Berlin — Extreme construction, end-of-days downpours and — perhaps most importantly — soccer! Berlin Fashion Week had a lot to contend with this year. With 12 trade shows running July 8 to 10, plus more than 50 runway shows and stage presentations at the transplanted Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin venue in Wedding and assorted off-site locations, there was more than enough to keep visitors busy. Or, rather, much too much, the ongoing consensus remains.
Fair organizers have long stopped issuing attendance figures, and with tens of thousands of soccer fans thronging to Berlin’s fan mile for the World Cup, it’s impossible to say how many trade visitors were in the German capital for fashion week. Nonetheless, Premium and Panorama, now housed in the more central Berlin fairgrounds, were undeniably thronged opening day. Premium founder Anita Tillmann called it the show’s “best edition ever.”
Most other fair organizers, including Bread & Butter, reported good attendance and a positive ordering environment, with non-domestic attendance significantly increasing. Premium, for one, booked 73 percent international visitors, with an increase of southern European buyers in Berlin this season. Show & Order also reported a spike in attendees from European countries outside Germany, as did a spokeswoman for the label Lanius Köln, a fifth-time Ethical Fashion exhibitor, who noted that many European buyers were “now placing orders on the spot.”
Bread & Butter’s announcement that it would be going “on the road” in 2015, returning to Barcelona in January, and then showing in Berlin in July and Seoul in September, raised eyebrows more than an uproar. Brands are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward joining the B&B tour, while Berlin’s other key players, including Mayor Klaus Wowereit, remained confidently relaxed. “The good thing is that fashion week and Premium and Panorama are all so strong that they can well cope,” he commented. Or, as Show & Order founder Verena Malta remarked, “The cards are being reshuffled — we’ll see what happens. We love Berlin!”
Premium was already in expansion mode prior to the Bread & Butter news, with an additional hall being built in the Station to house pre-collections as of the winter. “Seek was incredibly good this season and we’re looking for more space. I think we can double it,” Tillmann said of the “upper streetwear” show that features about 130 brands in the neighboring Kühlhaus. That venue, in turn, will be used to house showrooms for brands interested in a more private presentation environment.
“We’re honestly thinking of alternatives,” Tillmann told WWD. “Brands don’t want to leave Berlin, and if we need to seek a new format, we will. Berlin is solid. The German economy is superstrong, and Berlin is the most progressive and youngest city, which won’t change.”
Laiea Smith, vice president, marketing and creative of Moda Operandi, concurred. “The city is booming and so is fashion and creativity,” she said. “Nothing is out of bounds. Berlin is at the nexus of cool and creative, so you expect artistic and innovative.” Moda, the American online luxury retailer known for combining designer trunk shows and e-commerce for in-season pieces, was in Berlin for the first time to discover new brands. “We loved the range of avant-garde and commercial styles,” said Smith, who will introduce Dorothee Schumacher, Lala Berlin, Dawid Tomaszewski and Perret Schaad to Moda customers. “Lena Hoschek’s vibrant African prints are perfect for the Moda, ladylike woman and last year’s DFT [Designer for Tomorrow] winner, Ioana Ciolacu, has some more fun and quirky pieces.” The six Berlin-sourced trunk shows will start the week of Aug. 11 and run through early September.
Marubeni, the Japanese distribution conglomerate, was back in Berlin for the second season with several Japanese buyers who “are always looking for something new, something other shops in Japan don’t have,” according to Katsuhide Nakabo, sales executive at the Marubeni’s London agency. He skipped the runway shows and attended Premium, Seek and Bread & Butter, finding potential in the clean, more minimal aesthetic favored by young designer labels. “Simple, German looks can be good for Japanese buyers,” said Nakabo. “Japanese women are looking for more wearable, everyday clothes they can use for many occasions.” Marubeni expects to pick up three accessories lines found in Berlin, though they’re not all German: Brooklyn-based Tyoulip Sisters, Cologne’s Ibuh (scarves) and Berlin’s Levit (sandals).
While most buyers and press can’t fit in the fairs and the MBFWB runway shows in their schedules, it is precisely this dual offer that makes Berlin Fashion Week special, according to KaDeWe chief and Premium Group (KaDeWe, Alsterhaus, Öberpollinger) managing director Andre Maeder. “You will find this combination [of fairs and runway] nowhere else in the world. We have this unique mix and, yes, 12 fairs are crazy and perhaps there should be some consolidation, but they bring lots of international buyers to Berlin.”
Maeder and his team tried to make time for both. Of the runway offerings, he said, “The good news is that Berlin is slightly different, a little more edgy, with new designers coming up, like Tim Labenda, or others like Dorothee Schumacher or Lala Berlin who have longer experience. There’s lots of talent.”
He also intends to increase KaDeWe’s involvement and support of the city’s designers. “We stand for top fashion in Germany, have these beautiful windows, and can host special events here,” he said of the store’s flagship. But more to the point of local designers looking to sell, Maeder said, “We will finalize everything in the coming weeks, but we will certainly have more home-base designers in our assortment in the future.’”
Berlin e-commerce giant Zalando was also on the prowl, both at the fairs and the runway shows. Mareile Osthus, head of buying and assortment women’s apparel, liked C’est Tout and Michalsky’s show. Conversely, Huy Thong Tran Mai, owner of Berlin concept store Oukan, said he and his team “only visited a few runway shows” — among them, Hien Le, Perret Schaad, Augustin Teboul and Marina Hoermanseder — “because they resemble each other too much and look too commercial.” Oukan carries international brands like Rad Hourani and Hussein Chalayan, and local labels including Sopopular, Schmidttakahashi, Butterly Soulfire, Thom Krom and Concis. He called trends in Berlin “very democratic. They develop out of the people and emerge from the streets. The music scene, as one factor, plays an important role — hence, Berlin remains exciting.”
“We always try to see new designers in Berlin like the ones Christiane Arp shows at Vogue Salon,” said Mario Eimuth, chief executive officer and founder of Munich-based luxury e-tailer Stylebop.com. “I have an open mind toward working with new designers, but I need to be thoroughly convinced” since new labels often struggle with quality, pricing and late deliveries. “Early deliveries are becoming more and more important.”