Berlin′s fashion reputation torn at the seams? | Lifestyle | DW | 11.07.2014
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Berlin's fashion reputation torn at the seams?

Paris, New York, Milan - and Berlin. Hopes were high that the German capital would develop into one of the world's fashion centers. But the partial retreat of the Bread & Butter fashion show has dampened these hopes.

Back in 2001, Karl-Heinz Müller founded the Bread & Butter trade show for street and urban wear as an upbeat alternative to the Interjeans conference. Müller's fair attracts more than 500 exhibitors, among them renowned labels including Calvin Klein and Timberland, thousands of purchasers and up to 100,000 visitors.

But Müller's claim has always been to be ahead of what everyone else is doing. That's why he will now partially leave the German capital. While the trade show he organizes will continue to be held in Berlin in the summer, it will travel to Barcelona in the winter, and Seoul in the fall.

When Müller announced his plans at the opening of Berlin Fashion Week, of which Bread & Butter is a part, on Tuesday (08.07.2014), he did not elaborate on the reasons behind his move, but simply stated: "The wish for real change is in the air." The partial absence of Bread & Butter in the future could dash Berlin's hopes of becoming an international fashion capital.

Bread and Butter: Who needs it?

Michael Bahles, who teaches courses on fashion marketing at the Business School Berlin Potsdam, said Berlin will not suffer from Bread & Butter's absence.

"The move will be more damaging to Bread & Butter itself than to the fashion center Berlin," he said. "Fashion Week is much stronger, no one needs Bread & Butter anymore."

Visitors to the fair are used to travelling the world, and it won't be the first time Bread & Butter moves away from Berlin: the fair took place in Barcelona from 2006 to 2009.

Berlin's Senate was not precisely in a state of shock either, despite it being the city's mayor, Klaus Wowereit, who originally brought the fair to Berlin five years ago. But there is no need to fill the space left behind by Bread & Butter, according to said Senate spokesman Richard Men.

"Of course, Bread & Butter was absolutely vital in the beginning years," he said. "But things have taken a turn during the last five years. After all, the other fair organizers do stay, such as Premium or Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week."

Berlin of little interest to major players?

Fashionweek Berlin Hien Le

Is it the beginning of the end?

Jochen Pahnke, a lecturer for fashion design and member of the label "Kratzert & Pahnke," took a more pessimistic view: "The move is a devastating blow for the city of Berlin, especially its coffers. The visitors have always propped up retail sales, and they were the ones who ultimately brought the fashion onto the streets."

But Bread & Butter's retreat will have little effect on Berlin designers, Pahnke said as they have "a totally different look, a far cry from Bread & Butter."

Yet Pahnke said he has no illusions about Berlin's future in the fashion world: "We will never be able to compete with Paris; we just don't have the customers and the money. And only few things which are produced here are so unique that they will be crowned by commercial success."

Big labels such as Hugo Boss, Rena Lange or Kaviar Gauche do not have major presences in Berlin, which creates the impression that the German capital is not among fashion's top cities.

More support from professionals

Eröffnung der Bread and Butter Mode-Messe in Berlin

Hommage to Brazil during the opening night of Bread & Butter

Martina Rink did not share this gloomy outlook. She presented her book, "Fashion Germany," and said that in comparison with Paris, of course, Berlin was still in its infancy. "But that's a normal process, it does take a while," she said. "We do have some superb designers who are successful on the international stage, for example Peter Lindbergh or Karla Otto."

Yuite a few of these designers, however, have turned their backs on Germany. That's why Rink said she hopes for more support from them in the future. In her view, it would be a great help if they would present at least one of their collections in Germany every year.

But also the city administration could do more to support the fashion branch: "Fashion Week has moved three times, and that has created a lot of confusion. The events are already stressful enough. Having a permanent location would greatly help reduce that stress."

Similar changes have also occurred in Paris, but it is more capable than Berlin to cope with such changes. There certainly is still a long way to go until Berlin can even think of competing with Paris as a fashion center.

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