Model and Art History student Freddy Engel grew up amongst a family of intellectuals. The second eldest of five children, Freddy and her siblings were raised in a three-generation household in Hamburg. The family home was built in the 1950s by their grandfather, whose building enterprise was involved in the reconstruction of post-war Hamburg. Their parents’ passion for historic preservation and fifties aesthetics have kept the family home as a mid-century time capsule to the present day. Here, Freddy and her sisters—Dörp, an artist and carpenter, and Charlotte, a law graduate—discuss adulthood, feminism, and rebellion.

Photography Christine Lutz for — Production Tronje van Ellen — Styling Julia Neubauer — Hair & Makeup Aennekin — Models Freddy Engel @ Core Artist Management (Hamburg) & her sisters Dörthe and Charlotte

Freddy: The three of us grew up with the same background but still we have developed into very different people. Then again, I see more and more often how, even after not having lived together for years, we still make the same choices. Especially when it comes to furnishing our own homes or the way we dress. How much do you think we have been influenced by the style of our family?

Dörp: For years I denied that influence on me, but I think it has become visible lately. For example, through me wearing our mothers’ and grandmother’s old clothes.

As a child, I honestly hated being the weird kid, dressed in a duffle coat with a leather satchel. But I choose those very same pieces today.

Charlotte: That describes pretty much the same I experienced. After a phase of rejecting anything remotely similar to our parents‘ taste to fit in in my teens, I’ve come to turn back to what we grew up knowing: simple shapes and patterns, natural fibres and muted colours. A large part of my current closet is filled with garments our mother and grandmother used to own or made themselves. There’s a woolen sweater for example, handspun by our grandmother and hand-dyed and knitted by our mother when she was our age. Or a couple of simple yet delicate raw silk skirts that belonged to our grandmother, which have been my most worn pieces this summer.

Freddy: As a child, I honestly hated being the weird kid, dressed in a duffle coat with a leather satchel. But I choose those very same pieces today. I think on my style our mother’s and grandmother’s influence is also visible but our father’s wardrobe had a huge influence too. I enjoy mixing his beige corduroy pants and wool sweaters with grandma’s tie-neck blouses and midi-skirts. I believe that not only our fashion sense has been highly influenced by our family but our sensibility for aesthetics in general.

Dörp: Definitely! And not just growing up in our true-to-life 50s house, but also how our father actively taught us about design classics has had a huge influence on us.

It’s funny how all of us had their own rebellion against our parents, which in the end lead us even closer to them.

Freddy: It’s funny how all of us had their own rebellion against our parents, which in the end lead us even closer to them. I believe even in our rebellion we reflected the fights our parents fought in their youth. A while back I overheard our father asking how one of us could possibly dress and wear their hair in a way that ignores all basic rules of aesthetics. I am sure our grandmother asked him the very same question when he started growing his hair and wearing self-made batik shirts in the 70s.

Dörp: I see us in a very similar evolution as our mother, I think. Of course, it was a different generation, but the feminist fights for equality and against injustice are the same.

Freddy: After having moved out of our family home I experienced a major change in the way I feel towards this place. Was it the same for you? What does “home” mean to you?

Charlotte: I find this hard to define. The flat my boyfriend and I share is home to me as a haven of tranquillity and the place I recharge my batteries. But at the same time our childhood house is home, even though it is the complete opposite; always buzzing with people, tasks waiting to be fulfilled and hardly a quiet moment. One thing both places have in common is the nostalgia they set off whenever I leave either of them.

Dörp: For me, this is not so much the place where you belong in a bureaucratic way or where you usually sleep, but instead more of a feeling than a place itself. “Home” is the people who love, support and accept you but it can also be your own body and mind.

Freddy: To me it is a bit of both, being here, but more importantly, being here with you. Understanding this was a big step for me in the process of realizing that I had become an adult.

Dörp: I think moving out, paying my own bills, etc. made me see myself as an adult. Seeing our parents become older and slower also took away a lot of that childhood feeling.

Freddy: Since I really don’t want kids at the moment it is kind of hard to imagine for me, but would you raise your own kids the same way we were raised?

Charlotte: In many aspects, I think I would. Being close to nature, to run free in a place that offers all the space, tools and inspiration for creativity and independent learning is quite unique. Being able to recreate this for my own children would be amazing. What I would try not to pass on to my children are the heteronormative gender roles that are still deeply rooted in both our parents‘ and grandparents‘ generations.

A lot of people question my “absolutely radical views” and tell me to “toughen up” or “take it as a compliment.”

Freddy: Feminism has developed a lot if you compare us today to our mother’s generation. Let’s hope that society keeps evolving into a more equal and fair society for everyone. Not just women. That is probably one of the main differences if you compare the two generations; to us, the goals of feminist activism is not just overcoming patriarchy but building a society where your gender does not have to be an issue anymore.

Dörp: Not only gender but also skin colour, class, education, wealth or healthcare. But yes, I think feminism has had an important impact on both the life of our mother and on ours. Learning about feminism and destructing internalised, patriarchial systems and structures made me more sensitive to abusive behaviour around me. I have a way lower tolerance level towards people treating others disrespectfully. It’s annoying enough that still a lot of people question my “absolutely radical views” and tell me to “toughen up” or “take it as a compliment”.

Charlotte: Learning about feminism has helped me grow as a person in so many ways over the years. It helped me overcome body image issues and raise my confidence. I learned to embrace what was different about me after years of desperately trying to fit in, yet always feeling a little out of place. And even now it makes me track down and challenge patriarchal structures in my own thoughts and behaviour, like the balance of emotional labour in my personal relationships or the way I see and react to other women.

Freddy: Do you think coming from a well situated and educated family did make it easy for us to emancipate and become confident, political people? Many others have to fight a lot more or in very different ways than we did. We were lucky to grow up protected by a strong social network and to be raised in a way that gave us the freedom of having our own opinions.

Dörp: Being able to educate yourself or be educated by your upbringing, also in a political way, is definitely a privilege. Having parents like we did, that were politically active themselves, makes it but logic.