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Meet Berlin – based fashion designer DENNIS CHUENE

Berlin’s fashion scene is buzzing with creativity, and at the heart of it is Dennis Chuene, a designer whose work defies the ordinary. Known for his bold, eclectic designs that effortlessly blend the avant-garde with timeless elegance, Dennis has quickly become a name to watch in the industry. His commitment to sustainable fashion and innovative approaches have set him apart, making his collections a staple on the fashion radar.

Today, we sit down with Dennis Chuene to talk about what drives his creativity, how Berlin influences his work, and his vision for the future of fashion. From his latest collection to his thoughts on sustainability, get ready to dive into the mind of a designer who is not just following trends but creating them.

Could you share more about your journey as a fashion designer and how you transitioned to establishing your brand in Berlin?

I started when I was 17 and remade my dad’s old shirt. I wanted to continue sewing then, but instead, I went to study marketing and advertising at university for a full year, while still making clothing. As you might have guessed marketingwasn’t for me at all so I dropped out.

Thankfully my dad supported my decision. That’s how I started studying fashion. However, soon I was forced to drop out again because I didn’t have enough money to pay for my course.

One of those days a strange lady ran up to me in a mall and I went: “I think you should come study at my school”. I declined straight away because I didn’t want to get any more formal training. She insisted and gave me her business card.

Shana Edelstein, London International School of Fashion. When I saw it, I thought: FUCK YES. It was cool and expensive and I wouldn’t be able to pay for it myself. So, I went to study at the London International School of Fashion in South Africa.

Still, at school, I occasionally got to know the top South African designer, David Tlale. We picked up a conversation andguess what? He started asking me about ME. Because he has already heard about my work from the Fashion Week andmy school. The very same day we went down for a drink and he hired me.

But there was also a brand that I wanted to either work or intern for. Every day for three months straight I would go to Strangelove, knock on their door, and ask them for a job. Every day they’d say no. So, I’d come again.

„Because today it is a “no”, tomorrow it might be a “yes”.

They hired me eventually. I was studying and working 2 jobs at that point.

In 2006 I worked on David Tlale’s Exodus collection with which he went to the Paris Fashion. In that show 70 to 80 % of the menswear pieces were straight out of my wardrobe: the pieces I would design and wear myself. We made a few other items but the majority of the collection was designed by me.

I am sharing this now because I am not the only one who has experienced it. My lecturer came to me after the showand said: “It’s a pity nobody’s ever going to know that that were your designs”. The hard part about being an employee in somebody’s company is that they take all the glory, and you are just a supporting act.

David was a great leader. He got me thinking out of the box and creating pieces within his theme. Nonetheless, the truthis the truth. They were my pieces.

After that still in 2006 I started my own label Vernac while still working for David Tlale. I was making upcycled China tartan bags. When I featured them in the show David told me to protect my idea because people were going to steal it. But I did not care, because

„I was more than one idea.“

Later I resigned and worked for a couple of other designers for a few years. But all that time I felt like I wasn’t being seen as a creator.

Hence in 2010, I moved to Cape Town. I was in a new city with 15 bucks in my pocket, no job, and no desire to do fashion any longer. Because it felt like I had prostituted myself to other brands and got nothing from it.

I started working at a call center. The level of frustration was rising. Those were 2 very bitter years of my life. Up until 2012 when I met my future wife and everything changed. Because she inspired me to design again.She said I was far too talented to work at the call center. She said: “Quit. I’ve got your back”. All everybody needs is just one person to believe in them, she was the person who truly believed in me.

„I will support you regardless, you need to just go back and do it.“

And I rekindled my designs. With my wife’s emotional and financial support, I went into denim and creating bags again,while keeping my job at the call center. I made a decision that I would only quit

when I’d make the equivalent of my salary with my designs. It took me about seven months until I could quit.

It was almost 2013. And I was developing Vernac making clothes and bags. The clothing part was more of a loveinterest and pleasure while sales of the bags kept everything afloat. Bags are easy, it’s just grab and go product. So Idid that.

When did you do your first Fashion Week show? And how did it feel for you?

In 2017 in Cape Town I had my first show. And oh, it felt great.But there was more to it than just my show. Remember how my future wife has been an integral part of what I do?

She was at the show that day. Nobody knew her. She is not a person for the limelight, but she is in the background of everything I am doing. So, when I was about to take all the glory for the show she helped me prepare…

„I proposed to her.“

 At the end of my show, I got on one knee with the ring in my hand and asked her to be my wife in front of 300 people and TV cameras. I had prepared a speech but all that came out of my mouth was some incoherent blubber. Thank God the ring was speaking for itself. And thank God that she said “YES”. I did it because everybody saw and applauded me and my work. But they didn’t know that none of it would have happened if she hadn’t said back then: “Quit. I’ve got your back”.

„I got the girl and I got the show.“


What happened afterward?

Cape Town was a transitional place where I found my roots, my way, and my love. But my wife wasn’t happy there anymore. She wanted to move back to Germany.

I agreed Because I’ve always had this idea:

„If I’m about to pivot, I do it on a high and not on a low.“

You got to make a change while you’re still hot. Because if you do it later, it will mean that you are looking for an opportunity.

„And you yourself are an opportunity. Your success is not dictated by your geography.“

So, we moved to Germany in 2017, same year when I did my first big show in Cape Town. But we didn’t move not to Berlin, no, we moved to a butt crack of Germany: a small town in Bavaria.

When and why did you move to Berlin then?

We stayed in that town for about three years. This is where we’ve started our family. But I couldn’t stay there forever learning German and working in a beer garden, I felt like I was losing myself. That’s why in 2019 I registered my business and got employed by someone who needed a seamstress or a machinist to produce jackets. Jackets are my forte, you know, I kill jackets.

I started producing my own clothing again and selling my designs in Studio 183 in Berlin. And my sales were going up. In the meantime, we had a baby on the way and I desperately wanted to move from that godforsaken place. Hence, I threw my weight at my work…

This is when COVID hit and killed my business: stores closed, and sales dropped to the floor. However, my brilliant wife had an idea. She offered me to make masks. I didn’t like the idea at first, but then I made several samples; we tested them and I started sending them out… soon after I was producing 160 to 200 a day masks a day. It was insane.

How did you go from masks back to clothes?

 I was making clothes all this time. But my mistake was trying to produce something cheap. Cheap clothing never resonated with my customers. Because they could tell that this was an act of desperation to make money and my soul wasn’t in it. In June 2020 we moved to Berlin. And I decided to rebrand, there was no more place for cheap items and no more place for Vernac.

I learned how to say Versace, it was time for people to learn how to say Dennis Chuene.

I started putting myself out there and got my studio in Berlin in 2021. My first Berlin Fashion Week show took place in February 2022. But I do not intend to take part in the Fashion Week anymore.

What inspired the rebranding from Vernac to Dennis Chuene and how does the new identity of your brand Dennis Chuene align with your design ethos?

 Living my truth. Before the rebranding, I wasn’t being completely honest about how I felt about things.

I’m a very emotional person and can be even melodramatic at times. And I create out of feeling that’s why I don’t draw: I create with fabric, and put my emotions into each piece. Hence, when the brand was called Vernac it did not translate MY FEELINGS. By opening a brand under my name I could finally be myself and show the process of repeatedly learning and unlearning who I am through my clothes.

Like the jacket I made that says “Dennis who?” has “DC” initials on it. D stands for Dennis, C for Chuene but also is my dad – Charles, and then on each big letter you can read “MARU” which is my son’s name. So that’s three generations of my family on one jacket.

Before I would not create products like that, I would go for an artistic attempt to please people. Now I’m making pieces that mean something.

In what ways does your brand aim to inspire creativity and push the boundaries of the fashion industry?


Most brands change their narrative every year. And my truth is never going to change.

„What’s true is true and remains true.“

I aim to create a transcending experience through clothing. I’m selling feelings, thoughts, introspection, and wisdom that’s been there long before me, but I’m recreating them through my own emotional experiences.

I’m hoping to coerce the fashion industry into finding better meaning and value of products instead of selling a fleeting, inconsistent narrative. My brand tells the truth: painful or not. And as Dennis Chuene I aim to inspire people to live their truth.

Can you elaborate on the concept of one-of-one products and how this unique approach resonates with your customers?

When I’m behind a sewing machine I create a feeling. I make my best attempt to translate it into a piece of clothing. I capture a moment. And a moment is a moment, it only happens once, right? It cannot be repeated. All my one-of-one items are created through this process.

“ This way every single one of my pieces tells the story.“

It’s not up to me to find the rightful owner of a piece. A client sees something online and comes to my showroom to pick it up, we start talking, I show something else, and if the story behind that piece resonates a client might leave with a completely different item.

Inside my jackets, there’s a blank space that I leave for clients to write down their feeling, their story and put a signature and a date on it so that both of us can come together as one through clothing. Someday, when both of us are gone we will leave behind a collective piece: I made it, you connected with it and somebody else is going to bear it and continue living.

How do you maintain a focus on craftsmanship and individuality while catering to a wider audience with your tailored apparel?

I do one-of-ones and I also do items that I can reproduce at a higher volume. The one-of-ones are mostly jackets. And shirts are my best-sellers, I can reproduce these in higher quantities. But I add a little tweak here and there every season, I never fully recreate pieces over and over again.

What are some key elements that distinguish your limited edition pieces and designs from mass-produced fashion items?

Hand-stitching is the distinguisher. About 90% of the pieces have hand stitches on them. However, I have three design languages.

  1. Hand stitches are by far the best for me. I love
  2. But I also use another technique that I call “The String Theory”. For this one, I manipulate a string into patterns on the surface of clothing. The technique is inspired by scarification: the patterns a sharp blade creates on
  3. The third language is upcycling. But I never make anything that looks like cheap DIY. Sometimes Iblend all three languages and sometimes I use just

Could you shed more light on your hands-on approach to creating products, such as being involved in the hand-crafting process and using only two sewing machines?

 Well, it’s no longer only two machines. But I wish to be completely transparent, I don’t have a whole team of people working for me. It’s just me. And I do quite enjoy the Japanese approach: one craftsman working on one process at a time. Keep it small and simple.

I’ve always thought that I should not limit what I can create by the equipment I have. When I sew you won’t ever be able to tell that a piece was made on just two machines. Whenever I have the right feeling I simply jump from one machine to another, set it up, and get to work. It makes the process so much easier.

Would you like to wrap up and say some last words for the interview?


It’s three words. I am… Oh, it’s four. I am dope as fuck. I do dope shit.


photographer – Inna Malinovaya, @inna.malinovaya
styling – Sasha Chumachenko, @shura_delo_govorit
clothes/designer – Dennis Chuene, @dennis_chuene
shoes/accessories – designer’s property 
Interview by Irina Rusinovich @_irina.rusinovich_