The passionate devotion of Dipl.-Des. Eva-Maria KK and master furrier Heino Manchen for a family tradition that goes back four generations is reflected in the precisely handcrafted and strictly limited range of fashion, handbags and accessories.
Many moons ago in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, when sitting on her father’s lap as a five-year-old, Eva-Maria Katharina Karl said to him “If I were ever to marry it would only be in a white Swakara dress”.
Call it synthesis, synchronicity, whatever, but many moons later this is exactly what she did and was wearing the magnificent wedding gown in white Swakara that won the Big Swakara Award in 1995. What’s more, it had been made by none other than the bridegroom, now her husband and business partner in Katharina Karl, Heino O.H. Manchen, and it achieved the highest marks ever for an entry in the Swakara designer category.
You might well say the marriage of the Manchen was a match made in heaven, or, if you want to split hairs, at the International Fur & Fashion Fair in Frankfurt, which Eva-Maria and Heino were attending in March 1993.
Heino had just finished his Master’s Furrier Diploma at the Bundespelzfachschule and was sitting there with his teacher and some colleagues having a quiet conversation.
The previous evening Eva-Maria had come home from a night shoot in a film production and, although very tired, listened to her inner voice and took on the four hour drive to Frankfurt as she had done every year, since it was a family tradition to attend the fair.
Heino takes up the story.
“I saw this girl approaching the stand. She was wearing olive hot pants with fur trimming and a matching scarf with the same fur trimming. She also knew this teacher from the “Leistungswettbewerb” so I went over and we were introduced. Our conversation was spontaneous from the beginning…”
As if the forces had combined to make double sure, the two kept bumping into each other. At the time Heino was packing up to return to Namibia after studying and working in Germany for eight years, during which he was judged Best Bavarian Furrier in 1988 and achieved his Master’s Furrier Diploma in 1993. Only one week after having met Heino asked Eva-Maria not “ if ” but “ when “ she would marry him and Eva-Maria replied “ When you have finished crafting my white Swakara wedding dress “
Eva-Maria KK took part in the German "Bundesleistungwettbewerb" in Frankfurt / Main in 1986 and became "Bundesieger" in the competition, i.e. best German furrier
Heino, Best bavarian furrier 1985
Eva-Maria KK (middle) with her "Gesellenstück" in 1986. Best furrier of the school and of Nordrhrein Westfalen (Landessieger).
Now comes an especially tantalising twist to this tale, proving without a doubt that the Katharina Karl story emanates from the stuff of which great romances are made. Eva-Maria had just finished her stint as costume designer with a television and film production and was due, in a few week's time, to start as costume assistant and costume designer at the Theatre of Münster. Now her carrier had to follow another path.
Undeterred, Eva-Maria came to Namibia to continue the by now more than 160-years furrier’s family tradition started by her great-grandfather when he opened his business in 1859. Her grandfather carried on with the business in 1931. Her father then followed his father’s footsteps and took it over in 1962. Then, in 1999 Eva-Maria and Heino Manchen launched their own shop with their integrated design and manufacturing atelier - Katharina Karl - the heart of the family business on Independence Avenue in Windhoek.
There is a German proverb that says of tradition: it is not the stirring of cold ashes; it is the carrying forward of hot coals with which to light new fires.
Eva-Maria and Heino pluck the hot coals from the handcraft’s legacy to create fashions that draw clients from all over the world.
Eva-Maria, who won the “ Best German Furrier Award “ on the completion of her apprenticeship and then studied at the Fachhochschule Bielefeld for
six years, is the designer for the Katharina Karl Collection. She personally constructs every single pattern, also for the made-to-measure orders and controls and alters the prototypes until she’s absolutely satisfied. Only then does Heino start manufacturing the new styles in the atelier situated in the same building. This is where he sorts the various skins and where they are cut and stitched, mostly by hand.
Says Eva-Maria KK “ As I’m a furrier as well, we love to work together. This is a great advantage when designing and constructing a pattern having the experience in manufacturing and handling the different skins and materials. ”
With their philosophy “ Wir machen das - wir machen das schon immer “ Eva-Maria and Heino concentrate on the individual needs, feelings and preferences of each and every client. Says Heino …
Life is about real people - and that is the magic at Katharina Karl.