Purple Magazine
— Purple 76 Index issue 29 S/S 2018

Kolbitz karl

berlin art director

photography by ANDREAS LARSSON
interview by SVEN SCHUMANN

SVEN SCHUMANN — How did the idea for your book Ingressi di Milano [Entryways of Milan] come about? 

KARL KOLBITZ — When a friend from Rome moved to Milan, and I went to see him. Like many Italians who have to move to Milan because of work, he was very miserable in the beginning. [Laughs] Milan doesn’t function like any other Italian city. It doesn’t have an exciting street life. It is a proper working city. So, I started to show him all my favorite parts, and one night when we walked home, we passed by all these entryways that were lit up. They have a completely different appearance at night than during the day. It was really from that one walk and that one impression that I started researching, and I found out that there hasn’t been anything done on this topic.

SVEN SCHUMANN — What is your earliest memory of Milan?

KARL KOLBITZ — I traveled to Milan the first time as a teenager to do the shows, and I was immediately impressed by the city. It was one of the first places I traveled to on my own, and in comparison to brute Berlin, where I was born and raised, the city had more elegance. Even though I was just a little kid, I had that impression. Milan appeared to me like a city where the 20th century has grown in a very elegant way.

SVEN SCHUMANN — Berlin looked very elegant as well before it was destroyed. 

KARL KOLBITZ — True, but Milan also suffered heavy damage from the war. There’s been a lot of destruction from the bombing. However, Milan is and always was a very rich city. And after the war, they could rebuild the city with pride. It was actually a very special period after the war because of the collaborative efforts between architects, artists, and designers. One of the focuses of my book is the entryways of Milan as the synthesis of architecture, art, and design — and that they’re spaces of true synthesis, really.

SVEN SCHUMANN — What was the selection process like? Your book covers a huge variety of styles, but they all seem to have been built between the 1920s and 1970s. 

KARL KOLBITZ — Right, everything before the ’20s was very much Art Nouveau that could have also been found in Prague, Vienna, or Paris, and none of the entries built after the ’70s matched the quality, so
I stopped there. But within that period, it was very important for me to give a true reflection of the urban fabric of Milan. You walk around, and you do see the building of a famous architect such as Gio Ponti, but you also see three buildings that you have no idea who they’re by. And it’s not only about the most beautiful spaces, but sometimes about bizarre or slightly strange designs, and you are, like, “Wow! They really did that! Not sure if I want to live in that, but this is really, really bold and brave and unique and outstanding.” The book is about that variety.

SVEN SCHUMANN — Variety is also a constant in your own career — you started as a model, worked for photographers, and ended up editing a book for Taschen. 

KARL KOLBITZ — True, I first worked for Mario Testino doing postproduction and archiving, and then for Wolfgang Tillmans as a studio manager, working on books and exhibitions. Through that, I first got in touch with putting together layouts. And after working for Wolfgang, I made myself freelance. I’ve worked on many publications for other people, editing and designing before I turned to my own first book.

SVEN SCHUMANN — Now, 15 years later, you still appear in magazines and advertisements from time to time. How would you describe your relationship to fashion these days?

KARL KOLBITZ — I’m very close to the fashion world. I’ve got a lot of friends working in fashion, as designers, as stylists, as photographers. But I am at a very different point of my life. I only do it two to three times a year, and that’s it. I’m not pushing it any further. Fashion has always been present in my life. I can’t separate it from my life — and I don’t want to, either. The focus of my practice is more on design, architecture, and the built environment at large.


Mari Ohashi, hair — Kristina Ralph Andrews, make-up — Sophie Durham, set design — Jack Casey Reynolds, director of photography — Nicola Catterall and Freddie De Santiago, producers — James Deacon and Grace Difford, photographer’s assistants

[Table of contents]

Purple 76 Index issue 29 S/S 2018

Table of contents

Purple Index 76

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