautiful but also have a minimal environmental impact and a long lifespan. Stay tuned for more updates as we bring this vision to life.

Thank you, Natascha, for the interview. We look forward to meeting you again in March!