Berlin in Fashion Week fever
By Helen Maguire Jul 9, 2011, 2:06 GMT
Berlin - Skinny beauties teeter on dizzying heels, dispensing air kisses and surrounded by papparazi. This can only mean one thing: Berlin Fashion Week is back in town.
Twice a year, Berlin puts aside its usual disdain for extravagant consumerism to host designers and fashion executives seeking to put their stamp on the styles we will be wearing in 12 months' time.
Judging by this week's catwalk shows, summer 2012 is about bright flashes of neon, married with demure tones of white, grey and beige - a look epitomized by German designer Dorothee Schumacher.
Bold geometric shapes and loose cuts are offset by silky, contour-enhancing fabrics such as those of up-and-coming Berlin designer Michel Sontag, whose collection features flowing outfits in muted, chalky shades of blue, white and brown.
Futuristic designs are tempered by knitted panels, whether in the trademark cashmere outfits of label Allure, or among the phosphorescent styles of Iranian designer Leyla Piedayesh, aka Lala Berlin.
One name to watch is Vladimir Karaleev, a Bulgarian-born designer whose outfits appear at first glance to be unfinished, with seams on the outside and fraying fabric edges.
'My designs are like sketches, using rough contours, without going into the fine detail of the final painting,' Karaleev told the German Press Agency dpa. He works quickly, aiming to capture the moment when a creation could go one way or the other.
Fashion Week also includes established names such as Escada Sport, Italian brand Diesel and the Boss label by Hugo Boss, attracting stars such as Oscar winning actress Hilary Swank and supermodel Helena Christensen.
Tennis star Boris Becker was there by virtue of his 17-year-old son Noah, who wore a t-shirt imprinted with a photo of his father winning Wimbledon, for the presentation of his own label, Fancy, in an underground train-turned-catwalk.
Yet every year since its launch five years ago, Berlin has to contend with unfavourable comparisons to Paris, London or New York, the established meccas of the fashion industry.
The presence in Berlin this year of Marc Jacobs, the designer for Louis Vuitton, is seen as a sign that the city is beginning to take its place among the fashion heavyweights.
Melissa Drier, German correspondent for US trade publication Womens World Daily and arguably the most influential of Berlin's fashion writers, is a staunch advocate of the city's fashion scene.
'We were all skeptical (of Berlin Fashion Week) at the beginning, but we're all amazed at how far it's come in 5 years,' Drier told dpa.
Over this period, she had seen designers professionalize and improve their designs as a result of the interest generated by Fashion Week, in a way that was unimaginable in cities such as Dusseldorf, where much of Germany's fashion industry was based pre-1989.
'I could probably outfit myself in Berlin designers - and I'm rather idiosyncratic and demanding, and certainly not their target customer,' Drier said, adding that this realization had come as a shock.
Sontag, whose show opened Fashion Week, is becoming an icon of new German talent after he moved to the capital. 'Berlin's international flair has changed the way I work,' he told German Press Agency dpa.
Running parallel to Fashion Week, urban streetwear trade show Bread and Butter took over the grounds of former Tempelhof airport, staging a huge three-day party to entertain fashion buyers perusing the 600 brands on display, as they decided what to stock next year.
Bread and Butter was opened on Tuesday by Berlin's Mayor Klaus Wowereit - who has been instrumental in establishing Berlin as a fashion hub - alongside fair organizer Karl-Heinz Mueller, dressed in a bear costume.
'You are the new Knut,' Wowereit joked in reference to Berlin's popular polar bear that died unexpectedly earlier this year, 'but I hope you live longer.'
In fact, Wowereit must fear for his own future, as he is standing for re-election in September, in a tight race against Green Party rival Renate Kuenast.
Fashion Week's fleet of shuttle cars and the constant blast of air conditioning to keep catwalks cool would hardly seem to make the event a natural fit with the environmentalist party.
After Wowereit brought Bread and Butter to Berlin, and resolved a dispute over the location of Fashion Week, could a change in city government end Berlin's hopes of becoming a fixture on the fashion circuit?
'Renate Kuenast is not that stupid,' said Drier. 'Anything that brings 90,000 people into the city they are not going to turn away so easily.'
Berlin, she said, was just getting started.
'If people would even think about where New York was 15 years ago, then what are they expecting from Berlin? We have less than 5 years behind us,' Drier added.