Liz Valentina Thieme’s Superfantastical Aesthetic: Making Fashion Playful, Sustainable and Popping

An interview with the Leading Lady of her own Fashion Story; Designer Liz Valentina Thieme

Liz Valentina Thieme
Photo by Gabriella Achadinha

Hey, you lovely human! Our incredible photographer, writer and designer pal Gabriella Achadinha has an eye for amazing images, and her finger on the pulse of what’s happening. That’s why we love to pass her work along to all of you! Today, we’re featuring her interview with designer and aesthetics queen Liz Valentina Thieme, but make sure to check out her concept photography series called ‘Reverse’ and her amazing portrait of mother and daughter duo Mis Papelicos and Kim Rosario – you’ll be so happy you did! In the meantime, give her a follow wherever you can find her, and enjoy the stunning feature below <3

Words and Images by Gabriella Achadinha

Liz Valentina Thieme is one of those characters of a cinematic quality. Exuding a natural charisma, colour seems to trail after her as with the Pied Piper, a tail of hues and vibrance. I recall meeting her one sunny afternoon in Cape Town. Fitting to her temperament, the weather was bright and welcoming with an azure sky.

We collaborated on a photo-shoot that showcased her graduate collection from a local fashion college and I recall being transfixed by her ingenuity, the masterful way in which her designs retained a sense of the imaginative and playful. Sushi-anime patterned kimonoed suit combinations in yellow and popping red ruffs, the collection transformed those who wore the pieces into walking personas, reminiscent of pop video and gaming culture but with a personalised Liz flair.

We both reside in Berlin now, a city historically renowned for its architectural grey, moody skies and embracing of the Berghain black. Berlin is also a melting pot of experimentation though and flashes of techno neon and softer pastels of the countless blumenladen (floristry shops)have marked the kieze (neighbourhoods) with a buoyancy.

Photographing and chatting to Liz in her new abode in Mitte (which is just as lively as its owner and which she managed to procure at a bargain; a skill also translated to her knack with clothing items) we discussed all things fashion, sustainability and influence.

First and foremost, tell me a bit about your journey with fashion. When did the love affair start?

When I was a kid, I had a big box with clothing to play dress-up. I recall that it was one of my absolute favourite things to do! My mum is a very fashionable lady and she would always love to dress me up, even if just to go to kindergarten. She would also walk around with her big hats, adorned with big flowers on them, and make her own extravagant jewellery. At a very young age I was introduced to the concept of having fun with fashion, and what other people would call ‘extravagant’ was my normal. I guess if your parents themselves play with this sense of experimentation it catches on, you just keep this fun.

fashion | gabriella achadinha | Liz Valentina Thieme

If I had to track my love affair, it probably started when I moved to Cape Town when I was 19 years old. I grew up in Hamburg, Germany and the way everyone would dress was very similar; it was not deemed cool to look different. Living in South Africa allowed me to fully express myself without feeling judged, I remember when I went to my first second hand market in Cape Town and bought a super cute set consisting of a crop top and blazer. I still have it to this day and was amazed how cheap and beautiful it was. I think this was when the realisation set in to how great vintage is.

You seem to have this natural inclination towards colour and pattern matching, what inspires you with regards to this? Any prolific designers or artists or style icons?

It’s a bit of a cliche, but I would say someone very inspiring to me is Iris Apfel. She breaks the norm. I feel like she also just enjoys the art of fashion and mixing and matching whatever feels good! Style is about being able to make a 2€ fleamarket dress look like a 1000€ dress. And it should make you feel the same way, no matter the price tag!

fashion | gabriella achadinha | Liz Valentina Thieme
fashion | gabriella achadinha | Liz Valentina Thieme

There’s been a shift in the fashion industry towards ethical / environmentally conscious production as well as purchasing second hand and vintage to reduce carbon footprint. How do your own goals and projects within the industry reflect this?

Fashion is this wonderful amazing form of art. There are no limits in expressing ourselves. We live in a time where there is almost no more guidelines or dress codes, dependent on societal setting of course. Considering our history, this is a very rare and special time to live in, however at some point fashion became a disposable product. We are told to follow trends and that our clothes can be off season or not in fashion anymore, consequently the quality of clothing nowadays is so poorly we are almost forced to buy new items every season. We live in a capitalistic world, which industry isn’t designed to make us consume more and more and more?

And it is for sure happening on the back of our planet. I think most of society still doesn’t realise how many steps go into producing a garment. When talking about cotton, we are talking about a plant. A plant that has to grow and be watered, and after probably another ten hands that involved into creating the garments, one can buy it for just 3€ in a store. Everything about this is just so wrong.

My personal goal would be to inspire people to be more aware on how they consume fashion. A first big step would be transparency and education in this journey, showing people where their clothes are sourced from and what it does to our environment. Another goal for me would be to inspire people to have more fun with their clothes, especially in Germany everything feels very black and grey. Wear that freaky shirt to work if you want, don’t let anyone tell you how you should or shouldn’t dress!

fashion | gabriella achadinha | Liz Valentina Thieme
fashion | gabriella achadinha | Liz Valentina Thieme

What are you favourite spots for vintage / previously loved sourcing?

If it’s summer I love a good flea market! It’s nice to have a “live” interaction with the person who is selling the garments.

The nicest things you normally find with the grannies cause they still own those high quality pieces in their closet. I also spend a lot of time online looking for the gems; I sometimes get very lucky on EbayDepop or Kleiderkreisel. If you want to find special pieces and pay little money you need to really invest your time.

fashion | gabriella achadinha | Liz Valentina Thieme

There’s something about both your appearance (style) and living space that is so playful and welcoming. You truly exude this burst of colour and joy. What is your personal philosophy behind colour and emotion? Were you always so drawn to all things saturated / colourful?

I like the positivity that is linked to all this colour. People on the streets are normally a bit confused seeing so much colour at once, but if you really think about it, it does have a positive effect on you and maybe even makes one person smile. I love being surrounded by so much colour in my house it just lifts up my mood!

My boyfriend also shares the same passion of colour, he painted and drew most of the artworks in our house.

I’ve photographed your own designs in the past and there was such a strong element of fantastical surrealism to them. What is the process behind your creations?

I believe being an artist or creative is just walking around the world with open eyes and saving all the details in your head as you like each particular one. It can be the shape of a house or the colour of a flower. You save this all somewhere in your brain and put it back together. This way I would also describe the process of my creations, it’s a mixture of things I love and experiences I had, new interpreted.

fashion | gabriella achadinha | Liz Valentina Thieme
fashion | gabriella achadinha | Liz Valentina Thieme

Any last tidbits of advice regarding being an ethical fashion consumer?

Always question yourself, if this piece is something you really need and whether you will still love it in two years.

Before you buy something new, also check if you can find something similar second hand. There are so many options nowadays. However, no one is perfect and small steps count. For example, if you really want to buy that ZARA dress — do so, but at least make Slow Fashion out of Fast Fashion by keeping that dress for a long time. It’s about giving your clothes a longer lifespan — this can also mean sharing it with your friends, or selling it online. If you don’t like it anymore, there probably is someone out there who would love it!

fashion | gabriella achadinha | Liz Valentina Thieme
fashion | gabriella achadinha | Liz Valentina Thieme
fashion | gabriella achadinha | Liz Valentina Thieme

And with that, our session of laughs, chatter and all sorts of fabric arrangement comes to an end. The sun is shining through the large streets, cascading off of reflective windows; a much appreciated rarity in Berlin’s end of October autumn reign. I tend to impulsively shop, but since that encounter I have begun to question every purchase I make as well as every manufacturer I purchase from: Is this something I truly need and will hold on to for several years? How ethical is the brand in their processes? How environmentally friendly is their production line and materials used?

We tend to get blinded by the social responsibility of many decisions that need to be made on the daily, and consequently this often results in Analysis ParalysisYet these days I hear the inner reverberating ‘make small steps count’ sentence from Liz, a tiny reminder not to sweat it and take it as it comes, mindfully and at one’s own pace. With a dash of all the pink and abstract patterns.

Want to see more from Gabriella and check out her other projects? We get it! Grab a cup of something and spend some time clicking around her website here, and make sure you’re following the stunning universe she’s curated on her Instagram.


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