Socialweb: Margret, you paint, you write, you manage a mother-daughter company with 8 employees, you supply customers around the world, and the Tiroler Adlerin has to be the coolest newcomer in fashion in the last few years. How did you get started?
Margret Schiestl: I was born here in the Ziller Valley on a small farm. I practically grew up between a weaving loom, a joiner’s bench and a sewing machine. We never had much money, therefore it was important to be creative and practical. I studied textiles and clothes-making at school. Later, I studied education in Vienna and it was during this period of my life that I got really interested in art and fashion. Then, I read an article by the internationally renowned artist Markus Lüpertz which completely changed my life. I found his ideas so fascinating that I decided to follow in his footsteps and pursue a creative career. I applied to study under Lüpertz, and was one of just 20 candidates out of 200 who was accepted. After 6 semesters, I graduated and received my diploma.
Die Adlerin in ihrem Element
SW: How did you become a fashion designer?
Margret: The alter-ego Tiroler Adlerin was created on 7.7.2007 during a train journey. I was travelling through the Tyrolean mountains and spotted a large bird, elegantly beating its wings. I sketched a caricature of it and the Tiroler Adlerin was born. The Tiroler Adlerin: brave, strong and independent, a worthy partner of the eagle. Also, as a fictional figure, she enjoys a certain freedom of expression. To begin with we sold our clothes and home textiles from a small shop. The first big exhibition of TIROLER ADLERIN was at the ART DIDACTA in Innsbruck. For a week I worked on a textile project in homage to the historic “Geierwally”. The reception was so positive that I decided to register the logo and name as an international trademark. After completing a diploma in business studies, my daughter Melanie joined the company and took control of the marketing. I am especially proud of being the first ever woman to win the Tyrolean Chamber of Commerce’s award for best new entrepreneur – with a unanimous vote. The Adlerin took off, and very soon we were receiving requests for our designs from around the world.
SW: Is there a typical Tiroler Adlerin customer?
Margret: That’s a good question! We have customers from around the world, from all age groups and from very different walks of life. Of course, our label tends to attract a creative and open-minded clientele. If our customers have anything in common it is pride in their roots, a spiritual openness and an appreciation of something a bit different.
SW: What makes your product so special?
Margret: We aren’t interested in producing for the mass market. The Tiroler Adlerin stands for an appreciation of quality, care and respect. This appreciation is part of our company’s ethos and is shown to our customers, but also nature, our home valley and the people who make these products possible. Every item is unique and finished to the specification and measurements of our customers. Quality and care are also taken with the materials we use: we only use materials which are produced locally and are, therefore, Fairtrade products. One of our core principles is respect for the traditional: our designs are inspired by local culture but reinterpreted in a contemporary style and adapted for modern living.
SW: What does ‘home’ mean to you and what, in your opinion, are the best features of the Ziller Valley?
Margret: I would say that us Zillertal folk are particularly honest and have a special connection with our home valley. We have an awareness of tradition but also an openness to new ideas. For me home is a place that I love and where I am surrounded by good people. It has a lot to do with appreciating nature and each other. I really hope that, in the future, this appreciation will remain amongst the Zillertal people.
SW: Do you have any tips for aspiring fashion designers?
Margret: Yes, just do what you love. Go through life with your ears and eyes open and don’t be dissuaded from following your dream. Only if you believe in yourself will others believe in you. When you do what you love, you have the motivation to apply yourself to your ideas and business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But I think this is true for any business, not just fashion designing.