Despite the German soccer team's recent defeat by spain in the Euro 2008 tournament, Berlin is in a good mood — and that bodes well for the nation's fashion industry, on the eve of the spring 2009 runway and trade shows in town, July 17 to 20.
The power of soccer in Germany is not to be underestimated. The national team's world championship victory in Bern in 1954 is said to have kicked off the Wirtschaftswunder, or "Economic Miracle." And a recent study has suggested Germans are both happier and more willing to spend when their team has won the finals.
Still, title or no title, when the third Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin, 12th Premium, third Projekt Galerie and second Stark get going in July, designers, manufacturers and retailers will find the German capital at its most optimistic in years.
This is in spite of Berlin still being officially bankrupt, and economic growth in the city reaching only 3.6 percent between 2004 and 2007, compared with 6.4 percent during the same period in Germany as a whole.
But unemployment is falling, the population is growing, tourism is at an all-time high — and the sun has been shining since April. (And never underestimate the power of weather on the German fashion industry, either.)
According to the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, half of Berlin companies say they are are satisfied with the city's economic situation, and a quarter say it is good. As a result, a third of companies are planning to create new jobs. The figures still have to translate into the long-awaited increase in consumer spending, but if the economic indicators remain as sunny as the weather's been so far, then Berlin's retail sector could finally be ready to take off.
Add to this a literally booming art scene, with world class galleries and museums as well as funky underground venues opening with astounding regularity. Berlin clubs are as edgy as ever, new shops are boosting retail diversity, new and established restaurants are attracting a steadier stream of good-humored diners and the city's young designer sector keeps attracting fresh talent.
That's not a bad backdrop for the city's weekend of fashion."We've had incredible feedback regarding Premium — and Berlin," said Premium's co-founder and director, Anita Tillman. "We're expecting a bunch of new buyers who've never been here before. It's not just a feeling, but the numbers say we'll have a great Premium and a great fashion week."
Last season, 15,000 trade visitors attended the progressive fashion fair.
Stark founder and German "power agent" Norbert Klauser confirmed Berlin's growing appeal. "The city is experiencing a general high at the moment. I talked to a lot of people in Italy, for example, and they all said they're coming. I was extremely surprised at how quickly I could make appointments."
Thanks to an increased spirit of cooperation among Berlin's show organizers, visitors will be offered a highly concentrated yet diversified round of events in some of the city's most characteristic — and attractive — venues.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin has made a welcome move to Bebelplatz on Unter den Linden, the city's great Prussian and architecturally studded avenue. While the square's most famous — and darkest — hour was as the site of the Nazi book burning in 1933, the largely 18th- century assemblage today houses the thriving five-star Hotel de Rome, with multiple sights and places to visit. Any number of cafes and restaurants are available for a quick getaway.
However, Bebelplatz's main attraction July 17 to 20 will definitely be the 19 runway shows from domestic and international established and up-and-coming designers. Showing on site: Strenesse Blue, Vivienne Westwood Anglomania, Sisi Wasabi, Basso & Brooke, M by Kostas Murkudis, Eastpak, Kai Kühne, Pure Berlin, Lac et Mel, Susana Periç, Smeilinener, Unrath & Strano, Scherer Gonzàlez, Kilian Kerner, Karen Ly, Slavna Martinovic, students from the Berlin Academy and the Karstadt New Generation Awards. Hugo, as last season, will kick off the Berlin shows at its own location — this time, in a harbor warehouse, and Michalsky, Joop! Jeans, Lala Berlin, Penkov, c. neeon, and students from the Weissensee Arts School will also be showing at individual sites all over town.
Premium, which bills itself as a "global department store for buyers," is striving to give its brand assortment a more selective appeal while sharpening the profile of the show's multiple segments. Of prime interest this season: Ueber Denim, with more than five dozen innovators in the jeans segment; Green Living with around 50 eco-ready collections; a Premium symposium that explores how retailers can be profitable with the high-end segment, and a wider selection of fashion jewelry. This is in addition to roughly 330 women's ready-to-wear collections and about 200 men's ranges showing at Premium's halls at The Station, a venue that was an old postal freight depot.Meanwhile, Stark, a little jewel box of a show, will get some added weight this season from the stable of almost 100 international men's and women's collections represented by Klauser's agency. The initiator of Stark has decided to take up seasonal residence in the old transformer station in Prenzlauer Berg (and the previous site of the Vitra Museum) with collections like Love Moschino, Plein Sud and McQ by Alexander McQueen. Elsewhere, young and avant-garde designers will present their ranges in the newly designed "Volt" area, whereas bigger names will take over "Watt" in the spacious main hall.
Now in its third season, Projekt Galerie will present around 35 women's and men's avant-garde designers in five art galleries around Torstrasse, in the Mitte section of town. It's seen as a fusion of art and fashion, with many of the designers themselves coming from an artistic background. "These are not labels that are going to be bought by your average department store," explained creative director Sven Krüger, "but they are often designers who have achieved a certain amount of recognition in their own scene."
In fact, for Krüger the main role of Projekt Galerie, and to a certain extent Berlin's fashion activities this week, is to profile young innovative designers who might otherwise get lost in the crowd. "We are smaller, which makes it easier for buyers to get a good overview. And for the labels, the list competing for attention isn't so long."
Other events, like Wedding Dress #3, a festival of urban fashion and lifestyle on Brunnenstrasse, and the first "showroom mile" spotlighting a mix of fashion, product design and art in various spaces along Friedrichstrasse and Unter den Linden, will be open to the general public. Wedding Dress will stage a show of street fashion — on the street (Brunnenstrasse). Sponsored by the Berlin Senate, the showroom mile will include the best of Labo Mode, Galeries Lafayette's young Berlin design platform; special projects by Berlin designers and students such as a cooperation between the porcelain firm KPM and Bernadett Penkov, and a selection from contemporary jewelers plus design objects by Berlin artists in the shop of the Deutsche Guggenheim.