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We chat with Dagmar Bily, editor-in-chief of burda style magazine and ask her about her work with the magazine, the patterns and where she gets her inspiration.

- First, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at burda style magazine.

I started working at burda style 4 years ago. Back then burda style was still located in Offenburg at the river Rhine, where it was founded by Aenne Burda in 1949. As you can see it has a very long history. I am editor-in-chief of the magazine and chief designer. That means that I am responsible for the whole process: From the first sketches to the moment when the magazine is delivered to the DIY-community. I think it is the best job ever. It is a job where you have to put your whole heart and soul and love and creativity into it – that’s how I love to work, actually.

My work consists of many patches: there are the fabric-fairs and the fashion shows where I am looking for trends and where I fine-tune my ideas. Back in Munich we collect our ideas and create the main topics for the following season.  At this very moment I am already planning and sketching my ideas for spring/summer 2013. Each issue of burda style consists of 4 main topics plus a plus size-topic and one for kids. So that means 24 collections for all kind of tastes and all kind of needs for sizes 34 – 42 and 6 collections for plus size women in one season. Thats 300 pieces in 6 months!

When I am designing I am also choosing the fabrics in Offenburg where we still have our manufacturing. There they sew a prototype of each piece. We follow through the whole production process as if we were a “normal label”, with fittings etc. I actually  think, burda is a label….

After the collection is sent to Munich our editors follow the process, a normal fashion magazine does. With styling, photo shoots, production of a magazine. This is another central and time consuming part of my work, as I also see myself as head of design when it comes to my visions of a magazine for this very specific, quality seeking, detail loving, life embracing DIY-community.


-What has been your favorite photo shoot thus far?

There I have to talk about the most beautiful moments rather then a particular photo shoot: When something develops between the model and the photographer, when there is this certain chemisty. That is great. Then there is a story unfolding between them and the model feels great in her outfits and looks happy.


Top: Dagmar always works closely with the models to make them feel good in the clothes. Bottom: On location in South Africa. Sometimes the days can get long on a photo shoot…

- What did you do before coming on board to burda style magazine? Had you worked as a designer before?

Before burda style I went through the whole career of a fashion editor. You can say I learned it from scratch. I started sewing when I was a teenager – a lady’s suit was my first major project . I studied fashion design at a design school and then I dove into the fashion magazine world. Starting out as an assistant, an editor with countless of photo shoots and several years as fashion director for this particular magazine. When I became editor in chief of burda style I was able to combine all my passions and experiences…

- What are you favorite fabrics to sew with?

I love to work with cotton and with leather. Generally speaking I love to touch fabrics and once they feel good in my fingers, I want to work with them. Similar important are colours and prints. They make me happy and they inspire me – especially when there is a story behind a print or fabric. I love to collect fabrics!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- We would love to know more about the work process of the magazine, tell us a bit about that! Where do you look for design inspiration? How far in advance do you plan an issue?

Right now I am physically working on issue 01/2013 which will be published mid of December. But I am already planning the topics and themes for spring/summer 2013…

I find my ideas at the fabric fairs and the fashion shows. When you feel a fabric you get an inspiration. Also walking through the streets is very inspiring. I always keep my eyes wide open when I am traveling – street styles are always a great source of inspiration.

And of course my backyard. I have a beautiful garden. Nature obviously is a great source of inspiration and in combination with and in contrast to the city it brings out new ideas.


A view of Dagmar’s garden, a print project she was working on and some pottery made by her friend

- Who is your target demographic for readership with burda style magazine?

Burda style is a very special magazine cause it targets such a wide community. And I have the feeling we manage pretty well. We reach young DIY-folks with our easy to follow tutorials and our easy to sew patterns. We also reach the semi-professional audience with more challenging patterns. We are offering patterns to the young, the old, the small, the petit, the tall and the bigger women. But you are right, 4 years ago we started to draw the focus more and more to an audience that had been a bit neglected over the last couple of years: the young DIY community.

- If you could estimate, how much of your wardrobe is made up of garments made from burda style magazine patterns?

Yeah sure I wear burda style. I have clothes for all occasions, I couldn’t exist without these clothes anymore. But of course I mix them with my normal clothes.


Dagmar with photographer and friend Adriano Brusaferri at a location shoot in South Africa.

- What is the best thing about the job?

The best thing is that I can follow through the collection from the beginning till the end. It is a growing, a process. It is beautiful to see how an idea combined with a fabric becomes a wonderful dress – and how beautiful it ends up on a photo in the magazine. Bliss!!!!

8 Comments

  • Missing

    Sep 7, 2012, 06.30 PMby MsMcCall

    I am relatively new to sewing garments, and I enjoy the magazine, but I would love to remind the Burda team that some of their photos are not helpful when trying to assess a pattern as opposed to a piece of clothing. Please remember that we want to see where those seams are, construction details etc.

    I also think that the section where one item is styled a few ways is missing a great opportunity – why not style the item with previous patterns from Burda!

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    Jul 5, 2012, 10.44 AMby olg

    thanks very much for this heartfelt post! LOVE LOVE LOVE the magazine. Would love to mail Dagmar about the Dutch version, how can I contact her directly? XXX from Hanneke Versluis, Amsterdam

  • Missing

    Jul 5, 2012, 04.59 AMby christina cena

    A big fan of Burda’s european fashion.

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    Jul 4, 2012, 05.32 PMby nancykarpengmailcom

    I’ve been a Burda Style subscriber since about 2000. I used to sew Burda almost exclusively but the last few years have been a desert when it comes to wearable patterns for women who are not young and thin, It’s also impossible to see the clothing since you seem to have forgotten that you are selling patterns as well as fashion. I understand that you need to build up your audience with younger people, but there are still plenty of women who buy your magazine who fall outside that category. You have really fallen down on your patterns for larger women. None of us wants to wear shapeless, baggy clothing and that’s pretty much what you’ve been showing with some exceptions, for the last year. My impression from the last year of issue is that you spend little time on fashions for larger women or you wouldn’t be showing shapeless, oversized garments. I have relied on Burda for beautiful fit and details, sadly that seems not to be the case any more.

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    Jul 4, 2012, 02.05 AMby n45

    I echo Cuada. I was a subscriber to Burdastyle as far back as 2003, but I’ve let my subscription lapse for several years now only picking up an issue here or there when something caught my eye. I really appreciate the easy styles for beginner, BUT please don’t forget about those of us on the intermediate or advanced level that are really looking to push the envelope with the uniquely stylish and well drafted patterns Burdastyle built its reputation on. Dagmar you are stunning! I’d love to see more of what YOU would actually wear in Burdastyle. Burdas are still the best fitting patterns around!

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    Jul 3, 2012, 06.16 PMby cuada

    Burda Style Magazine is my absolute favourite source of fashionable patterns, that always fit well. I started buying it back in the early nineties. It is good to cater to the beginner sewer, but I think lately the emphasis has been too much toward beginner sewing. One of the reasons I love Burda Style Magazine is because of the challenging patterns they always featured – it makes it worth my while to find and trace of the pattern pieces ( no easy exercise!) I sew beacuse I can make ‘designer’ look pieces without the price tag, but have been finding it harder lately to find these more challenging/detailed pieces in the magazine. The magazine is however the first place I look when I want to make something new :)

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    Jul 3, 2012, 04.14 AMby SachiDespic

    I love “Bily’s favourite” style guide pages of Burda magazine! I love her sofisticated sense of color & style… I always want to copy all her styling ideas!!!

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    Jul 2, 2012, 09.21 PMby nouvellegamine

    i love Burda’s european fashion sensibility. i started buying Burda in 2007 & noticed a big difference in the fashion forwardness of the patterns when Dagmar became editor. currently, i really love the vintage/retro inspired editorials such as the gorgeous nod to the 50s in 5/2012 & the 1920s/1960s dresses in 7/2012.

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