CASTING A CRITICAL GAZE ON THE REVAMPED SHOWCASE
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Berlin Fashion Week (BFW) didn’t take place earlier this month. Free of the fanfare that accompanies the New York, London, Paris circuit, the reigning European “capital of cool” was staying true to its own tune. Following the exit of global sports/entertainment/fashion behemoth IMG as sponsors, the marketing budget may have taken a nosedive – however for the first time in the event’s ten year history, official organiser Mercedes-Benz were able to take a tighter grip on the reins.
Subsequent key developments include the making of Mercedes-Benz as an official partner of the Fashion Council Germany (FCG) who in turn were finally given the task of managing and curating BFW. Founded in 2015, the FCG is the first national organisation and lobby group devoted to German fashion design, working with industry and policymakers to highlight the importance of fashion – socially, culturally and economically – in order to put deutsche mode on the map. Together with the likes of Vogue, H&M, Woolmark, Messe Frankfurt and the Berlin Senate, the FCG has set up numerous mentoring programmes and showcases to support homegrown talent.
Fresh for this BFW season, the FCG presented Fashion HAB at the Halle am Berghain where Milanese-transplant Damir Doma took centre stage for his homecoming show. Event locations were more adventurous with the (good) riddance of the ‘big white tent’, the MBFW runway for instance was transported to the legendary ‘90s techno club E-Werk, while BFW favourite William Fan served up his latest looks at the Ngon restaurant. Sticking to the tried and tested, the stately Kronprinzenpalais was once again the site for the Berliner and Vogue Salon group exhibitions as well as the ZEITmagazin & Vogue conference where international guest speakers discussed “The Relevance of Fashion”.
Hidden away in Kraftwerk: the cavernous former power plant turned events venue-cum-nightclub, Messe Frankfurt – the world’s largest trade fair organiser – presented the FASHIONSUSTAIN Berlin conference, the Greenshowroom & Ethical Fashion Show Berlin, alongside the #FASHIONTECH Berlin conference hosted by PREMIUM GROUP – who are also responsible for the Premium, Show & Order, SEEK and Bright trade shows that dominated the BFW calendar. Sustainability and tech were also in order at PANORAMA BERLIN, who teamed up with Germany’s longest-running green fashion trade fair INNATEX to bring a select group of sustainable designers under the XOOM banner; additionally the second edition of their Fashion Tech Solutions program turned the spotlight on digital retail.
Lending further credence to the merging of these two fields was the Sourcebook-organised THINKATHON event: a gathering of great minds from a variety of fields, brought together to find innovative solutions to questions that addressed technology and sustainability, within the limited space of 48 hours. We were honoured to have Zalando and FCG as challenge hosts – more to be revealed in a later post! – and would like to congratulate all the wonderful THINKATHON participants for their well-received team pitches on the Kraftwerk mainstage.
The Kraftwerk proceedings firmly positioned BFW as the leading fashion week for sustainability and technology – perfect sense for Berlin as a tech hub and nature-filled city. As much as it was clear to see that green fashion and fashion tech are breaking out of their niches and entering the mainstream market, it would have been great to see more of this outside of the trade shows, which, let’s face it, aren’t exactly glamorous and vying for media attention. Since the industry is well aware it needs to be more sustainable, good press coverage on the subject would surely help the cause. Collaborations may be an ideal place to start: take crowd-pleasing, Instagram-friendly streetwear for example, which could easily incorporate smart fabrics or subtle tech features to break up the monotony of cotton jersey.
For newcomers, the infrastructure of Berlin Fashion Week is nothing short of convoluted, and the UX-unfriendly online calendar on the official website only serves to reinforce this. Maybe this comes as no surprise considering the nature of the German fashionscape, where its biggest names are dotted across the country: Vogue Germany is headquartered in Munich, Hugo Boss in Metzingen (a city that seems to be most famous for its outlet store), while Herzogenaurach (?) is home to Adidas and Puma. Fragmented maybe, but perhaps like its population, fashion in Germany is just more evenly distributed.
Be that as it may, Berlin is not without its household names: GmbH, BLESS, 032c, Dumitrascu and Acronym are just some of the internationally-respected labels with studios here – yet it does appear they’d rather not show/be seen at BFW. Hopefully now that the FCG are running the show and have shifted the focus from B-list celebrities to actual talent, they can entice more of the people that matter. With its emphasis on trade fairs, conferences and a small but careful selection of catwalk shows, Berlin Fashion Week certainly fulfilled its goals in reaffirming itself as a B2B event. Rather than compete with the “Big Four” fashion weeks, Berlin should embrace the fact it’s a Kardashian-free zone, because after all, what bigger fashion statement is there than giving the finger to homogeneity.
Title image: Talbot Runhof @ Vogue Salon, Kronprinzenpalais