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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.

This story first appeared in the July 7, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

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?'”


— S.S.

Show Biz

Marcel Ostertag is an unabashed showman. The 28-year-old designer practically kicked off his business in 2006 with a London Fashion Week show. He staged another in Berlin last season. “You need a show,” he said. “It’s the only way to see how a collection flows together.”

In terms of his signature style, he said: “I like a total look, from head to toe.”

His work is influenced by the ladylike looks of the late Seventies, though reinterpreted in high-tech or ultraglamorous materials.

“I want my customers and friends to look amazing,” he stated. That often includes feathers tailored into dresses and coats, waists cinched with corset fetish belts, a signature synthesis of bows and vinyl or ruffled frocks and bubbled trenchcoats in vivid metallic blue fabrics. All are accessorized with working-girl, thigh-high vinyl boots or megaplatforms. Prices range from 100 euros, or $150, to 600 euros, or $900, for separates and dresses, and 500 euros, or $750, to 1,200 euros, or $1,800, for coats.

But he also wants his customers to “feel well,” which means lining his favored PVC in jersey, or using plastic-coated linen that “looks like rubber but feels like linen” for next spring.

Now based in Munich, which also houses a Marcel Ostertag boutique, the graduate of Central Saint Martins in London said he started “just shaping on the figure, doing really tight stuff. But it got boring,” which led him to experiment with volume and drape.

“I like the mix of really fine underwear jersey and strong materials. A dramatic trench with something cozy underneath. It’s real fun to do huge cuts that women of every size can wear. But it’s about finding the right combination of tight and big.”

— Melissa Drier

Thicker Than Water

You know you’ve made it when you have a store in the mega-outlet center in Metzingen, Germany.

“Oh, no, we’re not in the big Hugo Boss enclave,” laughed Karin Ziegler, the Berlin-based designer of Blutsgeschwister (or “Blood Siblings”). “It’s just nice to have for our regular customers in Stuttgart,” where the brand is headquartered.

Ziegler, 32, and her business partner, Christina Haneberg, 35, are entering the 17th Blutsgeschwister season. The collection of sportswear, underwear, swimwear, accessories and more for blood sisters, brothers and, as of last year, babies, is known for its tender blend of innocent, street-smart and retro design elements.

The collection is 80 percent print based, wearing its heart on its sleeve — plus an anchor and cross, and the three elements of its logo celebrating faith, love and hope. Oversize ginghams and picnic and strawberry motifs, plus a super secretary look, are on hand for spring.

Fun graphics; necessarily unnecessary items such as a Blutsgeschwister teapot and cups; mushroom cushions and anchor pillows; bow belts; anchor swing earrings, and leather net bags are all part of the Blutsgeschwister world online, at stores in Germany and abroad and at the brand’s four shops in Stuttgart, Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin. Tops retail at 36 euros, or $52, to 83 euros, or $121; skirts are around 69 euros, or $100, and dresses run for 60 euros, or $90, to 108 euros, or $161.

— M.D.


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