A CLASSIC TURN FOR GERMAN RTW
Byline: Melissa Drier
DUSSELDORF — The German women’s wear industry is getting back to its roots, as tailored ensembles, suits and coats move to the forefront for fall-winter 2001/2002.
At the CPD trade fair, which closed its three-day run in Dusseldorf on Feb. 6, the German market’s traditional ready-to-wear strengths were once again in evidence after several years where more casual, dressed-down looks ruled the roost.
CPD also kicks off the major market week in Germany. In addition to the 3,000 German and international companies showing on the fairgrounds and in the two Dusseldorf fashion houses, several hundred others present their collections in showrooms and hotels throughout Dusseldorf.
German manufacturers have reembraced the classic blazer, which returned to the scene in a variety of shapes. Business dressing is back in the fall spotlight in skirted ensembles or sleek, man-tailored pantsuits, and structured coats gave new energy to urban outerwear.
While some German firms stuck to the Eighties glitz and glam of recent seasons, a touch of luxury in the form of fur accents, finer hardware trim and jewelry details, plus the continued importance of leather, kept collections fresh.
Hubert Weidemann, president of the German women’s wear association, said, “We welcome the return to tailored looks. We’re not talking about real classics, but modern classics, with a glamorous aspect.”
Peter Kappler, the board member responsible for marketing and international sales at Strenesse Gabriele Strehle, said, “We’ve moved the collection up a notch from the international point of view. We’re now functioning in an international environment… and there are new rules.”
That means improved fabric and production quality, Kappler said, accompanied by higher price tags, although he added the increase would not be more than 10 percent.
Strenesse staged informal modeling presentations of the Strenesse Gabriele Strehle collection in its Dusseldorf showroom during CPD, reserving its full-scale runway presentation for Milan.
“It’s the first real modern collection I’ve seen in Dusseldorf,” said Elke Giese, fashion director of the German Fashion Institute. “It has a stunning clarity.”
The collection harked back to Strenesse’s roots with the kind of streamlined tailoring and rich fabrics with which the label originally made its mark. As part of Strenesse’s quality push, the company has taken its shoe collection back in house, following the lead of many French houses.
“We see no future in licenses in general for a brand on this level,” Kappler stated.
Bogner, on the other hand, has been on a licensing spree and was outfitted with a new accessories range of shoes, bags, gloves, scarves and socks in the Bogner Dusseldorf showroom. The Bogner Jeans collection, which includes jeans for snowboarding and skiing, was in a separate space and the new activewear licenses were presented at Ispo in Munich.
Also in the works, according to Ursula Buck, director of licensing, is an expansion of sport accessories, fashion sunglasses, activewear, jewelry and possibly watches. A home concept including sheets, towels and tableware is also in development.
There was also news in the Bogner’s women’s wear collection, which has traded up, as well, with coats now retailing in Germany for about $750 to $900, suits averaging at $500, skirts $200 to $250. But it’s the look that’s really changed, with the emphasis shifting from outdoorsy outfits to dressier and more ladylike looks, such as a black-and-white donegal tweed dress with matching jacket, or a sleek leather jacket with a mink collar and Bogner’s new graphic buckle closure.
“German sales have been extremely good since we modernized the line, and clients we lost, like Peek & Cloppenburg in Dusseldorf, have come back,” said Daniela Poerner, division manager for the Bogner Woman and Sonia Bogner collections.
Bogner’s women’s business is also picking up in the U.S, Perner said.
“We have some great customers like Wilkes Bashford, and Gorsuch (with stores in Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek and Keystone, Colo.), who came to Dusseldorf for the first time to buy because they’ve started with women’s wear,” she said. “We’re definitely building up the women’s business in the States.”
Rena Lange’s new White Label collection represents trading up of another ilk. Shown in Dusseldorf for the first time at a still-life presentation, White Label is a line extension rather than a second collection. It aims to address the existing Rena Lange customer, as well as some new ones, during their more casual moments.
Top looks included a black tailored denim jacket with a mink collar and cuffs, a denim swing skirt, a leather-piped brown wool blazer paired with an intarsia pullover and moleskin pants with French stitched cuffs.
“We took back the licensed business, but the demand from our consumers for a leisure line grew,” said Rena Lange managing director Daniel Gunthert. “They actually need more leisure clothes now than before and we didn’t have it in our main line.”
Pricing is about 20 to 30 percent below the Rena Lange main line. The price reduction reflects the use of better fabrics, Gunthert noted. Lange has teamed up with Gruppo Alma in a joint venture to produce the leisurewear.
“It was important to find a partner who would do this type of product and insure that the quality of the product is the same as the main line,” Gunthert added.
Back at the fairgrounds, Gerry Weber, a German moderate-priced powerhouse with annual sales reaching about $325 million in 2000, introduced its new premium brand called Yomanis. As sales manager Marco Tiemann explained, this isn’t the first time Gerry Weber has taken on the higher-priced segment.
“We had the Etienne Aigner label in house for the last 10 years, but the license is expiring,” Tiemann said. “So we’ve decided to go out on our own with Yomanis.”
Geared for the businesswoman aged 32 to 50, the collection includes blazers in fabrics from Loro Piana, in both classic and more updated shapes, such as a short, back-belted model. There are fine tweed ensembles, silk charmeuse blouses, sharp leather coats and pants.
The goal is 700 to 800 doors in Germany the first season, as well as Belgium, Luxemburg, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Poland, the Middle East and Canada. For spring/summer 2002, the company is considering going to the U.S. with Yomanis, Tiemann said.
Ambiente, a German “gold range” resource, is also eyeing the American market. The Monchengladbach-based company signed on New York designer Thomas Steinbruck to join the Ambiente design team. His input was seen in Ambiente’s first real fling with eveningwear last season, which was picked up by key German fashion retailers, including Eickhoff.
Eveningwear specialist Steinbruck is now “influencing the entire collection,” according to Peter Boveleth, executive manager for marketing and sales.
Ambiente has won a following for perky feminine looks, which this season included trim pantsuits in gold sateen or orange velvet or a floral tapestry dinner suit. Ambiente is currently sold in most European countries, except France and Italy.
“The next step would be to go to the U.S. first, rather than France, and we’re thinking of setting up some sort of cooperation with Thomas (Steinbruck) in New York,” Boveleth said. “We’ll check it out for next season. It’s a pity New York fashion week and CPD were so close this time. It was impossible for Thomas to come here, and we have so many customers to see in the next two weeks we can’t go there.”
The show, featuring about 4,000 exhibitors from 90 countries, attracted about 50,000 trade visitors in three days, compared to 54,000 in four days a year ago. However, opening-day attendance of more than 26,000 was the highest ever, according to Monfred Kronen, chief executive officer of the Igedo Co., which produces CPD.