Eugen Laitenberger on launching GUNEE Homme fashion label
Eugen Laitenberger (AKA Gunee) chats to us about how he came to combine his abstract illustrative style with the creation of a fashion label.
I’m originally from Poltawa, Ukraine. Though my parents moved to Munster, in Westphalia, Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall. I took up drawing and painting when I was a child, exploring many different techniques, from oil and charcoal to watercolour and acrylic. The lessons I had taught in a naturalistic style, but I wasn’t very good. I would draw small comic books and monsters rather than realistic portraits.
When I turned 16 I applied to study as a graphic designer and, soon after, founded a small magazine with a friend. It was a publication full of absurd illustrations and stories. What we created was quite nerdy and I was afraid it could have destroyed my future career, so I decided to come up with the pseudonym Gunee. (Actually an anagram for my name, Eugen.)
Upon finishing school, I had to make a choice between studying graphic design or opting for something else at university. I decided to broaden my horizons and chose to study photography. After university, I moved to Cologne, Germany, where I worked at a design agency for German television. At the same time I was doing a lot of illustration work, selling it to get a bit of extra money. Then, three years ago, I decided to experiment a bit with fabric, applying my illustrations. It worked so well, I decided to make my first shirt and bow tie collection and launched the menswear label GUNEE Homme.
I currently live and work in Cologne. There’s a Japanese culture institute and museum for East Asian art, that sometimes has great exhibitions and events. Apart from that Cologne doesn’t really inspire me very much. The best thing about Cologne is Paris. From Cologne you can get to the capital of France faster than the capital of Germany! I don’t want to talk negativly about cologne. I think every big or small city has its own nice places, creativity and creative scene. It just means that not every place suits or inspires you.
My illustrations are never made 100% digitally. I draw all elements analogue, scan them, and colour them digitally. Working fully digitally is a very clean and aseptic process for me. I’ve never wanted to work like that. For several years, I’ve felt like I don’t own the work that I’ve finalised on my computer. I’ve wanted something that I can touch and possess. That’s why I had the idea to transfer my illustrations onto clothing. I wanted the handcrafted feeling of my illustrations back.
After finishing the second collection for GUNEE Homme, I started to do more analogue drawing and painting again, mainly in acrylic and ink. It was really liberating, because it felt like I was getting a piece of my artistic identity back.
I work nearly every day. On the rare one or two days a year when I have free time, I really enjoy eating. Sometimes I work so intensively that I forget to eat. I love to sit somewhere and eat high-quality food. Very slow. Like a turtle. It’s like meditation.
I love to collect limited, coloured vinyl, or buy very expensive wallpapers from England or France, that I never use. I would love to have more time to play guitar. During my university studies I taught myself to play, but I have no time to practice. It makes me sad, because music is so important to me.
Sometimes I think the limitation in budget and time forces us to do more with our resources.
I think my workspace is very boring. I think I mostly work on the ground or in my bed. It depends on what I’m working on. To begin with, white paper and a black pen is a good idea. I have a sense of claustrophobia towards sketchbooks. But I’m working on it, ever since a friend gave me one in my favourite colours.
I have literally no time to read books. My books have more pictures then text. There are so many books I would love to read, but I have no time. The three books on my bookshelf I started to read, but did not finished, are… Patti Smith, ‘Just Kinds’, Haruki Murakami, ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’, Andre Rae, ‘Moonhead and the Music Machine’. Ok. The last one is a comic and not a real book.
I love the work of Pierre-Joseph Redouté. For some people it’s very kitsch, but I’m really attracted to naturalism. The more I start working abstractly, the more I’m interested in naturalism. I think I’m searching for a sense of balance in my life.
From a present-looking perspective I admire the work “GLOBAL MYOPIA” or “Label Lab” from the Uruguay artist Marco Maggi. I wish I had the patience to work like he does, sometimes. I also like the work of American artist Paul Kremer. Mainly because of the colours he uses and his compositions.