BERLIN — The last days of June were bright and warm in Berlin — and so was the start of the spring 2017 season during Berlin Fashion Week, which ran June 27 to July 1. Nine specialized trade shows, spanning men’s and women’s wear, contemporary, sustainable fashion, denim and sportswear; Der Berliner Mode Salon, and numerous events ran with the runway shows and presentations at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin.
In the run-up to fashion week, expectations were down following multiple fashion-related bankruptcies and political instability, including Brexit. But against gloomy forecasts, the mood turned upbeat as the fairs drove innovation and sharpened their profiles, and visitor numbers remained stable with an increase of buyer quality, exhibitors said. Growing support from the industry and politicians for the fairs, the Fashion Council Germany and Der Berliner Mode Salon further fueled optimism as the city experienced one of its best seasons.
Starting a day earlier, on June 27, Show & Order deepened its boutique profile with a focus on accessories and lifestyle products set up like department store areas to inspire retailers. Placing an order at Berlin perfumer Frau Tonis Parfum, a buyer from Gezeiten 1131 from the North Sea spa town St. Peter-Ording noted: “It’s the perfect environment for a concept store like ours. We discover new products every time and start to make some first orders and prepare following orders.”
The commercial platform Panorama at Messe Berlin expanded the exhibition area to 500,000 square feet, featuring extra space for plus-size women’s wear and extended lifestyle and men’s wear sections. It was a development welcomed by the roughly 50,000 visitors and 750 exhibitors alike. “The fair is getting more professional and the quality of the visitors is getting better. The mood is great and we had a lot of good buyers,” said a spokesman of German-Turkish exhibitor Mavi Jeans at the fair.
Visitors and exhibitors at contemporary fashion fair Premium at the Station Berlin also expressed contentment. “We had a very good season start. We met a lot of good buyers and made new contacts,” said Stefania Colantonio, sales director of Italian brand Manila Grace. While upgrading the contemporary and sportswear segment, Premium redeveloped the avant-garde section and added a beauty area.
At contemporary sportswear trade shows Seek and Bright at Berlin’s Arena, both owned by Premium Exhibitions, the atmosphere was positive with busy traffic. “Despite all concerns, we had a great season start, the fair is getting better, as are the buyers here,” Niels Garbe of sales agency Anotherproject said at Seek.
At Kulturbrauerei, men’s trade show Selvedge Run made a leap forward, adding a Japanese and a sartorial department to its denim and handcraft profile. Exhibitor as well as visitor numbers grew significantly and fair attendees were busily writing orders. Martin Novak, co-owner of The Low Down on Denim store in Vienna, was enthusiastic. “Selvedge Run has become something like a community. We love to come here because it’s an order fair where we make most of our business and because we meet friends,” he said. “Our customers are very product-focused and look for stand-out denim and handcraft, all of which we can find in a very high quality here.”
Berlin’s most significant progress this season was achieved by Der Berliner Mode Salon. Now in its fourth season, the group showcase of over 40 German designers drew growing international attention as well as increasing interest from traditionally conservative German department and specialty store retailers.
Markus Höhn, managing director of Munich Lodenfrey, one of Germany’s biggest department stores, said, “The Berlin fairs Premium and Seek are great as they have a lot of intersection with our assortment. They are the first step in our order process. The absolute highlight was DBMS. We already stock Horror Vacui, who does great at our store, and we’re very interested in Tim Labenda, Dawid Tomaszewski and Galvan.”
A regular to Panorama, Premium and Seek, Andreas Weitkamp of Münster’s largest specialty store Modehaus Schnitzler noted: “For us, Berlin is the most interesting platform for women’s wear for its great variety. We are now looking to refresh our portfolio with younger brands and the salon is a great showcase. There are a lot of exciting products, particularly Odeeh, Perret Schaad, Marina Hoermanseder and William Fan.”
On the international front, Luisa Via Roma’s director Andrea Panconesi was in Berlin to get a firsthand look at Germany’s core talent in preparation for a special DBMS corner in the Florence specialty store to open after Pitti Uomo in January 2017. The Berlin assortment will also be sold online at luisaviaroma.com, and will run for “at least one full season,” the company said.
Panconesi told WWD he “saw a lot of young, fresh and original designs and was overall very pleased with the high level of the [DBMS] event. It’s our job to promote new designers, not to help the big established ones. New talent is what makes specialty stores special. It’s what the young generation wants. They’re not asking for a total look, but are looking for novelty. Me, too.”
He was also at the Odeeh show held in a towering construction site. “It was so exciting to see someone I’d never heard of. It was so young, modern and contemporary. I see young girls wearing it,” he commented, noting, “They don’t want to show off, but want something subtle, chic and relaxed.” Other Berlin standouts included Michael Sontag and René Storck.
Sara Kozlowski, director of education and professional development at the Council of Fashion Designers of America, came to Berlin to speak at the “Sustainability & Style” event at the U.S. Embassy and visited several events at Berlin Fashion Week, including DBMS. “There is a great atmosphere in Berlin and there are a lot of great designers. We hope to collaborate more in the future,” she noted.
Shadi Halliwell, the creative director of Harvey Nichols London, also attended the DBMS presentation, as well as numerous runway shows during Berlin Fashion Week.
“I felt a passion and happy feeling in every room,” she said of the DBMS exhibit. “All [the designers] had their story, knew their prices, where their distribution was, and there was a really nice energy. The other big thing coming out of Berlin is this green sourced movement. Young people are demanding products that are sourced reliably,” she remarked.
Among the collections in Berlin that especially caught her eye: Michael Sontag and René Storck’s collections for men and women; the fur accessories from Gabriele Franzen, and the leather accessories of PB 0110. “The collections are fantastic and very translatable from day to night — and I think our customer at Harvey Nichols London specifically will go straight from work to evening and you can use all these pieces for both.”