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Culture

Berlin Looks for its Place on Fashion Map

Berlin's Fashion Week kicks off on Thursday, July 17. The young and hip, and established designers, will be showing their clothes all around the capital. Berlin hopes it'll attract attention in the wider fashion world.

A Hugo Boss creation

Can Berlin make it into the limelight?

Berlin is known around the world for its creative scene, be it music, art or performance. It's also trying to make a name for itself in the fashion world, although it's proving to be an uphill road.

Proponents of Berlin as a emerging fashion metropolis say it's beginning to come into its own, and in addition to the small, one-room fashion start-ups run by young people in their 20s, well-known designers are also coming to the German capital to present their collections, even if it's usually their secondary lines.

Vivienne Westwood will show her number two line "Anglomania" this week and bigger German labels "Hugo," "Joop Jeans" and "Strenesse Blue" are showing their 2009 spring and summer collections.

Model on catwalk

From the fall/winter 2008/2009 collection of the label Strenesse Blue

"We think Berlin will gain importance as a fashion city, just because of the location," Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week spokeswoman Nora Rochlitzer told the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger daily. "Berlin is in the center of Europe and from here we can conquer anything, even eastern Europe."

The capital will be dotted with smaller venues which will show off work from younger designers, such as the 120 who have been invited to a series of small storefronts in Berlin's largely immigrant Wedding district.

"We don't want to withdraw and drink champagne, but celebrate with our neighbors," said Christoph Steinweg, the organizer of "Wedding Dress 3."

Larger stores, like the Galeries Lafayette department store in downtown Berlin, are showing off the collections of 13 well known Berlin labels, such as c.neeon, von Wedel & Tiedeken and Pulver.

Lots of creativity, little commerce

But while Germany is strong when it comes to creative potential, with its lively arts and fashion scene, it's the business aspect of things that is lacking, experts say.

Model

Berlin's got the creative spirit, but fashion business is still done in Duesseldorf

"Berlin doesn't have any commercial dimension," said Thomas Rasch, director of the German fashion association Germany Fashion. "Business is done in Duesseldorf."

Rochlitzer defends Berlin as a fashion capital, saying people love to talk it down, but they should give it a chance. She points out that the fashion week in New York, one of today's undisputed capitals of couture, was not a great success when it began.

But perhaps most telling, and perhaps discouraging for fashionistas in Berlin, was a recent interview in the Tagesspiegel daily with Suzy Menkes, one of the world's top fashion journalists. When asked if she thought Berlin's fashion week was important, she responded, "Oh, I have to admit, I didn't really know that a fashion week was taking place in Berlin."

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