By and  on July 7, 2008

Now in its third edition, the Karstadt New Generation Award is not only a fixed feature of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin, it underscores the city's role as a young creative center, and the capital's potential as a springboard for developing talent. Here, a look at the four German contenders for the Karstadt award, which gives each the opportunity to present his or her spring 2009 collections to a professional audience in a runway show. It also garners the winner a contract to design an exclusive collection under the "Concept by..." label for an in-store shop presentation in the Karstadt department store chain.

Knit Pick

The logo for Boessert/Schorn is a coat of arms featuring the initials of designers Sonia Boessert and Brigitte Schorn, and a needle and thread. Traditional handwork techniques are central to the duo's designs, which use weaving, embroidery and macramé to turn the simple sumptuous. They are perhaps best known for their creative knits that deconstruct or redefine the sweater, with pieces that hang in strings like strands of jewelry or drape the body with transparent sleeves.

Boessert says the two draw inspiration from other cultures and their fabrics. "I was on the Berlin subway with Brigitte and a group of Roman women went by. We were both totally entranced [by] what they were wearing. The fabrics were so much more beautiful than what everyone else had on. So many ruffles and patterns — they were so much more opulent."

The two women teamed up while studying at the University of Art and Design in Halle, Germany, presenting collections regularly since 2006 in Berlin and at Tokyo Fashion Week. While the brand is based in Berlin, Schorn lives in Rheydt in western Germany. They coordinate through meetings and over the Web.

Boessert/Schorn's look is about layering and multifunctionality. The wearer can self-define and reconstruct her look, choosing armholes and neck holes at will in capes and tunics. Comfort and practicality are key, with cotton and wool, jersey and viscose in muted colors the rule.

The collection retails from about 50 euros, or $75 at current exchange, for a shirt to 200 euros, or $300, for a dress.

The spring collection adds diamonds in the rough, thanks to a partnership with Swarovski to integrate crystals and jewelry into designs. On the surface, the mix seems surprising, but as Boessert quietly insists with a smile: "We love to work with contradictions."

— Susan Stone

The Eyes Have It

It's a big season for Esther Perbandt. The 33-year-old designer has a new shop in Berlin's trendy Hackescher Markt district, and her first major fashion show is coming up this month. But she's an old hand at new looks, having founded her line in 2003, three years after graduating from Berlin's University of the Arts.

Perbandt's inspiration often comes from a trick of the eye. "Sometimes I get ideas because my eyes are cheating on me. I look at something and I think, wow, that's cool, and then I look again and it's not what I thought I saw — it's something completely different, but my eyes turned it immediately into something nice."

Her latest vision is also a play on words. While visiting China, she was struck by the fact that the entire landscape was a construction site. She took the image of the cranes dotting the sky and turned it into a repeating grid pattern filled with birds and cranes, similar to Japanese origami, and in a surprising move into red from her usual black. Construction is key to her garments, too, as in convertible shirts transforming shapes and dresses of careful pleats and folds that are structured but never stiff. Apparel runs from about 60 euros, or $90, to 165 euros, or $250.

Accessories, especially handbags, are an integrated part of the line. Bags run about 90 euros, or $112, to 110 euros, or $270. Each season, Perbandt presents five shapes and adds something new — from a classic pocketbook with a snapping clasp to a long bag that hangs down the side of the body in soft leather. Summer styles will be accented with poppy pink, red and orange PVC highlights. "It's even very poppy for Esther Perbandt," she laughs. "But I always have people complaining, 'Can't we have some color, Esther?'" 

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