eMbroidery – Michael Detlef

Welcome to eMbroidery, a series of interviews with male embroiderers. This month, Michael Detlef.

Destitch Fabric -The Wild Lamb Sweater

Name: Michael Detlef Petersen. My middle name is after my grandfather which both my twinbrother and I have. In Denmark it is spelled Ditlev and therefore I often get reminded of the fact that half of my family is from Germany.

Company: Destitch by Michael Detlef. I started my company after my graduation, which represents a part of me but also my clients.

Location: Frederiksberg, DK (Copenhagen)

Michael Detlef - Music Box Ballerina - Photo Credit: Iness Rychlik

Main embroidery medium: Machine Embroidery – Freehand and Industrial. Sometimes hand-embroidery, but more for special projects. For example when I have an idea and it seems more logical to handstitch (which i did with ¨queer is not a bad word¨ and the portrait).

Noteworthy projects or pieces: I am really young and do not have that much yet. Though, I really like my two projects that I worked at whilst my studies at the university. The first one: ¨Resurrection¨ inspired by a 2000 years old body of a girl. It was my first piece where I used embroidery at a designed piece. The second one: ¨Music Ballerina¨ was inspired by the ballerina of a music box, representing life and death. I also like my last bachelor project ¨Destitch¨. It just shows a different way of expressing with embroidery for fashion in fabric.

How did you come to be an embroiderer? I have found my creative signature with machine embroidery. Not only does it fit my temper, but also helps to express myself. I think it just clicked and I knew that this kind of art is perfect for putting my feelings and character into.

Michael Detlef - Resurrection - Photo Credit: Iness Rychlik

What does it mean to you? It makes me happy. I have found a way to relax and work at the same time – just being at an almost constant flow.

Where do you like to work? I like to work in a room filled with creative people. An atmosphere like that makes your idea generation flow.

How do people respond to you as a male embroiderer?  I think people react quite normal because the expression from my embroidery is more art. It just happens to be embroidery that I use as a media to express myself. People think about stereotypes, but get surprised when they see what it really is.

Destitch Fabric - Pillow

Who inspires you? I do have a lot of artists who inspire me. I like Olivier de Sagazan – his way of expression is dark and interesting. Since I also work in the fashion world, I have some designers that I am inspired by. Iris van Herpen & Hussein Chalayan are of course two of them. I also like newcomers like Elvira t’ Hart. I could continue with amazing talents – all of them inspire me with their own way of expression or using fabrics in a totally different way.

How or where did you learn you learn how to stitch or sew? I studied Textile Design Handicraft and Education at TEKO in Herning.

Are your current images new ones or have you used them before? They have been used before when I had an exhibition in Aarhus, Denmark.

Destitch Fabric -The Ninja Shirt - Photo Credit: Nadia von Schaedtler

How has your life shaped or influenced your work? I think the fact that I was the only guy at my study made me want to express my work differently. I wanted to do it in a way that signals out of the box. Also the fact that I am interested in art, fashion and textiles made me work with embroidery because it is a part of everything.

What are or were some of the strongest currents from your influences you had to absorb before you understood your own work? I think the most important part in the journey of finding yourself with what you do is to change and always turn everything around – you might as well shake it. Understand the difference between copy and inspiration.

Do formal concerns, such as perspective and art history, interest you? Yes, they do – especially propaganda and the erotic area in art. For example the sensual painting from Gustav Klimt ‘Danaë’. I like how art can have an effect on the viewer.

Destitch Fabric - The Army T-shirt - Photo Credit: Nadia von Schaedtler

What do your choice of images mean to you? They show what way I am heading. I mean you have to find yourself – not only your identity, but also your creative signature.

Do you look at your work with an eye toward it like what can and can’t be visually quoted? In other words what you will or won’t cut out? Yes. There will always be a way of reflecting towards my work with a sceptical sense and to make it more perfect. Actually I am the opposite of a perfectionist.

Do you have any secrets in your work you will tell us? Most of my work is done by intuition because I have a tendency to overdesign when I think too much.

Destitch Fabric -The Hoodie Tail - Photo Credit: Nadia von Schaedtler

How do you hope history treats your work? I hope that it will be remembered and that my work will have an influence on others.

Where can we find you and your work? You can find it on my personal website: Michaeldetlef.dk and also see different types of fabric on my company’s site with visuals: Destitch.com


eMbroidery was created with the support and wisdom of the magnificent Bascom Hogue.

If you are, or know of, a male embroiderer that we should interview as part of this series, contact us!