During Fashion Week, Berlin is celebrated as Germany's most fashionable city. But internationally, German fashion is still a difficult sell. DW spoke with Thomas Steinbrück, the creative director of Reebok.
DW: As creative director of the US sports brand Reebok, you have the benefit of seeing the German fashion industry from the outside. What's your view?
Thomas Steinbrück: Young German designers are creative, but I think the overall view of German fashion is still the same: good craftsmanship, stiff style. The government needs to do more to promote young designers. At the moment, German fashion is still ridiculed somewhat, and not considered as a big industry player.
Is that really how Americans view us?
Yes. Aside from Hugo Boss, German fashion is pretty much unknown. There used to be Escada. And then there are sportswear companies like Adidas or Puma. That's what Americans see as German fashion (laughs).
Just like in New York, Berlin has a lively fashion scene and is full of young designers. Some are showing off their creations at Fashion Week, for example at the Berliner Mode Salon. And then there's the Fashion Council Germany, which promotes the interests of new designers. Aren't you being a bit too critical?
Sure, it's a start. And Christiane Arp, the editor-in-chief of Vogue Germany and co-founder of the Fashion Council, is also doing a fantastic job. It's great that she promotes young German designers. But these designers haven't been able to break through commercially on an international level. For that, more support and investment are necessary. Fashion today relies heavily on marketing - it takes a lot of capital to promote a brand and bring it to the people. Creativity alone isn't enough.
In Germany, Reebok has a so-called trend office. And you're in Berlin this week. How much do you work with German designers?
At Reebok, we've actually looked at a few of these designers, with a view of collaborating with them. That's the point: to make connections and meet people.
What do designers need in order for you to find them interesting, for them to find success?
Reebok is a brand that's re-establishing itself and very much looking for creativity. Who has that creativity, who is different from the rest? And we've found two or three people we're excited about.
Could you ever see American fashion designers coming to work in Berlin - following the lead of the artistic community?
We're doing that. We've opened the trend office here. And Adidas has done that in reverse, with its Brooklyn Farm office. They bring their designers from Herzogenaurach, in Bavaria, and introduce them to the Brooklyn scene. We do the opposite: we want to introduce our designers to the Berlin art and underground scene. This exchange is very, very important. And Berlin is the best place for that.
German-American designer Thomas Steinbrück has been the creative director of the US athletic footwear and clothing label Reebok since last year and lives in Boston. He's also on the jury of the European Fashion Award, FASH.