Revisited, Revived: Before the wall, West Berlin was home to a budding scene of German couturiers. Uli Richter, who was the youngest among them, is now being honored with a solo show titled “Uli Richter Revisited” at the city’s Kunstgewerbemuseum, one of Germany’s oldest museums of applied arts, running through March 5.
Richter, who will turn 90 this December, entered the fashion business at historic department store Horn after World War II. After winning the Venice “Cotton Festival International“ in 1957 with a pearl embroidered dress that was anything but cotton, he launched his namesake fashion house in 1959. It was a time when German fashion had momentum and designers like him, Staebe-Seger and Heinz Oestergaard would present and sell their “Berliner Chic”-labeled couture globally — until the Berlin Wall literally cut them off in 1961, from the rest of the world, including their suppliers and sewers in East Germany.
Richter was the only one to continue his business that, at the height of his career, occupied eight floors on Kurfürstendamm, today home to stores like Chanel and Hermès. From his secluded Berlin headquarters, he dressed actresses like Senta Berger and Hildegard Knef, German First Ladies and aristocrats like Rut Brandt and Princess Marie-Cécile of Prussia, and even Grace Kelly and her daughter Princess Caroline of Monaco.
In 1962, four years before the ascent of Yves Saint Laurent, he introduced a full prêt-à-porter line called “UR,” as well as après-ski and après-plage collections and went on to operate successfully until 1982.
The exhibition “Uli Richter Revisited” now presents 40 of his costumes, drawings and photography, among other campaign images by well-known photographer F.C. Gundlach. Besides the historical material, the museum taps young local talents to interpret Richter. Barre Noire, Brachmann, Firkant, Marina Hoermanseder, Michael Sontag, Nobi Talai, Philomena Zanetti, Sample-cm, Steinrohner and William Fan each created a look to reflect Richter’s elegant, yet comfortable designs.
With the newest generation of Berlin’s emerging fashion scene present, this show, which is just the first in a series of fashion-themed exhibitions by the museum, may also be subtitled “Berliner Chic Revived.”