Rebel Designers: How Musterbrand Brings Star Wars Into High-End Fashion

The fashion label's co-founder and CEO, Knut Bergel, speaks to about making a new kind of Star Wars apparel, their stunning Rogue One jackets, and more.

For over half a decade now, Musterbrand has been making its mark in the realm of fandom-focused wearables with small, but impressive strides. The designer brand takes “geek fashion” and elevates it into the realm of high-end, with pieces that aren’t just good looking, but well-made, too. German ingenuity and an eye for style combine to create the company’s long-lasting clothing, giving fans pieces that they can hold onto for years. While the company’s roots began in gaming, it quickly expanded into the realm of film and fantasy, before making the jump into hyperspace that led to their 2015 collection for The Force Awakens.

Now, nearly a year after that collection’s release, Musterbrand has cooked up unique takes on galactic fashion with everything from beautiful knit scarves to ominous Sith-inspired coats. Going into this winter and the release of Rogue One, the plan seems to be the same: to create wearable pieces that fans can keep for life. Musterbrand is releasing four new, stylish pieces: the first pair, available to order now, are two knit pieces based on Kylo Ren and the heroine of The Force Awakens, Rey. The second set, which was just released, takes Rebel style and spins it for everyday use with two Rogue One jackets — based on Jyn and Cassian — for men and women. The jackets, like many of Musterbrand’s Star Wars pieces, also sport custom lining with an all-new design celebrating the spirit of the Rebel Alliance. sat down with Musterbrand co-founder and CEO, Knut Bergel, to talk about the experience so far and what the company has planned for the rest of 2016. Musterbrand has been producing high-quality Star Wars pieces for a little while now. Can you tell us a little bit about the company’s story with the franchise?

Knut Bergel: Our background is in games, but after our first year of sales, we had an initial chat with LucasArts — this was before Disney — but this past year, we had been asked by a partner to work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And now, obviously, it’s sort of a natural thing that we’re continuing with Rogue One and coming up with other categories, like knitwear and expanding with a shoe collection. What is your personal history with Star Wars?

Knut Bergel: I was actually born in Romania, and that was communist times, so Star Wars didn’t exist then for me. By the time my parents had moved us to Germany, it was 1980. I remember watching it in a theater, and it was a completely new experience to me. It wasn’t a movie, it was something else. And so since then, I’ve been obsessed with not only the story, but the way it permeates through the culture. I actually have always enjoyed Star Wars video games — I started playing them on the N64, and now I play Battlefront today. It must be interesting to work on pieces for films that haven’t even come out yet, like Rogue One. What’s the design process like when you’re so far out from the film?

Knut Bergel: We’re sort of sent what assets are available about the mood of the character. Disney is a very, very professional licensor as far as providing brand guides and elements to use. But we don’t simply copy logos or print approved assets on items. We design everything from scratch based on the apparel of the character, some of which are close and wearable replicas of what’s on screen. So we’re not just focusing on the graphical elements, but also the feel of the fabric, the choice of knit, [ensuring everything] meets the character or setting of the movie.

That leaves us with specific choices for each piece, like if you want your cotton pre-washed, or should it be more beat up, or should it be more clean… We submit that all to Disney, and they come back with whatever minor changes they need as the film’s production progresses and changes are made. But for the most part, we’ve been quite lucky with the approval time. Often we’ll have to start manufacturing or mailing everything down about six months in advance of the movie in order to make sure that we have the items available worldwide. So, the production on our new Rogue One jackets [started early].

Designing for these films gives us an opportunity to take what these fantastical characters are and twist it into something wearable, with a recognizable silhouette or pattern. So with the jackets, that was what we wanted to emulate and bring to life: that gritty Rebel feel with a clean cut for long wear.

Musterbrand Star Wars

A rebellion built on style: Cassian-inspired (left) and Jyn-inspired (right) jackets. Tell us a little bit about Musterbrand’s history. What made you choose fandom and style?

Knut Bergel: Outside of just making cool stuff, we found the footprints of rock and roll in everyday street wear — but we grew up with Star Wars and video games, so we wanted to create something akin to “band wear” for these various franchises. When I looked, I thought, “There must be something more, something beyond a T-shirt; a new category that can help up elevate the style to a more sophisticated level of fashion.” So that’s sort of how we started working on Musterbrand.

I think in that sense we’re still very unique, and it gives us an interesting challenge with the quality and supply of the items versus the demand of a worldwide audience. So we wanted to kind of elevate that merchandise, and also make sure that we reached as many fans as we could in order to try and start, in a sense, changing the scope of what fashion meant within this geek space. Fashion can make us feel otherworldly with the right coordination. What kind of feeling does Musterbrand hope to achieve when someone wears your clothes?

Knut Bergel: Our main message and idea is to bring the excitement of those franchises to real life. That doesn’t stop at something like cosplay events or shows — it’s everywhere, it’s something you wear every day, that identity of who you are. We think clothes are kind of your interface, and how you face the outside world. A lot of times, you’re showing off the kind of subculture that you believe in and that you’re dedicated to. So we aim to make our fans feel excited, and to keep their passion recognizable in what they wear in a stylish, elegant way.

So when we design, we try to hit all of those points with the mind of a fan, because that’s what we are, too. It’s something that permeates everywhere here — even our manufacturers are deeply involved in entertainment. So we are gamers, we are sci-fi nerds, and Star Wars is such an exciting franchise because putting that into practice happens on a much larger scale.

Catrina Dennis is a writer and Star Wars die-hard. In her spare time, she tells stories, yells very loudly about soccer, and hosts a few very cool podcasts. Catch up with her on Twitter @ohcatrina.

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