City of Fashion

Where fashion truly rules

Germany has generated more than it’s fair share of world-leading fashion designers and brands: Karl Lagerfeld, Jil Sander, Hugo Boss, Adidas and Puma are just a few of the Fashion greats to emerge from the country.

But Berlin is where fashion truly rules. In the early 2000s, it hosted the first Bread & Butter, Premium and Mercedes Benz Fashion Week trade shows. Today, Berlin’s bi-annual Fashion Week has expanded to include more than 10 trade and fashion show formats. Each season, Fashion Week is attended by more than 200,000 visitors, adding over £100m to the city’s economy.

Forget the fashion rulebook

It’s a rather unassuming fashion capital. Unlike Paris or Milan, both fashion hubs synonymous with haute couture and luxury, Berlin’s historic lack of fashion pedigree is something startups are now using to their advantage.

‘When you think of fashion in Berlin it’s more or less a white page,’ says Aymeric Malfait, who relocated from Paris to Berlin at the start of this year to join fashion-tech company Elektro Couture. ‘In Berlin, you can set new standards.’

Angela Spieth and Michael Oehler founded their fashion footwear brand Trippen in 1992. The Berlin-based brand doesn’t replace its collections every season, keeping styles available year-round. Its progressive designs have been a hit at home and abroad, and the brand has collaborated with high-profile designers like Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto.

Angela Spieth and Michael Oehler, Founders of TRIPPEN
Angela Spieth and Michael Oehler, Founders of TRIPPEN

‘The people in Berlin do not care too much about fashion itself – they like to follow unusual concepts of creativity,’ Oehler says. ‘Following the principle of “form follows function” in our work, it’s a great help being based in Berlin.

A light-up gown from Elektro Couture’s ‘#Marlena Glows’ collection, a collaboration with Swarovski.

A light-up gown from Elektro Couture’s ‘#Marlena Glows’ collection, a collaboration with Swarovski.
A light-up gown from Elektro Couture’s ‘#Marlena Glows’ collection, a collaboration with Swarovski.

Where fashion meets technology

Germany’s industrial heritage does shine through, however, where fashion and engineering collide. Elektro Couture is one of many Berlin-based startups exploiting Germany’s manufacturing prowess. Its projects include luminescent outfits that react to sound and vegan-leather fabrics. The company has relied as much on artistic direction as it has on tech know-how. ‘Berlin is a place that’s really bridged both worlds,’ Malfait explains. ‘When you bring artists and engineers together, it’s something completely new.’

Room to scale

The merging of the fashion and tech worlds, the expats who have moved to Berlin to join them, and the vibrant nightlife where creatives and entrepreneurs meet and relax are all things that demonstrate Berlin’s open-minded nature. It’s not enough to be surrounded by creative minds, though. Fashion startups need space to design and manufacture their creations; something Berlin can offer at an affordable rate.

Herbert Hofmann, creative director of Voo Store and originally from Austria, moved to Berlin over nine years ago. Based in the city’s hip Kreuzberg district, the concept store ranges a curated selection of fashion, art and design brands. He says Berlin’s cheap rents are what allow businesses to take risks on new concepts. ‘[In Berlin], you have a business idea and you just try it,’ Hofmann says. ‘In the beginning for Voo, to find the furniture, pay the rent and all the necessary parts to actually run the shop, all these costs were so low.’


Credit for all images: (c) Juergen Holzenleuchter, Ottensoos

This is part of a sector-by-sector series on startups in Berlin published by London based Courier magazine in association with Berlin Partner.