Per Reinkilde jumped out of bed in the wee hours of a night many years ago with an idea in his head: What would happen if you wetted a strip of fur, secured one end and fastened the other to a power drill? He turned on the lights to his home workshop and gave it a try. The result is a Saga Design Centre craft technique now called “Twist” and you’ve seen it in accessories and garments for many years.
For 30 years, techniques that have flowed from the Saga Design Centre – and have graced runways everywhere – began like that — with the spark of a simple idea.
For 30 years, techniques that have flowed from the Saga Design Centre – and have graced runways everywhere – began like that — with the spark of a simple idea. Per Reinkilde is a founding father of the Saga Design Centre and headed R & D operations for nearly all of its three decades in existence. He is unable to specify when “biggest moment” of the past 30 years occurred, but recalls, “When we all discovered we had made a change, made a difference, and saw our techniques all over the place.”
The Saga Design Centre used innovation to keep fur in the fashion picture
“Make fur interesting,” is how Reinkilde recalls his job responsibility back in 1988, when Saga Furs hired him from a leading German fur house. Now a master furrier, the first order of the day was to act as consultant in converting an old horse stall into a state-of-the-art fur workshop at the breathtaking estate that would become the Saga Design Centre.
The first experiments in fur caused a major stir, as some parties considered it vandalism. “Breeders couldn’t understand why we dyed or cut the skins and there were complaints,” says Reinkilde, who was half the team that also included a seamstress. “But we held to the notion of following fashion instead of simply tradition.” Fur has always had ups and downs, but at the time the material was in a particular slump and considered very old-fashioned. But it was becoming more interesting every day.
First guests arriving in Saga Design Centre
First design students arrived for a seminar in the Saga Design Centre in early ‘89 and the first designers several months later. “I taught the basics, and still do,” Reinkilde says. Since then, more than 30,000 visitors have enjoyed the Saga Design Centre experience. A showcase collection was made around that time. “It was different; it drew attention. Suddenly people realized what we were doing, and it was good for designers and farmers alike.
“We were thrilled the first time we saw our techniques on the runway, proud to see that fashion understood what we were doing.”
“We were thrilled the first time we saw our techniques on the runway, proud to see that fashion understood what we were doing,” says Reinkilde. “Today designers put their own fingerprint on creations, but they wait until they see our new techniques at our annual Fur Vision events. Craftsmanship is very big now and I find that pleasing. New techniques are great, but don’t forget the traditional craft; you can always add a new twist.”
Light & Soft is what everyone wants, and what the Saga Design Centre has given them
Visitors to the Saga Design Centre have often brought ideas or sketches that have led to new techniques. Many have stated that Reinkilde can turn the impossible into reality. “I attempt to give them an understanding of the material. Yes, it can be a challenge, but once they become acquainted with the material, they can revise a sketch to fit the hair length or type of fur or the mix they want to make. Teaching the furrier craft is something missing at a lot of design schools.”
The Saga Design Centre deserves thanks for the fact that roughly 70% of all runway collections from established and newer designers show fur.
Nowadays we see a constant parade of fur on fashion catwalks. The Design Centre deserves thanks for the fact that roughly 70% of all runway collections from established and newer designers show fur. To younger designers, Reinkilde always stresses how “you have to give it 200%” because the competition is brutal. To all designers, he tells: “It’s important not to be afraid of fur; cut it sew it, but treat it with respect!”