indieRepublik speaks to fashion designer Jade Helene about clothes, S&M and the pandemic

by | Fashion, Interview

Jade Helene Shimmin, originally from South Africa, is a fashion designer, stylist and the store owner of Level Eight Berlin, read on to find out about her fashion journey, process and future plans.

indieRepublikWhat made you want to become a designer? Did you originally have a different idea about what you wanted to do?

Jade Helene Shimmin: I guess this will come as a very typical response from a girl – I’ve always loved dressing up, fashion, art, and creating, and I obviously still do. I also felt like I was led in this direction. But, funnily enough, straight after school I taught ballet in America, and I guess for a brief stint I wanted to be a professional ballerina – can you imagine that!

I wanted to be a professional ballerina – can you imagine that!


indieRepublikWho was your favourite designer when you were younger?

Jade Helene Shimmin: The 60s have always been a favourite era of mine. My favourite designer was Mary Quant, who was conservative to some extent, so pretty much the opposite to my designing style now, but I’m a massive fan of hers. The social movement during that time was quite radical. I’ve also always loved Saint Yves Laurent – the diversity that he showed over the years is admirable – as well as Christian Lacroix, who proves that the French get it right every time (fashion-wise), and whose bold colours are inspiring, especially because his designs are based on some of my favourite things: the opera, ballet and theatre. He inspired me to look into costume design, something I still would like to get more involved in.

indieRepublikWhere do you find inspiration for your designs, e.g. nature, urbanisation, technology, history, etc?

Jade Helene Shimmin: Everywhere! It could be anything or anyone.

indieRepublikHow long does it take for you to design a piece? Does this vary for different types of items?

Jade Helene Shimmin: I’m not actually sure… Every piece is different and it also depends on my time limit, or what I’m creating it for – whether it be a show, an installation, a customer or myself. Also, the number of garments differs depending on the show and the style criteria.


indieRepublikWhich items of clothing do you tend to focus on / which are your favourite to design?

Jade Helene Shimmin: My main focus over the last 5 years has strictly been on the Berlin culture, so that has meant a lot of sexy (I hate that word!) luxury women’s wear. Some people might categorise it as ‘S&M’ within collaborations and based on the vary daring clothing I produce for some of my collections, but my style is changing all the time.

+++ See also: the indieBerlin interview with Jade Helene in October 2019 +++

My style is changing all the time

indieRepublikDo you prefer designing men’s or women’s fashion more?

Jade Helene Shimmin: Women’s!

indieRepublikWhere do you like to work on your designs?

Jade Helene Shimmin: I don’t mind, but definitely by myself.


indieRepublikIs there another designer who has had an impact on you and your designs throughout your career?

Jade Helene Shimmin: Very recent designers that have impacted me would be Rodarte, Molly Goddard (who is semi-new on the scene) and Jacquemus – I absolutely love his creativity and his fashion shows are next level.

indieRepublikWould you consider doing a collaborative project?

Jade Helene Shimmin: I have done a lot and I’m always open to doing more. Perlansa has been my favourite to work with, and we have done almost all my shows together along with countless other projects.

indieRepublikDo you have a favourite piece that you’ve designed?

Jade Helene Shimmin: The Ada dress! I’ve redone it in various forms.

+++ See also: Jade Helene as part of the Fashion Re:evolution Pt. 1 from 2017 +++

indieRepublik: What have you been up to in 2020?

Jade Helene Shimmin: This year has been an absolute rollercoaster. I think a lot of people have had to reinvent themselves, myself included, branching out into other things I probably wouldn’t ever have thought of. As a creative person, it’s a little easier to find and create new projects. Its been crazy being in Cape Town for this long, I came here on holiday back in January – I really needed the chilled pace of life that people have here. Two years ago I started writing a book, so this year has given me some time to actually make a bit of head way on it. Although there were many times I was ready to leave Cape Town but then couldn’t, I’ve really loved my time here and actually think I will stay on for a few more months. With my work, if I can’t travel freely then there’s really not much point in trying to go anywhere.

A lot of people have had to reinvent themselves, myself included


indieRepublik: How do you think COVID has affected the fashion industry?

Jade Helene Shimmin: It has widely affected the creative industries, especially the boutique businesses – so many sales have been lost there because they couldn’t physically interact with brands, go to fashion shows, and serve their daily walk-ins. Most fashion houses or brands have had to rely on e-commerce, and this isn’t always easy if you haven’t already got an established platform. It’s incredibly difficult to try keep things moving when new rules and regulations come into place – just when we think we’ve made it, we hit another lockdown. 

indieRepublik: How has the current situation affected you?

Jade Helene Shimmin: I feel like I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed over the past few years with so many responsibilities and the need to go-go-go, so I needed to slow my mind and energy levels down. I had a surgery last year that forced me to do that. Surgery messed up a whole year, which then unfortunately rolled into this pandemic! I just think it’s important to ask ourselves what makes us happy and trust the process and that things will turn out ok.


indieRepublik: So what’s next for Level Eight?

Jade Helene Shimmin: Whilst the physical shop is closed, I’m still managing it online. I think it had an amazing run for almost 5 years – with two shops in Berlin and our pop-up in Vienna I can be proud of what we accomplished. This chapter is not finished, the world just needs to recover, as do all the people. I’m working on something in Portugal for next year, so watch this space!

Check out Level Eight Berlin on Instagram

Hear the latest Moa McKay Single Heartbreak Billie