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Scene in Berlin

Fashion Week unpacks surprises in Berlin

Can Berlin keep up with fashion heavyweights? With sundresses at the opening show and a reincarnated Bread & Butter, fair, the German capital proves again that it doesn't care what anyone thinks, writes DW's Susan Stone.

About six months ago, a reporter from a German newspaper contacted me for some background information and possibly a quote for her story about Berlin and fashion. She told me her thesis was that Berlin has failed to become a capital of fashion.

For her this was underlined by the fact that the Bread & Butter urban wear trade fair that had been part of the twice yearly Berlin Fashion Week was making plans to leave the city for Barcelona, and that big brands like Hugo Boss and Escada were also showing elsewhere.

I disagreed, and declined to comment.

Fast-forward to winter 2015, and the vaunted trade show has filed for insolvency, and launched a pop-up version of its once enormous Bread & Butter Berlin brand fair. The city's fashion week has won renewed energy, thanks in part to the Berliner Mode Salon, a new showroom of 18 German fashion brands.

Berlin's Kronprinzenpalais, a palace once belonging to the Hohenzollern dynasty, is hosting a broad range of talents, from Munich cashmere line Allude to bondage chic, Berlin-based newcomer Marina Hoermanseder, under one glorious roof.

"The tent is super," said designer Hien Le of the scene in Fashion Week's main venue, "but it's a bit of a circus, you know."

Berlin has what it takes

More cathedral than carnival, the palace also hosted the biannual Fashion & Style conference from Zeitmagazin, this time co-hosted by Vogue. Posing the rhetorical question, "Why do we need Berlin to be a fashion city?" Christiane Arp, editor-in-chief of Vogue Germany, and Tillmann Prüfer, style director for Zeitmagazin, discussed the German capital's possibilities.

A model wears a creation by Charlotte Ronson during the Berlin Fashion Week 2015, Copyright: Reuters/F. Bensch

Apparently in Berlin, the weather doesn't define your outfit

They dismissed the critics of the city's Fashion Week, saying, "Most of the criticism comes from people who have never seen a fashion show."

Arp also announced the recent founding of the German Fashion Design Council, a group of experienced and dedicated professionals from the industry who will work together to support and encourage design talent; she is slated to take the reigns as president.

Replayed sun dresses

Meanwhile at the tent, the circus continued, with flocks of paparazzi and star-seekers turning out to see big international stars like Elizabeth Hurley and Katie Holmes, flown in by major fashion labels to turn heads and cause a splash.

A creation by Berlin designer Ivanman at Berlin Fashion Week 2015, Copyright: Susan Stone

Local designers like Ivanman are a staple at Fashion Week

But at the opening show, people not only turned their heads, they scratched them as well. New York-based designer Charlotte Ronson showed last season's Spring/Summer collection of sundresses and shorts to a crowd clad in fur and boots. But there was also great menswear in the tent that was a bit more suited to Berlin's winter temperatures - from local designer Ivanman, Sopopular and Sadak, as well as Turkey's Nian.

Wednesday brings longtime Berlin indie fashion queen Esther Perbandt for her first solo show in the Fashion Week tent after a decade in business. Unknown international pleasures await from new-to-the-schedule Use Unused from Hungary, Paper London from the UK, and Whitetail from Finland.

Though the series of shows have only just gotten underway, at least one clear trend has already crystallized: the paneled look. That is, dresses and skirts, particularly with pleats, are in for women, while men are wearing long shirts and tunics. And orange is set to be the hot color next year.

"Fashion weeks must surprise us," said Christiane Arp. Thankfully, this one is doing just that.

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