Europe’s most underrated Fashion Capital
Germany has generated more than its 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.
However, Berlin is 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 what makes it exceptional. That certain je ne sais quoi vibe makes Berlin unique in the world, inspiring startups and designers based in the city to run free creatively outwith conventions and norms.
An international fashion destination
Today over 800 designers and labels now call the German capital their home, and approximately 60 industry events and networks have put the scene on the map. The result is a vibrant fashion hub that offers innovation in sections such as Ready-to-Wear, Avant-garde, Street- and Casualwear as well as Sustainable Fashion. “It’s an innovative city where creativity flourishes. Berlin has become an international fashion destination – yet it isn’t as costly as other fashion capitals”, says Laos-born designer Hien Le, who has been making waves for the past few years with his big focus on sustainable fashion.
Berlin is also a breeding ground for fashion talent with help at hand at every stage: Industries related to the fashion business have formed progressive and integrative networks that work in cooperation with the creative young talent at Berlin’s nine fashion schools. They also support established fashion designers and their business partners and suppliers in all related matters – whether it be in sales, production or market internationalization.
Spirit Sparkle and Spending Power
In the early 2000s, Berlin hosted the first Bread & Butter, Premium and Mercedes Benz Fashion Week (now renamed MBFW) trade shows. Today, Berlin’s bi-annual Fashion Week has expanded to include more than 10 trade and fashion show formats and is one of the major showcases for the industry’s current and future trends. In July 2018 it comprised two fashion show platforms (Berliner Salon and MBFW) as well as nine fashion fairs under various different headings. Conferences such as #FASHIONTECH Berlin discuss subjects that merge fashion with technology and representatives of sustainable fashion meet at FASHIONSUSTAIN to show innovative developments in industry.
Each year, Berlin Fashion Week is attended by more than 140,000 visitors, adding over €240m to the city’s economy per year. The value-added chain of the fashion industry has considerably increased alongside the Berlin Fashion Week. In 2016 the turnover of the Berlin fashion industry amounted to 5.5 billion Euros and employed over 25,000 people in 2017.
Where fashion meets technology
Germany’s true 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 to set trends in smart fashion and fashion tech. “When you think of fashion in Berlin it’s more or less a white page,” says Aymeric Malfait, who relocated from Paris to Berlin in early 2018 to join Elektro Couture. “In Berlin, you can set new standards.”
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.” Among its projects are luminescent outfits that react to sound as well as vegan-leather fabrics and many other examples: From Trafo Pop, a group of cyclists and artists, who build jackets using wearable technology for the next biking adventure, to VOJD Studios providing cutting-edge 3D-printed accessories and jewellery or Moon Berlin’s electrical illuminated garments, heating systems and augmented reality fashion solutions.
Header image: © Getty Images for MBFW