Award-winning master graduate from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, winner of German Fashion Hero TV format and one of the most talented young designers in the country, Marcel Ostertag (36), rocks the runways with his sustainable and vibrant creations for quality conscious women.
The backdrop for our interview couldn’t have been more perfect. Ostertag invited us to the rooftop restaurant of the exclusive Shoreditch house in London. Even with the most illustrious characters from the art and media scene around us, the German fashion designer clearly stands out from the crowd showing off two giant parrot tattoos
on his forearms. Our first impression? A rebel with a killer smile.
Ostertag grew up in the village of Berchtesgaden. His parents divorced when he was a baby, which led to a strong bond with his mother and grandmother, who taught him how to draw, sew, knit and crochet. “I was always drawn to the arts,” he remembers and speaks fondly about his mother. “My mum is my greatest fan, she always stood behind me and supported me.” At the age of 14 he won his first design contest in Austria. “But back then designer was not really a job. I didn’t know that it is something one could study or do for a living,” he recalls. Few people know that Ostertag started a professional dancing career at this very young age. While attending boarding school, he performed on the stage of the Salzburg State Theatre as well as the Vienna State Opera. “For thirteen years I have been dancing for six hours a day,” he says. But then faith changed. “When I finished school at 18, I just bagged a great contract, but then I needed knee surgery.” A dance career was no longer an option, but that didn’t throw the ambitious youngster back.
Thanks to his splendid physique Ostertag successfully embarked on a modelling career and this was the time when he developed his passion for fashion. He enrolled at ESMOD Germany International Fashion School, but soon realised it didn’t offer the right environment to spark his inspiration. At the same time one of his modelling jobs
took him to London, where the German fashion student further investigated his options and managed to impress with his creative skills. “Within three weeks I moved to London to start at St.Martins,” the designer recalls. Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design is arguably one of the finest fashion schools in the world and only a fraction of applicants are granted a place. Famous graduates include Alexander Mc-Queen, Stella McCartney and Matthew Williamson to name just a few.
It was here where Ostertag met his mentor, the late Louise Wilson, one of the most influential figures in fashion for decades and course director of the prestigious fashion MA at Central Saint Martins. “She taught me so much. Thanks to her I am where I am and who I am today,“ the designer says while sipping a glass of Chardonnay as if he was making a toast to her. “It was her who made me look at my designs from different angles and re-consider every single step until the finished project is absolutely perfect.” His bachelor collection was voted the best in class and gained him massive media attention and made him continue with a master degree. “It was Louise who recommended me to start my own label straight after that and make the most of my personal skills, take advantage of the hype around my award-winning collection.”
“I am very extreme”
After six years Ostertag moved to Munich. “It was really hard to leave London, but I missed my family badly. Besides you get a lot more square footage for your money in Germany and I love space. Of course Munich is different than London, but Germany has a thriving fashion scene,” he says. Working in a former sound studio, where bands such as Queen and the Rolling Stones once produced their records, Ostertag and his team are juggling sketchbooks, pins and yarn.“ Before a show I work 18 hours a day, seven days a week. This is exhausting. I could come up with a new collection every day. I am very extreme. When inspiration strikes, I sketch a whole collection of up to 100 pieces in one day,” he says and continues: “But this is the easy bit. The tough job starts after that. A dress I have in mind does not easily turn into a wearable piece, sometimes it requires a hundred fitting sessions to get it right.”
Every single item from the atelier of Marcel Ostertag is produced in Bavaria with unparalleled attention to detail and impeccable quality. An Ostertag creation stands for high quality sustainable fashion that lasts for years and makes a woman feel confident and beautiful. In addition to two collections per year, he appears in various TV shows and cooperates with global brands. “I did a lot of work for Volkswagen China, Hyundai in Korea, worked as a ghost designer for other labels and teamed up with cosmetic brands such as Maybelline and Manhattan,” he says. One of his current projects involves British shoe label Clarks and he clearly enjoys the international projects. “We are also looking to expand to foreign markets as German designers are high in demand abroad,” Ostertag reveals. He is definitely a workaholic, allowing himself just one holiday per year (ideally to Bali). However, if he has some spare time, yoga and pilates help him to unwind. Or he takes Oscar, a French bulldog of which he has shared custody, for a walk. At the moment he is single, but given our impression from the past 60 minutes this won’t be for long as Marcel Ostertag is bursting with charisma. When we asked him if he could share a little style secret for the ladies out there, he instantly recommends: “When it starts with the thought ‘I have to dress up’ things already go wrong. Dressing stylish needs to come natural.”
TEXT: TINA AWTANI | PHOTO: GABO