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Scene in Berlin

Be en vogue! Be Berlin!

Berlin's semi-annual Fashion Week is now underway. Germany's biggest catwalk event makes winter bearable for any fashion victim, says DW's Lavinia Pitu.

Scene in Berlin

A final look in the mirror before leaving home told me something was wrong. I looked too … "normal." I wasn't unfashionable by any means, but I was heading out to Fashion Week, for God's sake, the vogue epitome of Berlin's crazy spirit. This week, there is no room for conventional!

To fit in here, you have to stand out. So, I found the quickest solution for the "you've got to fit in" look. Extra strong hairspray, some hair slides and a comb - everything you need for creating a Rockabilly aka punk aka whatever-they-call-it hairdo.

In a flash, after having tried to tease and spray my hair upside-down, without getting tangled up in the long accessories hanging down my neck, I managed to produce the biggest hair I've ever dared to leave the house with.

The looks of the taxi driver through the rear-view mirror were quite discouraging, but the moment he parked the car in front of the crowd at Bebelplatz (the Fashion Week venue) and I caught a glimpse of the real fashion victims standing there, I realized with a shock that my painstakingly arranged hair was not big enough.

Wow! I was surrounded by all kind of messy hairstyles, birds' nest buns on the classy-punk edge, skinny or pleated pants worn with endless heels (too daring even for me, a confessing fan of "heights"), meticulously planned trashy looks, glittery details and heavy accessories.

The guy next to me was wearing golden shoes, clearly a blatant rebellion against ordinary street wear.

Models present pieces from the label Schumacher at Berlin Fashion Week 2011

Berlin celebrates its own sense of style at Fashion Week

In the limelight

The show started with the autumn/winter 2011 collection from the label A. Friend, by Dutch designer A. F. Vandevorst. Loud music blasted from the speakers as artificial fog swirled across the stage. The audience looked with analytical glances as a lot of black and red, and silk combined with knitwear and leather passed down the catwalk.

Some people were carefully taking notes, like at a press conference. I wondered whether they were composing an article for the next edition of Vogue, or just writing stick-note reminders so they don't forget what to wear when summer turns into fall later this year.

The evening continued with some style suggestions I would actually consider adding to my wardrobe, like Lena Hoschek's 1950s glamor, extravagant gowns by Lever Couture, an avant-garde collection from Baltic Fashion and the urban-chic pieces of Lala Berlin.

They may have been sprinkled with a touch of glamor dust, but the outfits were Berlin through and through. They could have been taken straight out of Berlin's eccentric clubs or breakfast cafes. It's not that the fashion show was drab, but that Berlin has long established a distinct, don't-care-what-you-think style that designers aim for.

A drop of imagination

Designer Irina Schrotter took inspiration from the city in the collection she's presenting this week. "Berlin is a very particular market," she told me. "People are avant-gardists here. It's a difficult terrain; you must be really good as a designer."

But if you're more interested in keeping up with the fads rather than setting them, you'll be relieved by the heartening opinion of a Berlin-based colleague of mine, who said even a non-Berliner can immediately get a feel for the city's style.

It's open for discussion whether Paris and New York care about Berlin's definition of chic. But we Berliners do, and that's all that matters. Next time my hair will be twice as big.

Author: Lavinia Pitu

Editor: Kate Bowen

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