Berlin — Extreme construction, end-of-days downpours and —perhaps most importantly — soccer! Berlin Fashion Week had a lot tocontend with this year. With 12 trade shows running July 8 to 10, plusmore than 50 runway shows and stage presentations at the transplantedMercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin venue in Wedding and assorted off-sitelocations, there was more than enough to keep visitors busy. Or,rather, much too much, the ongoing consensus remains.
Fairorganizers have long stopped issuing attendance figures, and with tensof thousands of soccer fans thronging to Berlin’s fan mile for the WorldCup, it’s impossible to say how many trade visitors were in the Germancapital for fashion week. Nonetheless, Premium and Panorama, now housedin the more central Berlin fairgrounds, were undeniably thronged openingday. Premium founder Anita Tillmann called it the show’s “best editionever.”
Most other fair organizers, including Bread & Butter,reported good attendance and a positive ordering environment, withnon-domestic attendance significantly increasing. Premium, for one,booked 73 percent international visitors, with an increase of southernEuropean buyers in Berlin this season. Show & Order also reported aspike in attendees from European countries outside Germany, as did aspokeswoman for the label Lanius Köln, a fifth-time Ethical Fashionexhibitor, who noted that many European buyers were “now placing orderson the spot.”
Bread & Butter’s announcement that it would begoing “on the road” in 2015, returning to Barcelona in January, and thenshowing in Berlin in July and Seoul in September, raised eyebrows morethan an uproar. Brands are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward joiningthe B&B tour, while Berlin’s other key players, including MayorKlaus Wowereit, remained confidently relaxed. “The good thing is thatfashion week and Premium and Panorama are all so strong that they canwell cope,” he commented. Or, as Show & Order founder Verena Maltaremarked, “The cards are being reshuffled — we’ll see what happens. Welove Berlin!”
Premium was already in expansion mode prior to theBread & Butter news, with an additional hall being built in theStation to house pre-collections as of the winter. “Seek was incrediblygood this season and we’re looking for more space. I think we can doubleit,” Tillmann said of the “upper streetwear” show that features about130 brands in the neighboring Kühlhaus. That venue, in turn, will beused to house showrooms for brands interested in a more privatepresentation environment.
“We’re honestly thinking ofalternatives,” Tillmann told WWD. “Brands don’t want to leave Berlin,and if we need to seek a new format, we will. Berlin is solid. TheGerman economy is superstrong, and Berlin is the most progressive andyoungest city, which won’t change.”
Laiea Smith, vice president,marketing and creative of Moda Operandi, concurred. “The city isbooming and so is fashion and creativity,” she said. “Nothing is out ofbounds. Berlin is at the nexus of cool and creative, so you expectartistic and innovative.” Moda, the American online luxury retailerknown for combining designer trunk shows and e-commerce for in-seasonpieces, was in Berlin for the first time to discover new brands. “Weloved the range of avant-garde and commercial styles,” said Smith, whowill introduce Dorothee Schumacher, Lala Berlin, Dawid Tomaszewski andPerret Schaad to Moda customers. “Lena Hoschek’s vibrant African printsare perfect for the Moda, ladylike woman and last year’s DFT [Designerfor Tomorrow] winner, Ioana Ciolacu, has some more fun and quirkypieces.” The six Berlin-sourced trunk shows will start the week of Aug.11 and run through early September.
Marubeni, the Japanesedistribution conglomerate, was back in Berlin for the second season withseveral Japanese buyers who “are always looking for something new,something other shops in Japan don’t have,” according to KatsuhideNakabo, sales executive at the Marubeni’s London agency. He skipped therunway shows and attended Premium, Seek and Bread & Butter, findingpotential in the clean, more minimal aesthetic favored by young designerlabels. “Simple, German looks can be good for Japanese buyers,” saidNakabo. “Japanese women are looking for more wearable, everyday clothesthey can use for many occasions.” Marubeni expects to pick up threeaccessories lines found in Berlin, though they’re not all German:Brooklyn-based Tyoulip Sisters, Cologne’s Ibuh (scarves) and Berlin’sLevit (sandals).
While most buyers and press can’t fit in thefairs and the MBFWB runway shows in their schedules, it is preciselythis dual offer that makes Berlin Fashion Week special, according toKaDeWe chief and Premium Group (KaDeWe, Alsterhaus, Öberpollinger)managing director Andre Maeder. “You will find this combination [offairs and runway] nowhere else in the world. We have this unique mixand, yes, 12 fairs are crazy and perhaps there should be someconsolidation, but they bring lots of international buyers to Berlin.”
Maederand his team tried to make time for both. Of the runway offerings, hesaid, “The good news is that Berlin is slightly different, a little moreedgy, with new designers coming up, like Tim Labenda, or others likeDorothee Schumacher or Lala Berlin who have longer experience. There’slots of talent.”
He also intends to increase KaDeWe’s involvementand support of the city’s designers. “We stand for top fashion inGermany, have these beautiful windows, and can host special eventshere,” he said of the store’s flagship. But more to the point of localdesigners looking to sell, Maeder said, “We will finalize everything inthe coming weeks, but we will certainly have more home-base designers inour assortment in the future.’”
Berlin e-commerce giant Zalandowas also on the prowl, both at the fairs and the runway shows. MareileOsthus, head of buying and assortment women’s apparel, liked C’est Toutand Michalsky’s show. Conversely, Huy Thong Tran Mai, owner of Berlinconcept store Oukan, said he and his team “only visited a few runwayshows” — among them, Hien Le, Perret Schaad, Augustin Teboul and MarinaHoermanseder — “because they resemble each other too much and look toocommercial.” Oukan carries international brands like Rad Hourani andHussein Chalayan, and local labels including Sopopular,Schmidttakahashi, Butterly Soulfire, Thom Krom and Concis. He calledtrends in Berlin “very democratic. They develop out of the people andemerge from the streets. The music scene, as one factor, plays animportant role — hence, Berlin remains exciting.”
“We always tryto see new designers in Berlin like the ones Christiane Arp shows atVogue Salon,” said Mario Eimuth, chief executive officer and founder ofMunich-based luxury e-tailer Stylebop.com. “I have an open mind towardworking with new designers, but I need to be thoroughly convinced” sincenew labels often struggle with quality, pricing and late deliveries.“Early deliveries are becoming more and more important.”
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