While some naysayers have been predicting Berlin’s upcoming fashion week would be shaken by the increase in German fashion-related bankruptcies and profit warnings, reorientation in the midmarket camp, dramatically reduced footfall at retail and a notorious disinterest in emerging German design talent by domestic buyers, recent signs suggest the city is more magnetic than ever to designers and brands of all stylistic levels and nationalities.
The action in Berlin is slated for June 27 to July 1. Every day brings word of another name joining the participant roster at the city’s eight trade fairs, as well as the roughly 50 runway shows and presentations of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin and Der Berliner Mode Salon.
Two fairs have quit the Berlin playing field: the children’s wear platform Cookies, and Curvy Is Sexy, which bowed out when Panorama opted to include plus-size fashion this season. The remaining eight players, on the other hand, are sold out. The accompanying program of symposiums keeps growing at Green Showroom, Ethical Fashion and Premium’s Fashion Tech, and replacing Bread & Butter’s early “party hearty” days, Berlin’s fun element is also getting a bigger push. Trade shows Seek and Bright, which have partially filled the B&B gap, have teamed with online lifestyle news site High Snobiety for “The Off” party series, which will then move to New York during men’s fashion week. Other after-hours events are also in the offing.
However, work is still the primary focus, though it should be noted that the Berlin platforms — whether trade show, runway or other presentations — have always been just the first stop for many during the season. Düsseldorf and/or Munich order days as well as showcases of some sort in New York, Milan or Paris usually figure in most labels’ seasonal itineraries. Berlin provides the first look for the industry accompanied by moderate ordering activity at best, but this season, Berlin Fashion Week is taking a more proactive stance, despite — or perhaps because of — all the problems and uncertainty.
Der Berliner Mode Salon, now in its third season, is expanding with two historical show venues, and new collections including 22/4 Hommes Femmes, Brachmann, Felder Felder and Unützer joining the curated, four-hour group presentation of more than 40 German designers in the Kronprinzenpalais. Intended to highlight Germany’s designer core in an otherwise fairly mainstream market, DBMS has attracted positive attention, if not precisely order-prone buyers.
Given Paris men’s and pre-collections’ writing activity, “It’s almost impossible to get the relevant retailers to our designers in Berlin at this time,” acknowledged Marcus Kurz, cofounder with Christiane Arp of DBMS. Instead, they’ve gone after potential collaboration partners versus buyers per se, and Kurz noted “some big houses have shown themselves more open since last fall.” Representatives from My Theresa, Net-a-porter, Harvey Nichols, Anita Bass (to discuss a possible DBMS pop-up shop), Luisa Via Roma (considering a possible DBMS collaboration for its web site), KaDeWe, The Corner and Breuninger are expected to attend. A delegation lead by German parliamentary state secretary Brigitte Zypries is another indication that German fashion is beginning to be taken more seriously on its home turf.
Returning to the Berlin stage after several seasons in Paris, Odeeh will inaugurate a new DBMS venue at the Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Schloss, which is under reconstruction. While Odeeh designers Jörg Ehrlich and Otto Drögsler were immediately sold on the unfinished cathedral-like space, “We mostly felt that we’re in a time when you have to force yourself to do something special. There’s a lot of antienergy out there, and everybody needs discipline to stand up against this energy,” declared Ehrlich.
Michael Sontag will open the other new DBMS venue at the Palais am Festungsgraben with a show, even though he’s focused almost exclusively on private clients via his Kreuzberg shop.
“Runway is an extra add-on, and lets you convey a fuller story, more than just a look book. And it’s a way of saying ‘hey, I’m here,’ plus attracting potential cooperation partners,” Sontag said. “The Mode Salon has personally motivated and pushed me a lot. The Fashion Council Germany is finally getting under way, and it’s all inspiring.”
Catherine Bennett, senior vice president and managing director of WME/IMG Fashion Events & Properties, which organizes the shows of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin, said, “The same problems we see in Berlin we see everywhere…but I think we’re making some progress.”
Reflecting the market’s makeup, most of the shows at the main venue are staged by big, commercial German players like Laurèl or Riani, while younger designers have enthusiastically adopted the MBFWB stage at Me Collectors Room.
“We’re getting a lot of interest from meaningful American designers who want to come over — which is a real shift,” she reported, noting New York-based red-carpet specialists Cushnie et Ochs will officially close this season’s runway shows. “People are interested in what’s happening in this cultural center, and are open to exploring new ways to build business elsewhere.”
So is WME/IMG, which this season will air MBFWB coverage on its M2M mobile platform. Moreover, Made is launching in Berlin with a teaser dinner and party at the Teppichfabrik closing night. To be featured: Ottolinger, the edgy collection by Berlin-based, Swiss-born duo Christa Bosch and Cosima Gadient and Eckhaus Latta to provide the avant-garde American slant.
The idea is “a meaningful cultural exchange” between designers in Berlin and New York, said Bennett. Just back from Made’s L.A. launch, she said the kind of designer pop-up shops positively tested there might also come to Berlin.
In another Berlin-U.S. bridge, the nascent Fashion Council Germany has joined with U.S. Ambassador John Emerson and his wife, Kimberly Marteau Emerson, and Vogue Germany for “Sustainability & Style,” a presentation in which designers Karen Jessen from Benu Berlin, Kathleen König of Haltbar and Vladimir Karaleev and Nobi Talai of Nobieh Talaie will show specially crafted designs from recycled denim provided by Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Levi’s and G-Star. CFDA director of education and professional development Sara Kozlowski will be the guest speaker.
Premium will highlight Korean designers, 15 Mexican apparel and accessories designers will have a MBFWB Stage group presentation, Hungary’s Dori Tomcsanyi, Argentina’s Vanesa Krongold and Hyères winner Wataru Tominaga of Japan will show on the MBFWB runway and stage.