lessons in how to wear a scarf


German-born Gerrit Rietfeld Academie alumna Nadine Goepfert has launched a new series to her body of work which challenges conventional ways of wearing a scarf. Composed of ten geometric-shaped pieces, 'Breaks in Continuity' is a welcome approach to the scarf as a versatile accessory. In a market over-saturated with simple cuts, wraps and ponchos, Goepfert experiments in neckline ornamentation. With the starting point of a theory published 49 years ago, she has created a modern perspective. From a fringe to a flap to a circle or a slash - how would you wear yours?


Nadine's projects are embedded with theoretical concepts but she always aims to keeps an open mind and accepts diversions in the creative process. 'Breaks in Continuity' is inspired by philosopher and semiotician Roland Barthes's work on one of his four variants of continuity; 'closure' (The Fashion System 1967). Scarves, unlike other garments such as trousers and jackets, don't tend to have a set closure which allows for a certain amount of expression on behalf of the wearer. According to Barthes, "closure is in fact a very rich aspect of dress; but, as such, it becomes an index of temperament, not a sign." 

- Can you tell me more about the inspiration behind the project? 

Other than a jacket or a pair of pants a scarf does not convey the way it is closed within its form.

Usually it has no applications (f.e. button) or a sleeve, which mimics a body shape, and therefore it does not give any concrete indications of how to drape this, usually rectangular piece, on the body. Based on the simplicity of its form the scarf itself makes the wearer develop specific habits, sometimes indicating social conventions. It makes us speculate about the personality of the wearer, maybe more than any other garment.

The series "Breaks in continuity" comments on the conventional ways of wearing a scarf. Through minimal interventions, the items break with adopted habits and create a multitude of new shapes and surprisingly diverse variants of wear.

I’m aware it’s in response to Roland Barthe’s work on ‘Breaks in Continuity’ in The Fashion System. Can you give me a more in depth explanation of when, how, why, where etc.? Why this concept was important to you? Why Barthe's work is still very much relevant in the creation of your work today, almost 50 years later? 

I had been researching Barthes "Breaks in Continuity“ already in 2011 within the the group project "Dress Information Group“. It's one of the chapters in "The fashion system“ that has always been a huge inspiration for my work. Particularly in terms of division, closure and attachments a garment can induce a special kind of movement to the wearer. For the series "Breaks in Continuity“, I had been only focusing on the scarf, which Barthes only mentions in a few sentences. As a garment without application, it only divides itself in two parts/polarities once it's draped on the body. As a result of the division, it offers plenty of possibilities / ways of closure.  Breaks, the (empty) space in-between, cut outs, is what in Barthes opinion makes a garment signify. 

"Whence the existence of a group of variants destined to make garments breaks or seams signify: the variants of continuity.“ (think about a man wearing an open or closed shirt, somebody feeling cold or shy) 

For "Breaks in continuity“ I had been researching different ways of closing a scarf, emphasising them, but at the same time adding "breaks“. 

In general Barthes, almost neurotic, very detailed observations and research on types and shapes of garments as well as his idea of the real, written, visual garment is still relevant. Nothing really changed, the function of garments are still the same, fashion magazines are still using the same language and representation to make a garment „fashionable“.  Only through language and representation fashion is created, the „real“ garment gets eliminated.

- How long have you been working on it for - from the initial concept to the production of the garments themselves? 

It was an initial thought, as most of my projects start. When I have an idea, I don’t think twice, I immediately start researching, observing, going through several books etc. This process is quite tense and passionate. Its my favorite part. After that it requires more time and organization, as the materialization of my ideas is often pretty elaborate. 

- Do you have a personal favourite? What is it about this particular scarf you like? / What’s its story?

I think the Flap scarf is personal favourite as it is the one where the others grew out of. 

It is again, partly inspired by the Flap skirt of „Matters of habit“. You can wear it in several different ways, of course, loose and just wrapped around, but the moment you fold it the circles will flap out, also can knot it through the cuts. It is very diverse and containing a lot of Barthes variants in one item. 

- Where can we buy a Goepfert scarf?!

From August/September on, on my website and in a few shops. Any further information to come. 

- Tell me about the team of creatives you worked with on this…

On the garments themselves and the whole concept around it, I work by myself. 

Regarding the photographic execution there is to mention Ina Niehoff, the photographer, a friend I have been known for a while. We appreciate each others work a lot and had always been talking about working together. Stefanie, I know for a really long while, who is also a well acknowledged stylist and a good friend.

I included them in the process pretty soon, so we had been throwing back ideas. I was explaining my visual ideas to them, Stefanie was selecting garments and we were making final decisions together and also working on the representation of each item, while Ina was looking for outside locations. It was great dynamic between all three of us. All that worked out really well and we are all pretty happy with the outcome.

Firstly – did you work alongside anyone in the conceptual / production stages? Are the scarves hand made? What fabrics are they made from? Where did you source the fabrics?

I worked by myself on the concept. Of course I work with handcrafting companies, but concept and idea, color, is all my design and thoughts. The scarves are all made of lambswool.

Secondly – the photography/styling/casting of the collection is beautifully executed. Can you tell me about that collaborative process? How did you put the team together? 

(see before)

- The pieces looks fabulous on the model, but the graphic shapes and colours also look stunning off the human body as a collection in their own right/still life. I can imagine them in a gallery, even depicted as prints in frames or in glass display cabinets. Are you planning on presenting anywhere other than online? (I can also see the images making a great printed look book, too!)

Yes, this what it is definitely made for. I mean it is as accepted fact, f.e. looking at artworks and white space, that objects will change their meaning due to their surrounding. I like playing around with that, the perception of objects in general. Most of my work is shown in museums rather than in fashion shows or runways (what is a conscious decision of mine). I play around with the idea of fashion in the photographs but when it comes to showing them in real I prefer showing them in the context a museum or a gallery. Also because people are just more attentive when going to a museum or the like and more willing to dig deeper into some work.  

- What are your thoughts on the current state of the fashion system and the changes to the fashion calendar that a number of brands have just recently announced? What do you think this means for the future of fashion / the fashion show?

I think it is some slow steps in a good direction, reducing the amount of shows f.e. Production wise some of these ideas, as the „see-now-buy-now“ principal, might be not be doable of smaller labels, even though this would save them from getting copied by big fashion chains to easily. 

It might get more difficult for the purchasers to not lose track I suppose, but in general, I think it is important that something happens so this whole fashion parody which has nothing to do daily life and rhythm anymore, gets damed. 

- What other plans do you have for 2016? Any more projects in the pipeline you can reveal?

There will be following another few works dealing with our relation to garments for sure, though, till the end of the year I’m planing to concentrate on other topics though. Also I’m collaborating on some commissioned jobs in various fields, which are also new to me and very exciting. 






Photography: Ina Niehoff, Styling: Stephanie Klopf, Hair & make up: Susanna Jonas, Model: Linda P, Additional clothing: The Store, Voo Store, Lisa Haag, Filippa K, Wood Wood Berlin.