The Chic Side of Germany

Courtesy of Allude

Sharon Hoge shares her recap of Berlin Fashion Week – and gives us a sneak peek at what trends to watch out for Stateside.

There was the customary large white tent, black-clad spectators pushing in for too few seats, a storm of flashbulbs shooting B-list actors in the front rows and every show starting about a half an hour late. It was a typical fashion week in many respects, but this one signaled a renaissance. After a lapse of several decades, the garment industry is returning to Berlin.

An early leader in retailing clothes, Berlin had seen the industry fade. In 1839 Valentin Mannheim invented ready-to-wear by duplicating a coat and selling it off the rack. By 1860 there were 20 ready-made clothing firms, which exploded to 530 fashion manufacturers in 1913. By the “golden ’20s,” Berlin was the ready-made clothing center of the world with 180,000 Berliners employed in more than 500 factories producing blouses and coats. Local department stores and fashion magazines helped create styles that were uniquely German, independent of Paris and New York, until Nazi dispossession and divestitures brought it to an end.

Reemergence after World War II was disrupted by the Berlin Wall and Germany’s fashion industry shifted to other cities. But since the fall of the wall in 1989 the city is revitalizing. Named a UNESCO “City of Design” in 2006, Berlin is once again looking to restore its preeminence.

Besides the runway events, several trade shows strengthened the city’s role as an emerging fashion capital. The important “Bread and Butter Berlin” international trade show sprawled more than 500 international fashion brands from Crocs to Calvin Klein through seven hangars of the former Tempelhof Airport. “Premium” showed almost a thousand international collections in a former freight depot, and young designers brought their concoctions to the outdoor “Wedding Dress” festival in the Wedding section of town near the Wall Museum. There were “green” fashions in rooms of the Hotel Adlon, the creations of 14 trendsetters displayed in a moving subway train and creative accessories and garments showcased in banks and other businesses all over town.

Anchoring it all was the fifth edition of Mercedes-Benz Berlin Fashion Week, now a full-fledged event run by IMG, which organizes 23 fashion weeks per year in cities around the globe. Erected in historic Bebelplatz, the tent stands on the site of the original 1933 Nazi book-burning and across the street from Humboldt University, which touts Einstein and the brothers Grimm as former faculty members. Lasting actually four days in July, the event showcased designers from around the country – Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Mainz – and from Europe – Austria, Poland and Spain. Hugo Boss, Rena Lang, Calvin Klein were familiar names, along with new designers to watch out for.

Soft shades, rebel romantic, clean chic, cozy favorites were themes of Schumacher’s “Faves,” showing up in a white chiffon skirt layered under a sweater with sequin-encrusted sleeves, a gray blouse flowing over pants, a slouchy taupe sweater over a bunched charmeuse skirt.

Anja Gockel’s models, all wearing five-inch spike strappy sandals and long flowing hairdos, strode down the runway in dresses and pants in bright red, white and black blotch prints. Shades of aqua were splotched over print jackets and dresses and even the skinny pants were blotted in red and gray sequins.

Flirty culottes and dresses with interlaced crisscross straps were features of AQ1’s creations in a consistent neutral palette with creamy beige charmeuse and shimmery black mini shorts and skirts.

Allude’s collection, pictured in a front-page photo on the overseas [itals]Wall Street Journal, featured interlocking blocks of bright orange, pink and aqua in striped cashmere sweaters over the skimpiest knit skirts, tunics layered over shirts, a yellow knit dress with a caramel brown leather front.

Winter shoppers at retail chain Blacky Dress can count on finding sweaters and leather vests trailing side panel tails, white halter and jersey jumpsuits, cropped backless sweaters and clever knotted sleeves.

Old favorites got new twists. Popular Spanish Custo Barcelona revived the hippie era with mix-and-not-matched mottled jeans and loose shirts printed with butterflies, cartoon monsters and sci-fi creatures while Mavi dressed up rapper types in rhinestone-studded blue jeans, zebra-striped hoodie sweatshirts and sparkly spike heel sandals worn with glittery ankle socks. Michael Michalsky showed slouchy safari clothes in an extravaganza show that included an opera aria and costumed performers from the upcoming “Yma” revue.

If the trends from Germany migrate east, expect to be wearing lots of short shorts – edged with fringy bottoms, peeking out from under tunics, even layered under swingy tulle skirts. Recurring pockets – accenting sheath dresses, attached to belts, slung in half circles around the hips. And asymmetry shows up in one-shoulder dresses, dropped waistlines, slipping-off-the-shoulder necklines and slouchy purse straps worn slung across the body from shoulder to hip.

The city reveled in its week as the “epicenter of the fashion world.” Designers, celebrities, models and well-dressed types showed up all over town to discover the latest trends and outfits. “It brings a lot to the city,” mused spectator Wolfgang Bahro, who has appeared for over 25 years as lawyer Jo Gerner on the popular German soap “Gute Zeiten schlechte Zeiten” (“Good Times, Bad Times”). “Berlin is the capital of the country and the film industry; it ought to be the capital of fashion too.” Besides, the popular actor added, “I love to see the models.”

Editor’s Note: Sharon King Hoge specializes in consumer and travel journalism both in print and on radio and television. The former Consumer Reporter at WBZ-TV and producer/host of “The Sharon King Show” in Boston, she reported on ABC network news, hosted “The Cookbook Kitchen” on the Food Channel and participated in the launch of CNBC. A Contributing Editor at Condé Nast Traveler and Global Traveler magazines, her writing has appeared in Forbes FYI and Forbes Executive Woman, SELF, Ladies Home Journal, National Review. A former columnist for both AOL and the New York Daily News, she was Calendar Editor for the Martha Stewart Living website and is Editor at Large of the three regional Cottages and Gardens shelter magazines.

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