Markus Lupfer, fashion designer, on his picture of elephants in the Serengeti.

GB Tell me why you chose this.

ML I’ve chosen this because I went to the Serengeti last year for the first time and I had the most amazing experience ever. I was always fascinated by animals, but elephants are so incredible and when you’re there, you learn a bit more about them, like the extremely deep family bonds they have, how the females all live together in these matriarchal family groups. The males leave when they are still young, maybe between 12 and 15 years old. The herd is led by the oldest and often the largest female. Also, they are so intelligent and have very long memories. They communicate through subsonic rumbles and we didn’t even know much about this until recently. It’s a deep rumble that’s below the human range of hearing. They also have this clever way of finding water holes in the dry season.

GB Did you take this picture yourself? How does the picture compare to the actual experience?

ML Yes, after a lot of travelling. I flew to Tanzania and then in a small plane to the Serengeti, then we drove for a couple of hours to get here. The vastness of the Serengeti is incredible and just fascinated me. It evoked a lot of emotion to see this big family at the water hole. There were so many of them, I was almost speechless, it’s such an amazing sight. I fell in love with the whole landscape in the Serengeti. I witnessed a migration of wildebeest which was an incredible spectacle. We saw them crossing the river.

GB Where are all the male elephants while this is going on?

ML I don’t know. They find their own way. Later on, we were in the jeep and a huge male elephant came towards us, which was quite an experience.

GB Elephants are herbivores and they seem to be so kind.

ML Yes, it’s interesting that they’re gentle giants. But we were told that they don’t like noise. They don’t even like the sound of birds in the trees. They’ll push a tree down because of it, they’re so sensitive.

GB How does the beauty of the elephants in the Serengeti compare to the beauty of your pet dachshund?

ML In a way, it’s the same thing. They’re these amazing creatures! But to be able see all those animals in the wild is so special and beautiful. The shrinkage of their environment is such a tragic thing and we all need to be aware of that. We need to give them their space to survive. Mankind is taking over and we need to support endangered species.

GB This is beauty on such a grand scale. Does it make you believe in some kind of god?

ML I don’t know. I don’t think it’s a higher power but a different power. The idea that they hear and feel on a different level from us that we can’t understand is an incredible thing. It’s like the way dolphins, whales or bats communicate.

GB Do you think anything man made can be as beautiful as nature?

ML It can be, but that’s a very different approach to beauty. This is a very emotional approach, because it’s life. That’s quite different from looking at an object, which I would say is less emotionally involved. I could sit for hours and hours and watch these living things. We sat for two and a half hours and watched a leopard sitting on a rock while the sun came up. We were so immersed in this experience that there was really nothing else in that moment but looking at that animal. I’ve had my business for twenty years and I hadn’t switched off like that before. It was such a gift.

GB Do you look for beauty in your work?

ML I think beauty means different things to people in fashion and stereotypical beauty is something I try to avoid. I don’t like the idea of conventional beauty.

GB Is our view of beauty in fashion skewed by branding?

ML There is definitely an element of this, and sometimes our view is skewed by peer pressure. Sometimes we think that if an item comes from a certain brand then it’s more special than it is. Even though it’s very hard to place where garments come from when they’re not branded. I could show you three items and it would be hard to tell who made them.

GB What makes something worthy of the word Beauty to you?

ML I think it’s to do with emotion. If something evokes great emotion in you, I think there is probably beauty behind it.

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