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Berlin 24-7

Berlin 24/7: Berlin's (lack of) style

What is Berlin's signature style? Fashion Week graced Berlin for the 20th time this year. But Berliners are far from taking any fashion hints from it, says columnist Gero Schliess.

Is being stylish completely irrelevant to Berliners? A fashion blog looking at Berlin's style surveyed scores of people on the street, with one of them saying "You're looking for style in Berlin? Don't give a fuck!"

Column Berlin 24/7 (DW/G.Schließ)

DIY fashion: in the absence of alternatives this designer wears her own designs

Style or no style?

Is this truly a reflection on Berlin's sense of fashion today? If so, it would be a bitter defeat for Germany's self-styled fashion capital. Maybe there's at least some consolation in the fact that this woman's utter rejection of style and flair in Berlin carries a certain notion of style in its own right. Berlin, after all, is renowned beyond its border for its brash way of speaking.

The young lady could, however, perhaps have chosen some nicer words to express her disappointment - more like the lady with her dog that I ran into a couple of days ago near the picturesque Savigny Square. She told me in defeat that Berlin simply lacks in excitement.

But then she conceded that in western Berlin, people made sure they were a little more chic. Her unique dress was testament to that statement. And a bit later she revealed to me that she is actually a fashion designer.

Kurfürstendamm dolls

Berlin columnist Gero Schliess

Berlin columnist Gero Schliess

As I walked off to the nearby Kurfürstendamm shopping mile in hopes of catching a glimpse of more such examples of bold fashion sense, I found myself nearly blinded by the sight of a trio of middle-aged women parading themselves, all desperately dolled up with their tight shirts, tiny mini-skirts and ginormous sunglasses - all reeking of expensive price tags, of course.

They were soon to be followed by a lady wearing cowboy boots and donning an expensive designer blouse with a floral pattern, who clearly seemed to think that her look redeemed the lack of style of her contemporaries.

Dear West Berliners, please stop pretending that your sense of style is any more advanced than what you find in other parts of town.

Organic Berlin…

During Berlin Fashion Week there were 10 trade shows, 50 fashion shows and 100,000 visitors in the German capital, which made both organizers and city coffers happy. But if you compare Berlin's Fashion Week to the same event in New York, London or Paris, the Germany capital does stick out like a dwarf in a crowd.

Even the latest trend to hit Berlin's so-called fashion scene won't change anything: sustainable clothing made from socially responsible, organic cotton. Regardless of how much Berlin's Green Party financed envoy Ramona Pop might delight in that idea, it's not exactly sexy, is it?

Berlin Fashion Week (picture alliance/dpa/J. Kalaene)

Berlin Fashion Week and the aptly named "Isle of Youth"

And Pop herself would not exactly be prone to buying this type of fashion either. The lady who's in control of Berlin's dire finances likes to be a role model and has a certain reputation for wearing her clothes until they basically begin to fall apart.

Her resourceful approach could earn her brownie points as a trendsetter in her own right:

Berlin neighborhoods like Marzahn and other areas on the periphery of town have been donning the "wear till tear" look: Old clothes, used clothes, any thing but new clothes, with owners who, much like their garb, have seen better and brighter days.

If one were to summarize Berlin's fashion motto, it would simply have to be "Come as you are." People walk the streets without giving a second thought to what they are wearing.

Whether old or new, hip or square, or dressed to the nines - like much of what was seen at the opening party to the Berlin Fashion Week held at the aptly-named "Isle of Youth" in southeast Berlin, presented by designer-cum-TV celebrity Herbert Glööckler.

Fashion icon Angela Merkel

Each neighborhood in Berlin has its own idea of what may qualify as fashion: In Neukölln, we have Middle Eastern chic, while Kreuzberg is more Birkenstock. In the heart of town where all the government ministries are housed there's nothing but business attire, with a bit of fear as a favorite accessory.

Deutschland China Xi bei Merkel (Reuters/A. Schmidt)

Nobody does it better: Angela Merkel is renowned - and feared - for her pantsuits

Chancellor Angela Merkel's pantsuits have become the stuff of nightmares for many. No other lady dares to dress like the chancellor, or has the guts to imitate her unique style, making Merkel perhaps Germany's ultimate fashion icon.

And if you want to make sure that you're on the safe side no matter where you wander, you can just go ahead and wear black. Black is beautiful in Berlin. One of the many fashion bloggers in Berlin found the perfect words to describe why black is the new black in Berlin: symbolizing the unimpeded passage from day into night in the German capital, wearing dark hues is not just a choice but an imperative.

For those who don't understand her subliminal message: Berlin means partying from day to night, non-stop, with black being acceptable in all social settings, including during that pesky little interruption between two parties called "work."

Hello darkness, my old friend

So did I find Berlin's signature style after all? Christiane Arp, editor-in-chief of Vogue Germany and high holy priestess of all things fashion in Germany, said "No" with her signature dismissive attitude.

She looked me straight in the eye and said: "There is no Berlin style. The designers in Berlin are all too different from each other."

I'm happy with the answer, for if Berlin's designers can't agree on a uniform style why should Berliners? All things may be relative in a city like Berlin, but one thing certainly isn't when it comes to fashion and many other things in life: the freedom of choice.

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