Svenja Specht of Reality Studio, Fashion Designer

Having graduated from fashion school in Dusseldorf, Reality Studio founder Svenja Specht still wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life, so she decided to study product design. (Her thesis project was a designy tampon dispenser, which she presented to the class in the university bathroom.) In the midst of those studies — during which she also interned for Jean-Marie Massaud in Paris — she took classes in photography and graphic design, the latter of which she practiced for four years at ad agencies in Beijing after finishing school for good. “I wanted to see and learn as much as possible,” she says of that time. But having had all of those experiences, she recalls, it was New Year’s Eve of 2000-2001 when “it came to me suddenly, just like that, that I needed to go back to fashion somehow.” And so she packed up, moved to Berlin, got a job as a trend forecaster, and three years later launched a clothing line that was every bit as eclectic as her own background, if not moreso.

Reality Studio, Specht says, was and still is focused on her wide-ranging interest in traditional clothing and handcrafting techniques from across cultures. “It’s not about making exactly the same thing, just the interest and inspiration,” she says. “Early on I tried to actually integrate fabrics from other places — I ordered some from Uzbekistan and from Kenya, which never arrived and my money was gone — but now I work those influences into my clothing in other ways.” That can mean anything from a specific shoe-strap or toggle-button style she’s spotted on her travels to places like Japan or Portugal, or the more general tribal or nomadic influence that sometimes appears in her fabrics and oversized cuts. Her lookbooks often serve to underscore these influences, such as Winter 2012, in which her models wore headscarves and gypsy-like necklaces with Russian-carpet prints. For Summer 2014, she paired summery linen coats and jumpsuits with a print by French textile darlings Milleneufcentquatrevingtquatre, then invited the design studio Simple Society to shoot the line in the style of the Japanese photographer Shojiyo Ueda, with a bit of Surrealism mixed in.

That collection — plus the instantly successful shoe line she launched last year, through which we discovered her work — has resulted in a major uptick in Reality Studio’s US presence, ten years after it began. Specht’s clothing and accessories are now stocked at stores like Totokaelo and Assembly — places in which her diverse design background and global-meets-minimalist aesthetic is pretty much par for the course. She says she took the name of her studio from a concept William Borroughs invented, in which he cut up all kinds of texts and films and made them into something new. “My reality studio is basically all the material I have around me, my life and my experiences, which I take into the studio, cut up, and reassemble,” says Specht. We asked her to elaborate on those materials and experiences in the slideshow at right.