Bent Angelo Jensen, the founder of a unique, avant-garde German label for men and women, simply defines a ‘gentle[wo]man’ as ‘consistently elegant in his or her manners and behaviour.’ While this description initially appears as polite as a classic corporate suit, its emphasis on elegance, character and integrity typify the attitude of Jensen’s dashing Herr von Eden (HvE) line.
A polarised fashion identity
When Jensen opened the first HvE boutique in his native Hamburg, the 1990s were drawing to a close and Germany’s fashion identity was polarised between Munich’s hunger for high-end international luxury and Berlin’s anti-fashion punk ethos. Jensen’s dandy designs bridged this divide through his clever mix of craftsmanship and punkish panache.
His masterly cuts appealed to men across the sartorial spectrum, from creative professionals in Bavaria to cool club-hopping Berliners appropriating the slick style of English Teddy Boys and satirically suited icons such as Malcolm McLaren. His stately shops in Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne still attract a balanced blend of old-fashioned and cutting-edge customers.
Although Jensen is greatly inspired by traditional British tailoring, his sensibility reflects Germany’s sophistication. ‘While I am heavily influenced by British menswear, I also borrow from Italian or American tailoring and my German influences are clear. One cannot miss the importance of a typical Bavarian-cut, Alpine-related hunting jacket in my collections.
This international mix easily can be transformed into something almost futuristic.’ Jensen says he also looks back to the 20s as an influential era for fashion. ‘But all eras interest me. Of course I am excited and interested by androgynous looks and changing role-plays for the HvE man and woman.’ Jensen’s arresting combination of influences makes HvE a magnet for progressive artists, musicians, actors, authors and tastemakers such as Chilly Gonzales, Paul Wearing, Pheline Roggan and Peaches.
Despite HvE’s easy entry into Germany’s coolest subcultures, Jensen’s outlook on suits focuses on their wider significance. ‘The suit has been a feature element of men’s fashion for 100 years because it is simple and classy, yet traditional. Because it is recognised in all countries and cultures, it is a basic and timeless piece unifying all men.’ And women. While Herr von Eden is best known as a gentleman’s outfitter, Jensen’s emphasis on unisex style recalls the best of Berlin’s historic provocative allure.
HvE’s classically cut trouser suits and buttoned blouses for women exude confidence and decadence. ‘The shape of the HvE women’s suit line is created to mirror the men’s,’ Jensen explains. ‘I am convinced that a clear, masculine cut for a woman’s suits makes her look elegantly untouchable and attractive, yet classical.’ Marlene Dietrich would undoubtedly have loved to wear Herr von Eden.
Inspiration from everywhere
In keeping with his unisex philosophy, Jensen’s focus on peacock-like, flashy colours for both genders means that men attract as much attention as their partners. ‘For me,’ he says, ‘emotional textile patterns inspire my designs and all of my designs are emotional. I find inspiration everywhere and at any time. I am inspired while riding on my bike through Hamburg, meeting friends, jogging around the Alster or dancing at Berlin’s Berghain [nightclub]. Everything I do can be inspirational, so new patterns and designs are always coming straight out of my imagination.’
Playful yet sharp
HvE’s powerful creativity and versatility is very much alive in its recent collections for men and women. In 2010, the womenswear look book featured the magnificently lush-lipped Welsh model Celyn Smyth playing dress-up in both men’s and women’s clothes, dancing across uniforms and eras wearing a plaid jumpsuit, three-piece pinstriped suit and vampish femme-fatale pencil skirt with a ruffled blouse.
With similar verve, the 2011/12 collection’s look book features an unconventionally handsome male model with a delicate lacework of tattoos covering his neck and hands, the rest of his decorated skin concealed beneath HvE’s classic pinstriped suit and high-necked white dress shirt. Playful and irreverent, the designs nevertheless adhere to a sharp, classic structure, so that the frivolity is entirely contained; Jensen’s searingly bright, pixelated print shirt in the slickest of cuts is testament to that. Whether you pair it with a sculptural charcoal suit or with aquamarine pajama pants is entirely up to you.