Berlin Fashion Week Report

With A/W 2011 fashion events currently underway here in Europe, many journalists and reporters are all already rather burnt out from a schedule that just does not quit. Perhaps this is why traveling to some of the other shows provides insight and a tempo that allows one to enjoy the host city at a pace that seems a bit more natural and sustainable. My recent trip to Berlin for a spectrum of sustainable fashion happenings was a great opportunity to learn about both local and international fashion talent, as well as the dynamic agenda of Berlin’s edgy and inviting green scene.

Berliners definitely love fashion despite their beloved city’s industrial gray palette and bone-chilling temperatures. During my excursions out and about the town, not a single cab driver held back from commenting on the sartorial goings on. Posters everywhere also featured Mercedes Benz Fashion Week ads side by side with eco fashion billing. Even cooler? The organizers of Lavera Showfloor Berlin’s runway events opened up many of their evening shows to the public. This in my opinion is a great way to energize a city’s populus in the depths of winter as well as helping to spread the message of sustainable fashion goodness.

THE KEY.TO showroom floor (photo: Abigail Doan)

My agenda while in Berlin was to attend the GREENshowroom at Hotel Adlon and THEKEY.TO‘s ethical and sustainable fashion showcase. Both events are now regular fixtures during Berlin Fashion Week, although with a focus that differs somewhat in my opinion. The GREENshowroom puts more of an eco-luxe spin on their designer presentations, due in part to the posh setting in suites at the Hotel Adlon, just around the corner from the historic Brandenburg Gate. THE KEY.TO’s venue is a more of a raw space with a grassroots ‘conspiracy vibe’ pumping through the open hall. Both were well curated and offered a mix of old and new names, with attendees who seemed more informed than ever about the current state of eco fashion and the resourceful methods that designers are now experimenting with.

Isabell de Hillerin‘s A/W 2011 runway presentation (photo: Abigail Doan)

Isabell de Hillerin runway finale (photo: Abigail Doan)

I was fortunate to also catch local designer Isabell de Hillerin‘s evening runway presentation – staged in a renovated transformer station that was lit up like a mise-en-scène film set. Everywhere I ventured, the message seemed clear: art, fashion, and sustainable enterprises make for great dialogue provided that you can actually take the time to get to know the folks around you. Berlin is not really a scene for air-kissing fashion experts, and this is rather refreshing given the work that still has to get done on the sustainable fashion frontier.

Magdalena Shaffrin collection

Here are a few key things that I concluded during a three day span that seemed way too short to absorb the energy and creative spirit that was surely just revealing itself to me:

1) People love fashion, and we should not assume that they do not want to be a part of or participate in current initiatives. If we really want to create a “conspiracy” in (sustainable) fashion, then we should continue to find revolutionary ways to democratize fashion and future fashion week events.

ELEMENTUM Collection by Daniela Pais

2) There are indeed new markets for creating pieces that do more, while also looking genuinely chic and original. The European-made label, ELEMENTUM by Daniela Pais, is proof that six pieces can indeed by cleverly transformed into totally wearable ensembles. One simply needs to take the time to play with and accessorize one’s wardrobe. Garment construction that aims for zero waste can also be extremely wearable and trend defying.

KM/A design exhibited at THEKEY.TO showcase (photo: Abigail Doan)

3) In addition to recycling garments and textile waste materials, we have now entered an era where every single scrap counts. Designers can create the most remarkable and innovative designs out of seemingly useless bits and pieces that fall to the studio floor. This requires supreme technical artistry, though, not just a desire to be “thrifty” or “crafty”. The phenomenon of studio materials being factored in from start to finish is upon us. KM/A studio in Vienna demonstrates this with their hand-crafting of exquisite frocks and overcoats hand crafted out of 60s parachute textile scraps as well as recycled wool military blankets.

KM/A recycled military blanket coats

Additionally, Estonian designer Reet Aus has created a new platform, called Trash to Trend, where manufacturers and shops can submit information on their industrial leftovers and unsold garments. Sustainable fashion designers can then access this information and use desired raw material for their own collections.

Reet Aus recycled textiles collection at THEKEY.TO’s runway show

4) As the conversation about storytelling in clothing and the development of personal style continues, sustainable fashion designers are increasingly thinking and working as modern day anthropologists who now consider every aspect of how their design is used, interpreted by the wearer, and then continually updated to fit with each person’s lifestyle. As street style websites also continue to proliferate (though perhaps they have reached their peak?), we are more than ever considering what impressions we make and what narrative journey we embark on as we walk out the door. Knowing and working with your personal style is as vital to (sustainable) fashion as knowing what options there are for environmentally-friendly and socially-responsible designs.

5) And perhaps this is obvious, but there is never a substitute for quality. Several of the designers at this past week’s event have been working for years to create an ideal design equation that combines impeccable tailoring, innovative pattern cutting, attention to detail, the highest quality sustainable fabrics available, as well as a mission that addresses sustainable living and design. Collections by Camilla Norrback, Magdalena Shaffrin, Rianne de Witte, Isabell de Hillerin, and Reet Aus will never go out of style, and we should continue to support these refined fashion efforts and unique creative explorations. Fashion will reach the people if the story is a shared and lasting experience.

Main image courtesy of Elementum by Daniela Pais; Reet Aus runway image courtesy of THEKEY.TO and the designer