Germany's fashion capital: the improbable rise of Berlin

Tuesday, 17 January 2012
Germany's fashion capital: the improbable rise of BerlinOnly a few years ago, it was inconceivable that Berlin would one day become Germany’s fashion capital. Everything seemed possible after the wall opening in 1989, when creative minds from all over the world streamed into the city in search of freedom.

ButGermany's fashion capital: the improbable rise of Berlin despite the abundance of creativity, the metropolis lacks the essential elements of a real fashion city: affluent, style-conscious residents and the necessary infrastructure are indispensable for economic success. Therefore, Munich and Düsseldorf were able to joust for the title of Germany’s unofficial fashion capital for some time in the years following the reunification. Indeed, Berlin had an exciting image, but it lacked real substance.

This all changed in 2003: the fashion show Premium held its debut and Karl-Heinz Müller moved his denim and streetwear exhibition Bread & Butter from Cologne to the capital, attracted by the city’s unrivalled reputation, which made it so attractive for international visitors. But it did not last: in early 2007, Müller decided to relocate the exhibition to Barcelona for good. For two and a half years, Berlin had to do without its most important leading force. The just achieved status suddenly appeared to be at risk.

A lot had happened: aside from the constantly growing Premium, a number of small events including Ideal Showroom were launched which not only provided young designers from Berlin with a platform, but also some Scandinavian labels. Berlin’s charisma for northern Europe was slated to grow continuously in the next few years.

The missing link was an iconic centre with an effect beyond the industry and which was able to concentrate the attention. When the first Mercedes Benz Fashion Week was held in the summer of 2007, this changed. The catwalk event was not as important economically as the fashion shows, but it had a crucial impact on the perception of the city as a fashion hub. Naturally, exhibitions were held in other German cities as well, most notably in Düsseldorf, where the CPD was able to defend its status as most important fashion show in the Republic for years. But a real Fashion Week was only held in Berlin. The media effect was immense. Furthermore, local designers had the opportunity to show off their talents.

In July 2009, Berlin finally managed to become Germany’s fashion capital: Bread & Butter returned from Barcelona where it succeeded in establishing its status as the world’s most important fashion show in its segment. Meanwhile, politicians had also realized the industrial significance. Mayor Klaus Wowereit played a key role in bringing back the show.

A positive momentum was created. Because so many buyers flocked to Berlin, other shows were attracted to the city: the streetwear show Bright moved in from Frankfurt, In Fashion from Munich established a branch and Capsule which is also held in New York, Paris and Las Vegas chose Berlin as an additional location. The fact that some projects failed illustrates that it is not enough to come to Berlin to be successful. An appropriate concept is equally important.

Düsseldorf finally had to concede the dominance of the capital. After numerous failed reformation attempts, the Igedo Company abandoned the CPD in its traditional composition. The exhibition corporation is now represented in Berlin for the first time with the format “The Gallery”.

From our correspondent in Berlin

Photos: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin AW 2012, Bread & Butter