Berlin has come into its own as a thriving artistic and cultural center, while its fashion scene wavers between classic and edgy. Local talents either soak up the wild creative energy that is coming out of the art and the avant-garde subculture, or choosing down-to-earth, wearable designs that represent the more stereotypical style of a German designer. And yet, the pervasive theme is one of experimental exhibition, underscoring the sense of renewal that has pervaded the city in the two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Bernhard Willhelm, the posterchild of the Germans-can-be-fun movement, is known for clothes that have a propensity to surprise and stun through a refreshing mix of absurdity and high fashion. Duo Scherer González echo this theatricality with lavish, rich, Rococo-inspired designs that have a playful attitude mixed with a fairy tale aesthetic.
On the more wearable side of things, Michael Michalsky lives by the mantra “real clothes for real people.” The wild designer’s accessible approach has turned him into the most successful of the German new league. Based in Berlin, he sees the global economic crisis as advantageous to local designers, saying: “We always had to deal with sparse financial resources and therefore are masters of improvisation.” Other standouts in this category include Felder Felder, Marcel Ostertag and milliner Rike Feurstein.
While established German designers such as Hugo Boss, Joop and Strenesse veer towards minimalistic, sleek looks, the predominant theme is one of change. At the recent Berlin Fashion Week the Peek & Cloppenburg Designer for Tomorrow award favored designs that were smart with a sense of humor, daring without making the wearer look like a clown. Michael Sonntag and Dawid Tomaszewski are of particular note, and well worth keeping in your longterm memory.
—Christina von Messling