Sabine Unger on up-and-coming design talents

Out of the way...that spotlight's mine

Sabine Unger heads up the Munich Creative Business Week (MCBW) and gets the chance to experience the Munich design scene up close and personal. She is involved with the city's luminaries, but above all she's the first to learn about exciting new design projects. Here, she takes the chance to introduce six young talents.

A modern furnished office in a quiet backyard situated on Schleißheimer Straße. The shelves are bursting with books on design, the walls are lined with small towers of magazines and event guides. A stand announces the focus of all work attention here: the Munich Creative Business Week. In March 2022 (5-13 March 2022), the largest design event in Germany - attracting more than 70,000 visitors - will once again be opening its doors, thanks to its organisation by Bayern Design, a widely renowned skills hub for all things design. Sabine Unger, the event's organiser, welcomes us in an elegant, bright-blue coat. The choice of garment is no coincidence: It was designed by former students of hers. Before she took over the management of MCBW, she led the fashion academy "Akademie Mode & Design" (AMD) in Munich. The coat's creators are also the first project to be presented by Sabine Unger.


The fashion designers: Akjumii

„Akjumii is a young fashion label founded by Anna Karsch and Michaela Wunderl. I first met them at AMD, where they were studying fashion design. Their talent was immediately obvious: Throughout the work they were required to deliver as part of their training, their own style and intuitive sense of what makes a good cut was clearly evident. Their designs are young, yet elegant, but not at all intrusive. I liked their ideas so much that, at that time, I had already commissioned an item to be made by Anna Karsch. Since 2015, they have been running a small shop located on Reichenbachstraße, where people can buy both men's and women's fashion. They take great care to ensure that the clothes are produced fairly and sustainably, and unlike many others who nail that mantra to the door, Akjumii really is true to its word: The fabrics cover the shortest possible routes before reaching the customer, and are sewn in a small factory in Hungary. Overproduction is avoided by only starting work when the order has actually been received. Another benefit of doing things this way: It allows them to respond individually to each customer request. However, there is a problem at Akjumii that many young designers are familiar with. Time and money are extremely tight. There is a lack of resource to build up their own platform. What we need in Munich is a central point of contact – a kind of department store – where young designers can exhibit and sell their products.“


The all-rounder: Christian Zanzotti

„Christian Zanzotti could almost be described as a hidden champion. In the design scene, the industrial designer may already be a household name to a few people, but to the broader masses, his name rings only the faintest bell. He has already been recognised with important awards for his diverse range of designs, including Munich's prestigious design prize: the "Förderpreis Design der Stadt München." He has a very exciting product range to offer: From the motorcycle to the whiskey bottle, he has already designed everything imaginable. The interesting thing to note: Regardless of the product, he always manages to execute his striking, minimalist style. The fact that such a successful designer like Christian Zanzotti is still relatively unknown acts as a clear indication that, in our society, an appreciation of good design is still far too low. It hardly forms part of our school education. Although we have art and music lessons at school, design hardly ever gets a look-in. It would be great to ensure that young people can also enjoy some foundation understanding of design, while also conveying the societal significance of design.“

The Craftsman: Patrik Graf

„Patrik Graf has already exhibited twice at the MCBW, which comes as no surprise given the variety of his projects. He works as a photographer and designer, but is also deeply rooted in craftsmanship: Before studying space and object design, he trained as a master carpenter. His talent for craft design can be enjoyed in his many projects: he has, among other things, designed the church seating for the Munich Parish Church of St. Michael. The chairs appear very reduced and modern, without detracting in any way from their intended purpose – prayer. One of his latest projects involves a leather backpack made with natural tannins and without any closures. A very sophisticated design, characterised by the conscious use of materials and sustainable production conditions. He is also working with two refugees on a series production. With Patrik Graf, it's easy to see how diverse the work of a designer can be, and how well it can be combined with the implementation of charitable projects.“


The future-conscious traditionalist: Sebastian Thies

„A young, groovy guy and shoemaker in the sixth generation. His great-great-great-grandfather made slippers, and he has continued the family tradition, but now specialises in state-of-the-art, vegan sneakers. For example, Sebastian Thies processes wood so that it feels and looks like leather. He also works with other materials such as mushrooms, coffee or grass. His sneakers are so completely sustainable and ecological. The models are being developed within the family business, which is situated in Garching. I find it fascinating when someone comes from such a long tradition and does not turn their back on it or decide to go in a very elitist direction, but instead says: I can re-interpret this in an entirely new and modern way. The technology underpinning production is highly complex and difficult for me, as a layman, to understand. Sebastian Thies introduced a sneaker made of thermoplastic material at our exhibition in the MCBW FORUM 2017: When its temperature changes, so does the colour. We even gave visitors a hair dryer so that they could try it out. It was immediately apparent: the topic fascinates people.“


The globetrotters: Serious Business

„Serious Business is a young brand agency specialising in digital design, corporate communications and the development of brand strategies. Their brand communication is particularly centred around millennials, partly because the eight-strong team itself consists solely of early 30-somethings. They practically form their own target group. Perhaps that is also the reason why they depend so consistently on a modern working philosophy: Rigid hierarchies, unpaid internships and the senseless grind of overtime are all things they desperately want to avoid, choosing instead to work with the customer on equal terms, while even allowing every employee to pursue a project that is of real personal passion to them. Serious Business also has another super interest aspect: The eight-man team all have different passports. The agency's members come from countries like Mexico and Sweden. I think it's great that Munich manages to attract people from all over the world. Especially young people in the digital economy can choose wherever they want to work. That really is something that makes it special.“


The reductionist: Jonas Hansen

„In 2018, Jonas Hansen was part of a special MCBW event format: As part of the 'VICIS - Always Change A Running System' exhibition, our programme partner State of DESIGN attempted to find timely answers to current social, digital and environmental challenges. Jonas Hansen was a perfect fit with his minimalist furniture designs. He boasts a range of stunning articles including delicately designed tables, benches and shelves, which can be individually adapted - both in terms of colour and size. There are no frills or unnecessary screws used with his furniture; he instead pays great attention to ensuring a very reduced use of materials and thus manages to save resources and keep the furniture affordable. What I personally find really brilliant: Because the items are so greatly reduced in terms of design, you will never get enough of them. They are the complete opposite to those disposable products that you can keep for maybe two years before buying something new. But here, once again, we come against the same issue: The platform is absent. If you happen to be going to Munich to buy a new table, you'll only come across Hansen's little design studio on Nymphenburger Straße by pure chance. I would like to have a central point of contact where people can deliberately go when looking to buy design products from Munich.“



Text: Wolfgang Westermeier; Photos: Frank Stolle


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