Sexy Berlin Fashion Week Anything But Poor
Anyone who’s been to Berlin can attest that it is a mecca of any and all things creative. The “poor but sexy” German capital practically breathes art, making it difficult to so much as swing a cat without hitting someone doing something edgy and innovative. So why should its approach to fashion be any different?
Berlin Fashion Week (German: Berliner Modewoche) roared into the European Union’s second-largest city proper this past January, thrilling residents and visitors with a fashion fete that pushed the limits even by the famously daring city’s standards. The city may be where the ridiculously fattening currywurst and Döner kebab were invented, but the biggest feast might have been the hearty servings of eye-bleedingly gorgeous shows.
Things got cooking immediately on day one, when local label Achtland — a high-end prêt-à-porter outfit founded in 2011 by Thomas Bentz and Oliver Lühr — wowed with a collection that, were it a film, would be titled “Revenge of the Lines.” Bold vertical and horizontal lines, dominant stripes, and demure colors with flower motifs predominated the collection of separates and dresses, which was as practical as streetwear or for a night out as it was for casual Fridays at the office. The uber-hip crowd’s reaction was suggestive of the disinterested coolness Berlin is known for (any person who has ever attempted to enter the city’s famously choosy clubs can relate), but in this moment, it fit.
The first snow of the season refused to vanish as day two got underway, but that didn’t keep the runways from being positively sizzling with flirty, feminine collections that made the fall of the Berlin Wall feel like it was 2,500 years ago rather than just 25. For the sixth time, designer Eva Lutz of the MINX label presented the highlights of her latest collection, which raised the temperature significantly with its sexy sophistication.
Roughly 60 celebrity VIPs packed the front rows for the show, which was an interaction between severe and feminine styles with Brit-chic and menswear influences. Though a bit dark color-wise and top-heavy, big-name models including Franziska Knuppe and Luisa Hartema projected an air of sultry power. Along with Franzi Müller, Katrin Thormann and Svea Berlie, they dazzled in figure-accentuating blazers, voluminous blousons, modern oversize-coats and dresses in numerous varieties.
But MINX wasn’t the only collection that impressed. Designer Leyla Piedayesh’s lala Berlin seamlessly merged anarchic big-city chic with an elegantly feminine collection, using dark colors — predominantly gray — in ways that made them seem lighter than their hue suggested. The collection’s final piece featured — as God is a witness — a full-length cape that seemed like something only a chic Darth Vader could pull off with any measure of practicality, but somehow, with the audience already swooning, it served as a garishly fun showstopper. Maybe it was the white boots. Regardless, fans of lala include Claudia Schiffer, Cameron Diaz, Heidi Klum, Natalie Portman and Jessica Alba, and if Piedayesh’s show was any indication, their devotion is well-placed.
Day three was more of the same. Dorothee Schumacher, another Germany-based designer, presented a collection meant for, in her words, “strong women.” Elongated silhouettes and voluminous cuts utilizing silk, metallic satin, crocodile leather, velvet, tulle, fur and mohair predominated the androgynous collection, all based in powdery tones of black and blue with hints of vivacious green. Separates including oversized sweaters, boxy cropped jackets and swingy skirts were the topic du jour on everyone’s mind, a power projection that showed fashion can also have a serious side without being bland. Later, womenswear label Laurel presented heavy duty winter garments as well as feminine designs, inspired by the works of Munich painter Jo Netzko. The fur, leather and knitwear collection included mink coats, cashmere sweaters, leggings, lace dresses and ponchos in soft yellow, bright red, deer brown and dark blue shades. Genial (“brilliant”) was the word.
Also among the day’s highlights was Berlin-based high-end fashion brand Glaw. Designer duo Jesko Wilke and Maria Poweleit exhibited a collection heavy on leather and silk, including a biker jacket, olive green blouse, red feathery coat, sequined peplum and a long off-white evening gown. If Schumacher and Laurel were the main courses of the day’s feast of fashion, then this was the deliciously sweet dessert.
The week continued swimmingly, proving Berlin is not all abandoned subways stations, techno music, and graffiti. Esther Perbandt was jaw-droppingly incredible, with models at her show wearing an androgynous black-and-white collection of thick knits, dropped-crotch trousers, and thigh-high fishermen’s boots. If that wasn’t enough, it rained confetti while the packed audience at the historic Volksbühne theatre went wild. Karl Lagerfeld may have said Michael Michalsky is the “only” German designer, but, clearly, he was suffering a bit of amnesia when he uttered those words.
The final day of the week brought perhaps the biggest name. Marc Cain attracted the brightest stars to the front row (including none other than Liz Hurley), and the show was equally high-wattage. Under the name “Stars, Dots & Hearts,” ’90s-style grunge combined with punk and biker details in a collection that, though cut rather conservatively (perhaps a tribute to traditional German sensibilities), offered all kinds of possibilities thanks to separates that — also despite the plethora of fur — qualified as high-end streetwear that would look just as appropriate for an afternoon coffee date or a night at the opera. Was it multifunctional? Yes, absolutely.
This being Berlin, a fair amount of sideshow-esque flippancy pervaded the general goings-on — from body-painted PETA protesters standing in the nude in front of the famous Brandenburg Gate, to a rather tall woman who kept appearing in the front row of shows in a cat costume (her identity remains unknown) — but overall only added to the jubilant raucousness in a city that loves to party. Nary a single puffy down jacket in sight, the level of boundary-pushing sophistication amid the frivolity was impressive — especially considering a fair portion of the guests were already inebriated from Crémant by 10 a.m.
It was a hot mess, indeed.
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Featured image: Lala Berlin at Berlin Fashion Week 2014. Photo Credit: ©Getty Images.