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Four fresh collections at Berlin Fashion Week.
This story first appeared in the June 25, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Glaw: Two Peas in a Pod
The Glaw design team’s atelier is located in an historic building that was once part of a Stasi prison in Berlin Hohenschönhausen. Deeply associated with the GDR’s system of political and artistic oppression, this building — where detainees were questioned and tortured in the basement — now houses artist and photographer studios and design offices.
“Our work space has a bad history and sometimes it seems like a strange place. But the opportunity to work in such an important location and to be part of the change was very significant for us,” said Maria Poweleit, who, together with Jesko Wilke, codirects and designs the Berlin fashion label Glaw. “We were both born in the GDR and even if we were very young, we still remember what it felt like during this dark period of East Germany. We can remember the liberating feelings when the wall came down in 1989, and for us, this place is meaningful.”
Poweleit grew up in Dresden and was interested in fashion design since the age of seven. Wilke, a native Berliner, always had an interest in art, music and dance, he said. He attended the Berlin State School of Ballet and then worked at the Komische Oper Berlin, first dancing and then making costumes while Poweleit went to New York for a fashion design internship. Their paths came together at Esmod in Berlin, and they began planning their fashion company in their third year of study. Upon graduating in 2011, they launched Glaw.
Glaw means “rain” in Welsh and it is a word that inspired these designers to start their “accessible luxury” label for women.
“Glaw was the perfect name because our tie-dyed leather and tie-dyed silk pieces look as if they were washed by rain,” said Poweleit. Taking an innovative yet refined approach, each well-crafted piece displays a soft touch, with textures used in a light-handed manner.
Spring represents their fourth collection. It will be presented on the runway for the first time in a show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin this season. Highlights include crystals and Jane Birkin-inspired looks made of leather combined with silk chiffon, as well as jackets, pants and skirts laced up in form-fitting silhouettes — like corsets. Glaw’s spring palette revolves around rose, gray, taupe, white and shades of pastel pink in silk, as well as dip-dyed leather and metallic leather in these same soft colors.
“The crystals are a big part of our collection this season in terms of colors and patterns. We use metallic leather and shiny beads to underscore the crystal theme,” said Poweleit, adding that the juxtaposition of the strong and clear shapes of crystals and the softness of silk is an important style element.
RELATED STORY: The Berlin Scene >>
Of special note are Glaw’s skirts, jackets and pants made in Germany of supple, crinkled leather. Retail prices for dresses start at 250 euros ($330). Leather pieces range from 500 to 900 euros (about $660 to $1,190).
Glaw is marked by the designers’ distinct personalities and their similar passion for life, art and design. The creative duo was at the Beyoncé concert the night before, soaking up the energy. “We love to travel and discover new places,” Poweleit said. “We love the same music and watch ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ together. Sometimes we start singing in our atelier…which sounds strange and hilarious. At the end of the day, we often lay under our desks laughing.”
NEXT: Reality Studio >>
Reality Studio: Elegant Oppositions
The aesthetic designer Svenja Specht imparts to her label, Reality Studio, is one of duality — masculine and feminine, sporty and elegant, East and West.
“I like to break things,” she explained. “If it’s very Asian, I think ‘What could I put in, what breaks it a bit and makes it look like a western suit?’ Or the material is very western but the shape is very Asian. I like this kind of play.”
Specht, who grew up near Stuttgart, attended fashion school, then trained in product design and worked in graphic design. Her eclectic background and love of a challenge inform her aesthetic, as does the formative years she spent living and working in Beijing. After returning to Germany, she decided to reboot. Her retraining started by working for a mass fashion retailer in Germany, and also in Paris as a designer, buyer and trend scout. Reality Studio launched in 2005, and was soon picked up by a Japanese agency.
Her line — with its easy-to-wear layers, drapes and wraps — has had global appeal, thanks to garments that borrow ethnic patterns or cuts, but blend them with modern, unexpected fabrics. What Asian and German design can have as a commonality, Specht points out, is a tendency toward clean lines and severity or austerity — Strenge, in German.
“It depends what you identify as a German style — maybe if you see, for example, Marlene Dietrich as a masculine/feminine woman who has a kind of elegance — but this kind of Strenge also fits my style, I think,” said Specht.
Specht’s loosely androgynous vision also attracts the opposite sex. “It is actually a women’s wear collection, but I know that I also sell it to men in Japan,” she said. “Men ask me ‘When will you do Reality Studio men’s wear?’ I don’t have the manpower or financial power to do it at the moment, but I could imagine it some day.”
Previous Reality Studio seasons have referenced lace and embroidery from the north of Portugal, Oriental rugs, and Inuit to ikat prints. This season’s collection springboards from Paul Schrader’s 1985 film “Mishima,” an unsettling but beautiful work that tells the story of the celebrated Japanese author.
Looks clearly reference Asia, said Specht. For example, frog closures are interpreted in a modern way, colors go light and bright — cream, denim blue linen, orange-nude jersey and gray knit, joined by intense curry and salmon red. Light silks offer transparency. Fabric variety, noted Specht, always provides her inspiration, and serves as the key point to each collection.
Lyon-based textile artists Milleneufcentquatrevingtquatre (which means “1984” in French), who are known for their hand-painted and collaged silk scarves, are collaborating with Specht on a custom-print fabric for the collection.
RELATED STORY: Berlin’s Growing Accessories Market >>
Branching into footwear for spring 2013 brought Specht a new challenge — and extra attention. Her innovative cork and leather platform clogs, mules and boots became blogger favorites, and added stores to her developing stockist list. In the fall line, pony hair flats and boots melded sporty and stylish, while spring 2014 adds canvas and silk to the mix.
Reality Studio’s clothes are produced in Europe. Prices for blouses start at 165 euros ($219), trousers and skirts at 200 euros ($265), dresses 275 ($365), and coats 360 ($477); shoes are priced at 230 euros ($305) and boots at 280 euros ($371).
The brand is sold in boutiques in Europe, Japan and China. Specht said interest is growing in the U.S., where Reality Studio is carried at Henrik Vibskov and Assembly boutiques in New York, Portland’s Stand Up Comedy, and Weltenbuerger in Los Angeles, among others.
Reality Studio will show at Premium for the first time this season, presented by Vald, its new Copenhagen-based agency.
NEXT: Ksus >>
Ksus: The Right Foundations
Katja Werling’s segue from a career in architecture to one as a fashion designer was a natural progression, she says. Her homegrown women’s wear label, which started out as a hobby, is now her main focus. She produced her first full Ksus collection in summer 2011.
“When you are working on an architectural design, you have to extract a silhouette,” Werling explained, “and this is similar to designing clothes. I was always interested in fashion and making clothes for myself on the side. My label is now just an extension of that.”
Werling originates from the south of Germany, near Ludwigshafen, but began her studies in architecture in Florence at the Università degli Studi di Firenze.
“It is what many Italians do before they become fashion designers — get a good basis for learning about how to draw and expand ideas, so it was perfect for me.” After years of working as an architect in Florence and Rome, she is settled in Berlin, where she founded her label three years ago. Ksus is an abbreviation of her first and middle names, Katja Susanne.
Werling said it was “easier to start a fashion label in Berlin than in Italy.” Moreover, the aesthetic of her women’s brand is more influenced by the minimalist sartorial structure and palette popular in the German capital than by her time in Italy. Black woolen coats and jackets with contrasting leather sleeves are some of the more popular items featured in her recent fall collection, as are slinky monotone jersey frocks that can be dressed up or down.
For spring, she has stuck to a limited palette of black and white, plus a soft cream and a cool ice blue. Highlights include a tailored white cotton suit with a fitted lapel-less blazer that closes with a single white pearl button, matched with masculine white cotton pants. There are softer, more feminine looks like a tiered chiffon strapless silk top, while her take on the active sportswear trend — a sheer ice-blue silk camisole with a racer back and dove-gray silk runner’s shorts — are more suitable for nights out in Berlin’s techno clubs than the running track.
Werling runs the entire operation alone from her apartment on Berlin’s former east side. “The label has developed as I go along and certain details are reinterpreted for different seasons, such as a silk cummerbund waist on top of a pair of pants for winter and then topping off some black summer shorts.” The offer also includes some multifunctional items, such as a microfiber parka with an elasticated waist “that can be worn as a dress or a summer coat.”
Prices for Ksus start at 189 euros ($249) for silk shorts, a loose jersey dress sells for 249 euros ($329) and blazers are around 399 euros ($526). Leather items include a leather-wool jacket for 599 euros ($790), a leather corsage strapless top for 399 euros ($526) and leather-wool mix coats retail for 589 euros ($777).
Werling will show her spring collection as part of the Collect Showroom at Capsule during Berlin fashion week.
NEXT: Ivanman >>
Ivanman: “A Time of Transition”
When it comes to timing, Ivan Mandzukic is definitely ahead of the game. While most of his young designer peers were scrambling to get their samples finished for Berlin Fashion Week, his spring Ivanman collection was already complete. He even had a full lineup of photos on hand.
Everything seems to be neatly in its place in his atelier in a former architectural office facing the river Spree in Kreuzberg. He cleaned up for the appointment, he admitted, though he added he can’t work in chaos. As for his early-bird tactics, chalk that up to his Croatian roots. Having participated in Cro à Porter in Zagreb in April, “there was so little time in between, I got summer done three months in advance.”
Mandzukic founded the men’s wear label Ivanman in 2010, shortly after graduating from Esmod in Berlin, where he took the first prize for “best men’s wear patternmaking/draping.” In 2012, Who’s Next named Ivanman “best men’s prêt-a-porter” collection. However, Mandzukic’s first career path was getting a computer science degree in his homeland in the former Yugoslavia, after which he was EDP administrator for the University of Architecture in Aachen from 2004 to 2007.
While Mandzukic says he “wouldn’t be a designer if there was no architecture around,” his love of architectural details, proportions and shapes driving his vision, his next step was to volunteer as a costume designer for Berlin’s Staatsoper. He then enrolled at Esmod intending to continue his costuming efforts. “I thought, fashion? No way. But Silvia [Kadolsky, the school’s codirector] convinced me otherwise,” he smiled.
His latest personal battle of persuasion concerns pink. “I kept wondering, can I do pink? And finally, I said yes. It depends on how you use it.”
For spring, that means pleated shorts worn with a matching plastron-shaped vest tailored in pale pink wool, sporting a completely cut-out back with pink and khaki taping to hold the item in place. He also offers clean low-rise slims paired with a pink cotton shirt with a linear tone-on-tone bib, and rectangular inset stripes on the sleeves in khaki and white. For some gender-blending, baggy pleated trousers with a dropped crotch are worn with a little puffed-sleeved angora sweater.
The collection, he said, “is inspired by the reflection of the present — a time of transition.” He tapped the aesthetic and colors of “La Grande Bouffe” on one hand, and the uniforms of the New York Stock Exchange on the other. Though his runway collection shows a lot of skin, especially those bare backs, with the exception of that little fluffy sweater, his pink, khaki, black and white runway lineup strikes a clean and clearly masculine — albeit metrosexual — note.
And then there’s the primarily black commercial assortment — where Mandzukic takes a bipolar approach. Tired of retailers telling him his more forward looks wouldn’t work, he said he also realized “that if I worked too classically and purely for the market, it would make me unhappy. So I separate it.” Each season, he searches for two signature details, which he can then interpret more commercially. For example, spring’s inset stripes show up on inner pockets or in more tone-on-tone variations, while the bare backs are reinterpreted as a mesh inset on the back of a blouson or shirt.
The 40-piece collection retails between 120 and 500 euros (about $158 to $660 at current exchange) and is carried by Berlin concept store M, Wald, and Supermarket Belgrad, which is slated to open a Berlin door in Bikini Haus next year. Ivanman will be making his MBFWB tent debut with a presentation in The Stage, and the collection will also be on view in M’s showroom during fashion week.
— Melissa Drier