Melissa Drier


Though packed with potential, Germany’s emerging designer scene had a mixed and sometimes disappointing season during the latest round of runway shows and presentations during Berlin Fashion Week January 19-22, 2016.

Strange as it may sound, the German designer fashion on show for next fall/winter was often much better than it looked. However, you’ll have to take my word for it, for the photos don’t back me up. And that’s a major problem.

When it’s practically a given that retailers and even key German editors are not in the audience, then any message or impact a designer may hope to achieve via a show becomes totally reliant on what remains: the photos.

The photos coming out of Berlin Fashion Week not only didn’t cut it. Collections that had charm and polish looked student-like, playful edge came off trashy, sophistication veered banal. Some of the stumbles were designer made: there is no excuse for dangling hems, jackets that buckle over the back of a model too large to fit the sample, or a parade of killer heels just begging for a fall. But generally, the designers were at the mercy of photographer they had not chosen (or paid for) who may have snapped in focus, but with little to no feel for the clothes or advantageous framing.

As one disappointed young designer remarked, “I’ll just have to take control of it all,” shoe string budget or not. His peer Bobby Kolade already did so this season, foregoing a catwalk presentation for a more intimate, still-life round of get-to-know the collection appointments, complete with photos on models he’d had taken the week before. Both the images and the collection, which had their crazy moments – worked.

By and large, it was an uneven season. The MBFWB tent lacked critical mass, with Dorothee Schumacher almost solely holding the stylistic fort among primarily commercial brands or collections not suitable for runway scrutiny. The MBFWB Stage at me Collectors Room and the Kronprinzenpalais, on the other hand, developed well. Independent designer collections of some note included Nobi Talai, René Storck, Dawid Tomaszewski, Esther Perbandt, Malaikaraiss, Brachmann, Marina Hoermanseder (shoes aside), Perret Schaad, Augustin Teboul, Vladimir Karaleev and William Fan. There were also a lot of no shows this season among Germany’s young designer contingent, as budget or strategic considerations demanded time out or a complete change of market focus.

The Berliner Mode Salon group presentation at the Kronprinzenpalais helped fill the gap for designers the likes of Michael Sontag, Hien Le, Tim Labenda and Antonia Goy, among others, or allowed for a closer and more satisfying look at collections that had already walked the runway like Isabell de Hillerin. More importantly, with its mix of more established German designer brands including Odeeh, Talbot Runhof or, for the first time this season, Escada, alongside up-and-comers of the most varied orientations, the four hour Berliner Mode Salon made a convincing point for German design. The response was overwhelmingly positive and important contacts with top journalists and buyers were often made, but that’s only the first step. Real business has to follow.

With all the soul searching going on about the when, where and why of fashion shows and presentations, we may find ourselves in a brave new fashion world before we know it. Nobody at this point knows the answers and uncertainty is rampant, but so are previously unforeseen opportunities and a wider openness to try new approaches. Times of change require a change of view, and given the promising talent in our designer community, it’s time for the German market to recognize and appreciate its local heroes. However, it’s also time for Germany’s designers – large or small – to believe in their creative vision, develop it further and also polish their business practices. The game is definitely changing, but standing still is not an option. Rather, it’s the perfect moment for Germany’s creatives to pick up the ball and run.