Berlin Fashion Week shares the fate of any Fashion Week that isn’t Paris, Milan, New York or London: it matters little on the international fashion scene. Yet for the spring 2012 collections, Berlin didn’t dwell on relevance. Instead, the city’s innumerable showrooms, trade fairs and tent shows—this season moved to the Brandenburger Gate instead of the Bebelplatz—radiated a level-headed confidence.
Schau 11, a group show of graduates of the acclaimed University of Arts, kicked off the week. Beautiful shows by Vivienne Appelius, Julie Eilenberger (who’s already worked for Christopher Kane), and Laura Wollentarski were striking examples of how designers from Germany live up to their international competitors, particularly graduates of London’s Central St Martins. One of the preconceptions about student shows is that they focus on concept over craftsmanship. Luckily this wasn’t true for Schau 11.
Day two of Berlin Fashion Week saw one of the most buzzed-about events, the Designer For Tomorrow Award, presented by none other than Marc Jacobs, who picked Alexandra Kiesel of the Weißensee College of Art. Her Lego-colored collection was both sweet and wearable, and will no doubt profit from the sponsorship of German department store Peek und Cloppenburg, who invited Jacobs to present the award.
Perhaps the best show of Berlin Fashion Week was that of Kostas Murkudis, who’s been a regular on the Fashion Week circuit for years. Managing to find a broad audience for his sometimes challenging women’s and menswear, Murkudis has just moved his small Berlin Mitte store to a vast space in the up-and-coming district of Potsdamer Strasse. His show was opened by his friend, the model Luca Gadjus, just as artist Carsten Nicolai provided the minimal music and visuals. Murkudis’ show embodied all the elements of Berlin one normally thinks of: electronic music, austere concrete walls that sit there in postindustrial untidiness, and a crowd consisting of starving and successful artists, gallerists and fashionistas. The collection itself was huge, incorporating both sharp suits and dreamy dresses. While the suits seemed to be cut from glossy, high-tech materials, the dresses were silky and set in a color palette ranging from lavender and mauve to black. There was something Grecian—in fact Murkudis is the descendant of Greek immigrants—in the series of knots that made up the dresses. And there was something else in the collection, slashed jersey and picture prints on jersey shirts, that sounds altogether white trash, but that looked fresh in the designer’s able hands.
On the remaining days, designer Vladimir Karaleev presented a positively autumnal color palette, bulky platform boots included, yet did a fine job of deconstructing the typically feminine physique into a flowing silhouette. Lala Berlin, meanwhile, attracted a crowd that was part Ibiza party people and part celebrity. The label’s designer, Leyla Pieyadesh, showed a Vanessa Beecroft-like presentation, with artificial fog and strobe lights. Her looks ranged from pure white frocks to digital pattern-crazed dresses. She continued her collaboration with acclaimed shoemaker Unnuetzer and showed some nice heels as well.
Another typically Berlin setting was seen at the Wood Wood show in Berlin’s working class district of Wedding. Models walked up and down a cobblestone courtyard with the music pumping and a crowd of urbanistas happily watching and nursing their beer bottles. The collection showed more of the Scandinavian cool Wood Wood is known for, everyday styles with quirky details. The men’s portion toyed with camouflage patterns.
Other designers to keep an eye on include Hien Le, Eva & Bernhard, and men’s designer Hannes Kettritz.