Berlin Fashion Week: ecology at the heart of the debates

Translated by

Paul Kaplan

Published on

10 sept. 2021

At the moment, the German news revolves mainly around politics, as voters prepare to choose Angela Merkel’s successor.

But this week, fashion was also at the rendezvous, with the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin, which lasted three days in the German capital, covered with political posters announcing an election so close that the experts give up commenting on its result.

Under the reign of Angela Merkel, who remained in power for sixteen years, Germany took a dominant position in Europe, without worrying its neighbors. The same is not true of fashion – it is difficult to understand why German culture, whose influence is exerted on the world of fine arts, architecture or photography, has retreated in the field of fashion in the Merkel era.

When the Chancellor came to power, Karl Lagerfeld was organizing the biggest catwalks in the world at Chanel, the first Haute Couture brand, Jil Sander had founded and directed feminist fashion, and Berlin was experiencing a boom in its nightclubs and its urban fashion. Today, the few young designers in the country – Luke and Lucie Meier at Jil Sander, GmbH founded by Serhat Isik and Benjamin Huseby, recently recruited from Trussardi, or independent designers like Lutz Huelle – are all making their way abroad.

Which young German designer has ever reached the final of the LVMH Prize, the most prestigious award for emerging talents on the planet?

Beginning of explanation: During the last decade, the Germans have been rather hostile to change. In an uncertain world, their economy flourished and they re-elected Merkel four times. But fashion only thrives in a context of constant change.

This season, we were able to discover the first seeds of a rebirth in a particularly important area in Germany: the environment. The global ecological movement was born with the German Greens. Their ideas on sustainability, recycling and local and fair sourcing permeated many collections on display at the Kraftwerk, a former powerhouse located in the former East Berlin, the nerve center of Fashion Week. A Mercedes-Benz concept car produced in collaboration with DJ and designer Heron Preston, who also designed a capsule collection of recycled airbags from the automaker’s inventory, occupied a prominent place in the raw concrete space.

The Mercedes-Benz x Heron Preston recycled airbag collection – DR

We thus noticed the label Lutz Morris, piloted by Tina Morris, an astonishing designer of accessories returned to Berlin after having worked for two decades in New York for brands like Calvin Klein and Issey Miyake. Self-proclaimed luxury brand made in Germany, Lutz Morris sources almost exclusively German leathers – its chains are made in the Black Forest -, works with local artisans, and sells 90% of its beautiful bags on the Internet.

Or Moot, which means “Made Out Of Trash”, whose founder Michael Pfeifer has just joined Tina Morris for a round table organized at the Kraftwerk, alongside Julia Leifert and Mira von der Osten from Cruba, for ” Create Revolutions in the Berlin Argument “, a brand that uses 3D technology. Their conversation revolved around fashion and the digital switchover, and was moderated by the magazine’s editor. The mirror, Philipp Löwe. Michael Pfeifer came dressed in a T-shirt cut from an old bed sheet, pants made from old curtains, and a – rather elegant – jacket cut from an old woolen blanket.

Many conversations took place at the Kraftwerk, in order to allow the leaders of the sector to define their own way forward. All of these discussions were taking place under the auspices of the Fashion Council Germany, whose president, Christiane Arp, is the still well-respected former editor of the Vogue German.

Fassbender Spring-Summer 2022 – Photo: Fassbender – FASSBENDER

Last year, after a surprise move that shocked the entire industry, the highly inventive Premium trade show moved to the country’s financial capital, Frankfurt, with its organizers publicly lamenting the lack of fashion support from the local administration – on the left – in Berlin.

However, Berlin Fashion Week, now supported by the Berlin Senate, has managed to organize a dozen parades, including those of William Fan and Fassbender. The latter mixed the superb Hanseatic aristocracy with the panache of the Balearics in a collection inspired by Ibiza.

Bold navy striped pants and matching vests, flowing alpaca coats from animal-friendly farms and blue, swirling, elegant flamenco dresses – it’s the overall quality of the collection that made this successful. parade.

Fiona Bennett

Fiona Bennett

Little action on the catwalks then, but there was a lot to see elsewhere, starting with Fiona Bennett, the city’s most famous milliner, whose airy store in the Schöneberg district is a must-see when visiting Berlin.

Born in Britain and raised in Brighton, Fiona Bennett moved with her family to Berlin before the fall of the Wall. There she learned the classic techniques of hat making, which can still be felt in these superb felt fedoras for men, reminiscent of the paintings of Otto Dix and the ugly boys of Cabaret.

But what will be particularly remembered are his spectacular conical straw hats, made in Ghana.

“This is the very definition of sustainable development: the hats are made by real experts in weaving, a group of villagers living in the depths of the countryside”, smiles Fiona Bennett, whose creations have already walked the parades of Wolfgang Joop and Michael Michalsky.

By observing his wonderful compositions worthy of My Fair Lady and her delicate straw flowers ideal for summer weddings, we have to face the facts: Fiona Bennett has not usurped her place among the greatest milliners in the world.

Working Title

Photo : Working Title

Working Title is one of those brands that captures the urban elegance of contemporary Berlin. The label was founded by a very trendy couple, composed of Antonia Goy and Bjoern Kubeja.

The duo work in a fully functional workshop, a space shared with plastic artists and graphic designers a stone’s throw from Chancellor Merkel’s office.

“Our main influence is the city of Berlin, its energy and its architecture, its gardens and its surrounding lakes”, explains Bjoern Kubeja.

Focusing on plain luxury fabrics – like perfectly pleated wools or organic cottons – Working Title offers a sophisticated wardrobe for urban professionals, with an impeccable fit. We especially remember the magnificent men’s shirts for women. Each look seems tailored for a vernissage, a chic restaurant or a trendy night out.

Natascha von Hirschhausen

Photo: Natascha von Hirschhausen

Natascha von Hirschhausen, who embraced the concept of the zero waste cut, is firmly committed to the field of sustainable fashion.

On an example of computer-assisted cutting (CAD / CAM) that the designer showed us, we understand that the industry generally wastes up to 20% of its fabrics. The Berlin designer, on the other hand, only loses 0.5% on her cuts, and turns her tiny drops into earrings.

“When I was a student, I did an exchange in Bangladesh, a country that I loved for its beauty and its people, but where I was shocked by the little scraps of fabric that littered the ground everywhere. ‘that’s when I decided that something had to change, “says Natascha von Hirschhausen, during a tour of her studio-apartment in the residential district of Wedding, West Berlin.

His proposal: a clever collection where the extra pleats of the fabric add volume to its adjustable waist silver silk blouses, voluminous organic denim work pants and superb cutout sweatshirts, perfect for going out on weekends. The designer won the 2017 Federal Ecodesign Award shortly after founding her house.

William Fan: Fashion as ceremonial

William Fan Spring-Summer 2022 – Photo:

William Fan is a Chinese national who made his home in Berlin. For his latest collection, he was inspired by the hippie inhabitants of the German capital.

As part of one of the rare parades in the Berlin calendar, William Fan unveiled his collection in a huge abandoned factory, one of many in this once industrial city.

William Fan appreciates elegance and cuts his clothes in large jacquards, floral brocades and dark twill wools. The shapes seem cut out for a ceremony, for both men and women.

But his best idea was undoubtedly this jagged cement-colored cotton, used on dresses resembling smocks, trench coats or jackets. His men and women are dressed in very similar outfits – heavy priestly cloaks of silk or brocade.

William Fan has mastered the art of tailoring to perfection: we see it in his military cape-like jackets, worn with fitted harem pants, or his cardinal coats in cotton canvas.

Born in Hong Kong, William Fan moved to Europe to study fashion before moving to Berlin and launching his own label in 2015. Well known locally, the designer is confident. His inspiration? The district he lives in, the hypercentral Mitte, whose name means “Middle” in German.

“We have been locked up for over a year. The people who inspired me the most are these young people that I see walking in my neighborhood,” explains William Fan.

Moreover, its “wild” cast included models recruited from the street, mixed with professionals.

Marcel Ostertag

But perhaps the strangest event was that of Marcel Ostertag, whose parade in front of the elegantly dilapidated St Elisabeth Church was sponsored in part by Opel, one of Mercedes-Benz’s rivals.

Marcel Ostertag – Photo :

Unveiled in a somewhat mannered atmosphere, the collection was often made in the same colors as the cars, and each guest received a pair of Opel socks in a gift bag. If we do not yet know the German translation of the adjective “bogus”, this term nevertheless sums up the situation well.

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