Esther Perbandt in the finale of “Making the Cut“ Esther Perbandt in the finale of “Making the Cut“
While the corona crisis is harming the entire economy and most of Berlin’s designers are focusing on producing mouth and nose covers, Esther Perbandt has other things on her mind. The Berlin designer is one of 12 participants in the new casting show hosted by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. “Making the Cut” is the title of the casting series, which has been running on Amazon Prime since March 27. All Amazon Prime subscribers will be able to stream the exciting finale of the show as of today. In the finale, it will be revealed whether Esther, the only German designer participating in the show, can convince the top-class jury with her designs.
We wanted to find out what has changed for her since her participation in the show and what it would mean for her and her label to be given the title “next global brand” by the jury and win one million US dollars’ worth of prize money.
You are one of the 12 participants in the new Amazon Prime casting show “Making the Cut”. Can you tell us how that came about?
In January 2019, I received an unexpected email from a casting agency in Los Angeles on a Sunday. They wrote that they found me online and wanted to know whether I would be interested in participating in a new casting show hosted by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn.
…and what was your reaction?
My initial reaction, of course, was: Absolutely not! That doesn’t suit me at all. It was not without reason that I created my little niche. It was too commercial for me.
However, after sleeping on it for a few nights, I thought, “why not”, what do I have to lose? At that moment, I was not aware of the fact that there is actually a lot to lose. After getting involved in the whole casting procedure, this rollercoaster ride, whether I was making the biggest mistake of my life started.
Why did you go through with it anyway?
The main argument for me was the thought that my company is my baby and that even at the age of 80, I would still like to run this company successfully. And slowly I realised, that I would have to take care of that before it’s too late. I had not really invested time or money in opening up to other markets digitally. I suddenly saw the opportunity to perceive this participation as a kind of research trip à la Alexander von Humboldt and to learn more about the digital world and e-commerce. I would apply what I learned from Amazon to myself, as well as my values. I call it my “Digital Space Oddity.” I flew to another planet and as Major Esther, I sent interim reports to ground control and came back with a huge package of life experience and a plan for the future.
That sounds fantastic, but also a little exhausting. How was the production the show?
Shooting for “Making the the Cut” was extremely exhausting! It’s not faked. We really only had two days and on the third day we had time for a challenge one or two hours before the show. One challenge followed the other. We only had a two to three days a week off.
What impressed you most about this experience?
I think it’s great to work in a room with so many talented designers for such a long period of time. The creative energy was incredible. I would have liked to have had more time to observe everyone more intensively. Each designer works so differently. Of course, what impressed me most was the top-class jury. The surprising thing was that it wasn’t just about very well-known individuals. The jury really did give some very constructive feedback. Unfortunately, that wasn’t able to be seen in the final versions of the episodes. In reality, these jury sessions sometimes went on for hours. You were able to get a lot out of it, even in the discussions with the other designers.
Of course, it was also fabulous to fly around the globe with the entire crew and designers. Which is now a privilege of the past, to be inspired by cities and places within them. Along with every challenge, it was always a surprise to see what kind of idea or location they had come up with.
Would you participate again?
No, I wouldn’t. I was lucky and Amazon was lucky too, that it was the first season and I didn’t know what to expect from it. In the casting interviews, they stated that it wouldn’t be a typical designer casting show, but that it should focus on more established brands, which specify on business related task in the field of fashion.
In one of the casting sheets they asked about my skills. You should tick whether you can draw, make cuts or sew. I didn’t know what to tick because I can’t really do any of those three things. So, I checked that I can draw because I am capable of putting my visions and ideas onto paper. In the interviews, I said over and over again that I haven’t really sewn for 15 years and that I can’t make any cuts. I received a confirmation, which stated that I could take part in the show four weeks before they would start shooting it, with an additional side note that I should practice sewing in this period of time. As if I had nothing else to do during these four weeks.
When I arrived and the rules were announced, I was pretty aggravated. However, I pulled it off anyway
You made it into the finale – congratulations! If you win, an investment of one million dollars would be in store for your label. What significance would that hold for you and your label?
One million US dollars might sound like an incredible amount at first. But it’s dollars and the taxes still have to be deducted. But if I win, it will still be a great push to further develop the brand. You can’t take huge steps with it, but two or more people can be brought into the team and the next steps can be planned.
What has participating in the show changed for you?
If I hadn’t participated in the show, I wouldn’t have been so uncreative for the past eight months. I haven’t prepared any collections, nor any designs. For months, it was all about how I would prepare for the launch of the show on the 27 March 2020. I knew that I had to be digitally prepared on that day. I had to have a perfect website with a web shop, from which I could ship internationally and which would look perfect in terms of SEO. I never expected that this would require so much work. Especially, for such a small team. But, I already had a lot of great people around me, who achieved great things.
Nobody would have expected that the launch of “Making the Cut” would take place during the corona crisis. It became clear pretty quickly, that the ratings and attention towards the show would be much higher, since most people are at home watching a lot of TV, streaming and networking on social media. Nonetheless, I was worried that the difficult economic situation would result in people not spending as much money on fashion anymore. Even though the series is international, it is still very American. Therefore, 80 percent of the traffic comes from America and that is where most of the sales go too. That means that I have the chance to build a whole new market now, which I would have never been able to do without the show. It definitely contributes to the future of my brand.
You just finished shooting the final episode and have been very busy for the last weeks/months. How much did you gather from the corona crisis, which broke out at the same time? Did corona also have an impact on the production of the casting show?
My days are like any other days before a fashion show, except that it hasn’t been two weeks before the show but now for about five weeks, in which I work for 12-16 hours a day in my studio. The nice thing is that nobody comes into my shop and I can cycle there without any interruptions.
Of course, the shops income has been very low in March and April. Initially, I would have expected a much higher income there, due to the show.
I really hope that people will shop more consciously in future. Less, but more focused. Since I haven’t been selling my products to other stores B2B and don’t put my designs on sale anymore, no huge orders have been taken away from me. I feel like there must have been a voice in my head two years ago that said, “You’d better do it like this, who knows what is to come”. I may have sold less, but for a higher price. It worked anyway.
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