By  on May 23, 2007

BERLIN — The coming show season in Germany is in flux as Berlin loses Bread & Butter completely, but gains its first catwalk-driven fashion week with the premiere of IMG's Mercedes-Benz event.

IMG Fashion, which already stages fashion weeks in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Mumbai and Sydney, will send models down a catwalk running straight through the middle of the Brandenburg Gate — once the site of the Berlin Wall, which divided the city between communism and capitalism.

The event, running from July 12 to 15, will kick off with Hugo Boss' Hugo line, and will also include Anglomania by Vivienne Westwood; Michael Michalsky; Rudolf Dassler, Puma's first designer apparel line, and another, as yet unconfirmed, big international name. Successful smaller German designers will also be featured, including Thatchers, Sisi Wasabi, Oui Set and Anett Röstel, as well as five young names symbolizing cutting-edge creativity in Berlin: Kaviar Gauche, Lala Berlin, c.neeon, Macqua and Talking Means Trouble.

"There are over 1,000 young designers in Berlin, eight fashion schools — which is more than any city in Europe — and a pool of creativity that is starting to attract attention internationally," said Massimo Redaelli, senior vice president of IMG Fashion Europe. "It's important for us to profile and develop this local talent. Kaviar Gauche and Lala Berlin will be to Berlin what Versace and Armani were to Milan in the Eighties, or Calvin and Donna were to New York in the Nineties. We could have selected labels like Tommy Hilfiger, but those sort of mainstream names don't fit to the creative edge in Berlin."

The four-day event will be restricted to trade and press, with approximately 12,000 professional visitors expected in total. The custom-made venue at the Brandenburg Gate will hold between 600 and 1,000 people, depending on the show, and other events in the surrounding area will be open to the public, including an exhibition on fashion at one of Berlin's museums.

Redaelli said it is impossible to estimate at this point how much the event will cost in total. "The budget is a roller-coaster ride and is growing on an hourly basis," he said. "But we are in it for the long term and are not going to stint on layout, location or the support designers or press need."But is Berlin, a city renowned for low consumer spending, really the right place for a high-end show? "It is a risk going into a city that, as far as retail goes, is not on a financial level with Munich, Hamburg or Düsseldorf," admitted Redaelli, "but Berlin offers so much more creatively. I believe creativity can lead to commerce, but commerce does not necessarily lead to creativity. It's about getting the right balance between art and business."

Parallel to IMG's event, from July 13 to 15, Berlin will also host the 10th edition of the high-end trade show Premium, which will encompass some 700 brands. Forty percent of the vendors will be women's wear, 20 to 25 percent men's wear and the remainder shoes and accessories. The organizers expect approximately 17,000 to 18,000 visitors.

Premium has been working together with IMG for the past two and a half years, providing contacts and support in the German market. Premium will also aim to complement the fashion week with events and parties and will allow designers without a showroom in Berlin to exhibit at the trade show.

"We are very excited [about the IMG show], because it is bringing fashion in Berlin to the next level," said Premium's co-founder Anita Bachelin. "Germany is the biggest market in Europe, but traditionally the focus has always been on quality and turnover, never about creativity and the fashion itself," she said. "There is a new feeling in Germany now, and a new generation of people here who are positive and self-confident."

But not everyone is feeling so optimistic about Berlin's chances to be a center of fashion commerce. Bread & Butter has announced that it will not be holding its Kraftwerk event, which premiered in January in a former Berlin power station, but will instead focus all energies on the Barcelona show. Kingly Kids, the children's fair that was scheduled to launch last January and never happened, is also on hold for the summer. And the underground fashion trade show Spirit of Fashion will now only hold one event a year, in winter.

"I liked Kraftwerk, but financially it just wasn't worth it," said Karl-Heinz Müller, founder and managing director of Bread & Butter, after a press conference in Barcelona. He said the Kraftwerk event had cost the company around $1.6 million. "We have decided to focus all our attention on Barcelona."That does not mean Bread & Butter has no room for expansion to other venues. Never one to think small, Müller has big plans for the coming decade. "Within the next 10 years I could imagine having three big international Bread & Butter events: one in Europe, one in Asia and one in the U.S.," Müller said.

Meanwhile, German trade show organizers are moving to fill the gap left by Bread & Butter Berlin. The Düsseldorf mid-market women's wear show CPD will be launching a jeans section, run by Mark McGuire, former marketing director at Bread & Butter. Initially, the denim area will form part of the Style & Signatures area. However, the show's organizers say next season it will be the fifth pillar of the Igedo-run fair, which is so far made up of four separate but parallel fairs held on the same grounds: CPD for women's wear, HMD for men's wear, Body Look for innerwear and the Global Fashion sourcing platform. Due to be held July 22 to 24, CPD will feature approximately 1,800 exhibitors, with an estimated 40,000 visitors.

"Our concept is to provide a one-stop fair for buyers who can quickly broaden their collections, trade up or trade down, by looking around the different sections of Igedo," said Frank Hartmann, chief executive officer of Igedo.

The Ispo sportswear fair in Munich, to be held July 8 to 10, is also updating its image by blurring the boundaries between fashion and sports. "Sport has become trendier, and trends have become sportier," said the fair's director, Tobias Gröber. "At last season's show, out of the 17 halls we had, only three were solely dedicated to sports hardware. Labels are realizing that to survive today they have to offer more than just skiwear in the winter and golf wear in the summer."

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