Fashion Week Season Kicks Off In Europe With An Artistic Edge

Artistic license might be just the cure for what ails us each fashion season.

With fashion week season slowly melting away the deep winter freeze here in Europe, it is promising to feel a bit of stylistic heat from the recent runway shows in Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, and Stockholm. Autumn/Winter 2013 might be the last thing on our minds as we struggle to channel coral-hued resort ensembles, but looking ahead can be a good thing when so many creative dimensions are at play. The sculptural experimentation seen on the catwalks during January and early February have demonstrated, perhaps, that smaller European design houses know how to take risks with conceptually bold approaches to their collections. Whether through extreme knitwear, origami fold wearables, or cool geometry, the license to explore fashion follies seems hyper-real in combination with a sustainable edge.

One of the things that I like about the smaller European shows that take place before the heavy-hitter line-ups in New York, Paris, London, and Milan is the excitement that comes from supporting local talent in style geist outposts where fashion schools and converts to sustainable style are looking to cure their fashion malaise. Perhaps this is also why some of the recent catwalk presentations can afford to be a bit more theatrical, as designers present their works as part of a storytelling continuum and with textile innovation as a creative selling point.

Designer Isabell de Hillerin’s MOSAIC collection (photo by Amos Fricke)

I was so impressed last January with the public interest in Berlin Fashion Week – anyone could attend the presentations at the Lavera Showroom (RSVP’s required, though). Berlin has demonstrated increased momentum on the green fashion frontier with venues like The GREENshowroom, The Ethical Fashion Show Berlin, as well as this year’s first Slow Fashion Awards. I was smitten yet again with Berlin-based ethical fashion label, Isabell de Hillerin, who sources many of her woven and embroidered textiles in Romania. Isabell’s new MOSAIC collection encourages the wearer to experiment freely in order to find lasting styling solutions and wardrobe combinations. The designer shares, “Playing with balance, this latest collection is inspired by its individual parts that collectively form a mosaic of colors and shapes. Rich and contrasting fabrics fuse with soft shapes to define a new whole. Folkloric handmade Romanian materials combined with clean cuts represent a position between new design and tradition.”

Princess Máxima (center) at The Green Fashion Competition during Amsterdam Fashion Week (photo courtesy of

The much-anticipated Green Fashion Competition at Amsterdam Fashion Week generated quite a bit of interest this season, and the finalists definitely demonstrated a range of eco solutions to the three-piece runway presentation. Much of the excitement was centered around the event’s VIP guest, Princess Máxima, who won major points by attending the runway competition at the Westergasfabriek (Amsterdam’s equivalent to Bryant Park). Winners of the event included Amsterdam’s own Studio Jux and NYC’s ethical fashion it-girl, Carrie Parry.

Carrie Parry’s bold eco separates at The Green Fashion Competition in Amsterdam (photo courtesy of the designer)

Designer Carrie Parry takes the prize at The Green Fashion Competition (photo by Patricia Fewer for Hegedus Style)

Mark Smith of shared the following comment about having a real live princess at the Green Fashion Competition: “Carlien Helmink of Studio JUX, the fair-trade brand that scooped first prize for its chic collection of Nepalese-produced dresses, said, ‘She (Princess Màxima) was so enthusiastic and even told us that she had expected the jury to choose us as winner.’ New Yorker Carrie Parry, who won the Category Two prize for most promising start-up, was also impressed. ‘Having a real princess witness the unveiling of your designs is pretty much a fairy tale, isn’t it?’”

2011’s Green Fashion Competition winner Elsien Gringhuis kicked off the catwalk event (photo by Patricia Fewer for Hegedus Style)

The stuff that fairy tales are made of just might turn the tide of fast fashion. Eileen Moran of Origin 23 feels that cities like Amsterdam are definitely at the forefront of a green fashion revolution. She shared the following with us after completing the circuit in Europe during the past two weeks, “In the merger of the French Federation’s Pret a Porter and Who’s Next Paris, they decided to eliminate the So Ethic section this season. Many of the designers and buyers who have been going to that show for years to seek out what’s interesting in ethical design, moved to MINT at Modefabriek in Amsterdam or to one of the many shows in Berlin, including the GREENShowroom. I really feel that Amsterdam is going to be the next epicenter for eco and ethical fashion. In speaking with buyers, the press, and consultants, most feel that Paris is now more a place to go for fashion week runway shows as well as The Ethical Fashion Show, but Berlin and Amsterdam are steadily taking over as the destinations for trade shows.”

As a counterpoint, I found it interesting that Brazilian-born Priscilla Camargo, the founder of Hegedus Style in Amsterdam,  felt that only three pieces by each designer on the Green Fashion Competition’s runway lacked a bit of depth in terms of presenting a broad cross-section of eco and ethical fashion expressions. Priscilla commented that she was better able to understand the message of designer collections during her visit to MINT at Modefabriek. That said, she was extremely impressed by the designers’ creative efforts and the enthusiasm of the crowd, but looks forward to the event gaining more applicants from abroad for 2013. You can read more of Priscilla’s coverage via her blog.

Green Fashion Competition finalist Zaida Adriana Goveo Balmaseda’s ‘Calafuria’ collection featuring recycled fiber knitwear (photo by Peter Stigter)

As a knitwear enthusiast, I was excited to see the recycled fiber creations of Green Fashion Competition finalist, Zaida Adriana Goveo Balmaseda – who we previously featured in our article Plying A More Fashionable Fiber Frontier. Zaida’s Calafuria collection pays homage to a natural beach reserve in Tuscany that features rock formations called “tafoni.” These other-worldly forms are mimicked by the “weathering” and “cementation” of materials and surfaces in the designer’s organic pieces. Natural fiber and eco-friendly methods used include hand-spun textiles, scraps or pre-consumer waste gathered from designer studio production floors and textile centers as well as organic cotton that was naturally dyed and batted with PET recycled batting. Dead stock wool was also recycled for  the “aveolo” pieces that were stunningly tinted with natural substances and then hand-embroidered.

Dutch designer Iris van Herpen’s wearable art and ‘escapist’ sculptural couture (photo courtesy of The Wild Magazine)

Three-dimensional experimentation and extreme silhouettes were also featured prominently in the Paris Couture Fashion Week presentation of Dutch designer, Iris Van Herpen. Whether wearable art really leads us down a path of statement piece activism or even multi-purpose fashion, is debatable. That said, many of these creations do allow us to explore metaphors and vocabulary related to organicism and mimicry of nature. Both Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Stockholm and Copenhagen Fashion Week  designers seemed to be sharing this message as well – in combination with thawing out fashion lovers on blustery winter nights.

V Avenue Show Repair at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Stockholm

Gaia at Copenhagen Fashion Week

Stine Ladefoged’s extreme knitwear at Copenhagen Fashion Week

Beckmans College of Design at Copenhagen Fashion Week (photo by Kristian Löveborg)

lead image: Winde Rienstra, photo by Peter Stigter