Fashion
Can Berlin Fashion Week challenge its major European counterparts?
Despite its size and cultural influence, the Berlin Fashion Week is often overseen compared to other European fashion capitals. We visited the German capital to see what the progressive city is doing to keep up.
By Oliver Dahle

One of the main organizations of Berlin Fashion Week is the German Fashion Council. Besides hosting major fashion events, the organization works in many ways to promote and support the german fashion industry. With collaboratarial ventures, the organization supports both sustainability and innovation projects, as well as younger designers. Most recently they’ve started a new project in which they, together with the PVH Foundation, will be educating school kids between 13 to 17 years on textile and consumer behavior. 

The biggest project however was launched earlier this summer when the European Fashion Alliance (EFA) was formed. The German Fashion Council is one of the initiators of EFA, which aims to bring together all the fashion councils and -organizations of Europe to work and collaborate on joint challenges within the industry, focusing on four pillars; education, sustainability, innovation, and policymaking.

— We in EFA see ourselves part of being the ones putting it to the policymakers in Brussels when it comes to what the industry needs when it comes to new policies and becoming more sustainable. Because currently policies are being created in Brussels for the industry, but the communication with the industry isn’t so strong. Another task is that we see what is being made in Brussels and what is being made in the industry is not being communicated to the industry. There are so many brands out there, so many creatives and so many entities which are not really familiar with what’s coming along for us. And that’s the strong part of the communication aspect, which will be in the next years, explains Scott Lipinski, CEO of Fashion Council Germany. The European Fashion Alliance will have its first summit in October.

This time, however, it was time for Berlin Fashion Week and Germany to show itself from its best side, fashion-wise. The city, one of Europe’s biggest — both geographically, but not least culturally — has produced many great brands that are today part of the European high-fashion scene. Though, Berlin Fashion Week have had a hard time gaining recognition in comparison to other European metropolises.

That might be about to change. With a strong focus on industry networking, summits, and conferences, Berlin Fashion Week opens up for industry discussions on the future of the industry. Something which will be of a bigger focus in the upcoming edition in January, when the fashion week will be accompanied by trade-fair formats and the conference, Fashion Tech Berlin. ”It’s a stage, a stage for topics, a stage for content, a stage for young, evolving brands to present their collection and their vision of the industry”, explains Lipinski on the question of the fashion week’s purpose.

And young talent there was. At Der Berliner Salon about 30 different german designers showed their brands and collections, together with fashion alumni. On the runways, we got to see the progressive side, that Berlin is notoriously famous for. One of those brands was SF1OG, created by Rosa M. Dahl. The inspiration from Dahl’s collection stems from when she as a child used to build sculptures out of material remnants and found objects. The collection, in a monochrome palette, feels as much forward-thinking as it’s rooted in traditional craftsmanship methods. 

To Scott Lipinski, this will also be one of the ways to differentiate Berlin Fashion Week among its peers.

— We have sportswear, we have streetwear, we have the urban underground view of it, I don’t see that in other cities. So why shouldn’t that be something that we aim for, that we position ourselves as? Back then our Mayor said ’we’re poor but sexy’. And I’ve always liked that saying because it has so much in it. And for me, that’s Berlin.

Showz x Marcell von Berlin

During the week, the German Fashion Council, for the third time, arranged its concept, Studio2Retail. Together with the Berlin Senate Department for Economy, Energy, and Operations the event celebrates and supports local retailers and brands.

All over the city, designers and brands opened up their studios and stores for customers. Out of many events, the creative agency Showz unveiled its new concept for the fashion brand, Marcell von Berlin. Together, the two had created a metaverse experience that invited store visitors to experience the collection in a phygital format. Through a highly interactive window display, that seemed almost empty, they invited visitors to seamlessly project the collection and scroll through different looks with the help of AR technology and their phones. The studio had also built a pop-up for the brand, in the virtual world, Mona.

— As we came up with the concept the most important thing was to do the most out of limited, physical space. When you have a limited space you can only do as much. We basically scaled that space you have, endlessly. If you combine the physical space with technology — virtually or digitally — you extend the possibilities and opportunities that you have as a brand. I also don’t believe in gadgets that only give the brands a benefit, that’s why we created something that’s also beneficial for the consumers, Ayan Yuruk, founder and Creative Director of Showz, explains.

202030 The Berlin Fashion Summit

202030 The Berlin Fashion Summit is a sustainability conference that invites industry leaders and climate experts to discuss and share insights on the industry’s most pressing challenges. The theme for this year was “Fashion for Positive Impact: Regenerative Transformation”. This included topics such as; how technology and digitization will be a driver to apply the regenerative change.

Besides panel talks, the summit also included different exhibitions on the theme. All Good(s) Innovator Space exhibited five of the most forward-thinking textile innovations from the Netherlands and the Estethica What Lies Ahead exhibition presented six German- and four Ukrainian designers in tandem, that work with sustainability in innovative ways.

Mercedes-Benz x Acte TM

Mercedes-Benz, a sponsor of Berlin Fashion Week, has had the limelight in fashion for some time now. Earlier this year we have seen the German car manufacturer releasing collaborations with both Balenciaga, as well as Virgil Abloh. 

Now they unveiled the next step in its fashion journey. Together with the Berlin-based, creative studio, Acte TM, they have created a capsule collection called ”ACC01”. The collection merges elements from both fashion- and automotive design. To embody the design ethos of Mercedes-Benz, the collection is inspired by the immense archives of Mercedes-Benz, and the collection is made from left-over materials in the brand’s production. The capsule collection consists of 28 one-off, handmade pieces, that are thought to be modular and be worn together.

Der Berliner Salon

At Der Berliner Salon, German design talents and manufacturers exhibited their designs. 31 different designers from or based in Germany exhibited their works. Besides the more established names of German fashion, Der Berliner Salon also held an alumni exhibition and displayed the works of two design competitions; Fashion x Craft and Rising Voices Award. 

Nico Verhaegen and Julia Ballardt for Milk of Lime with its winning Ugg boot at Der Berliner Salon. Ph.: Ben Kriemann/Getty Images for Der Berliner Salon

The Rising Voices Award is announced by Fashion Council Germany, in partnership with the shoe brand, Ugg. The award is aiming to promote and support the next generation of sustainable, German designers. The task for this year was to reinterpret the classic Ugg boot, with sustainability in mind. The winners this year were Julia Ballardt and Nico Verhaegen. A design-duo behind the brand Milk of Lime, as well as two Royal Academy of Antwerp-alumni. The duo have settled in rural Germany and are working with local artisans and producers. ”We worked in Paris and felt it wasn’t for us, we wanted to practice high-fashion in the countryside and we like being there,” Verhaegen says and Ballardt fills in ”were actually more interested in the making process and being really close, not so much the glamorous side of fashion. It’s about the making of something. Craft automatically means luxury; you put knowledge into it, you put heart into it, you put better materials into it. This is the approach we follow in general”.

Highsnobiety unveils next edition of ”BERLIN, BERLIN”

Since its foundation, the media platform Highsnobiety has been based in Berlin. To celebrate its heritage, as well as the cultural offering of the city, Highsnobiety has teamed up to create merch-like collaborations with some of the most important cultural institutions of the city. For example, they have made pieces together with the mythological techno club, Tresor. As well as the modern art museum, Neue Nationalgalerie, built by architect, Mies van der Rohe. 

The annual project, ”Berlin, Berlin”, has been ongoing for three years and is not just producing garments. It is also opening up venues all over the town, by hosting parties, events, and exhibitions. Highsnobiety is also, for the occasion, hosting a design award that celebrates local talent.

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