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Why Berlin is a tough city for a fashion designer

Gero Schließ ad
January 18, 2017

Antonia Goy is presenting her first solo show at Berlin Fashion Week, though her label was founded 10 years ago. She and her partner explain how German retailers could improve and what's missing for designers in Berlin.

Fashion Week Berlin, Antonia Goy
Image: DW/G. Schließ

Antonia Goy glows as she tosses her hair to the side and laughs. She's worked hard, up to 20 hours a day, for this blink-and-you-missed-it moment. There she is in the midst of Berlin's Kronprinzenpalais after her first fashion show, taking in the applause with her label partner, Björn Kubeja. It's no wonder the public is so excited: Her diverse collection combines elegant trains, pinafores or appliqués with simple jersey dresses.

Alternative fashion

This latest collection, prepared for the autumn/winter 2017/18 season, is being shown under the title "Alien Nation," a nod to the estrangement that Goy and Kubeja, like many other artists today, feel as a result of the shifts in the political climate. "The collection is not as pictorial as previous collections have been," said Goy.

Antonia Goy's collection "Alien Nation"
Antonia Goy's collection "Alien Nation"Image: DW/G. Schließ

It's their way of making their own personal case for diversity and the peaceful coexistence of various ethnicities and religions, they said. The duo added that they were inspired by the broad spectrum found in women's fashion and from the multicultural styles found in Berlin's diverse neighborhoods. Goy plays with opposites, positioning the form-fitting alongside the wider cuts. Some of it seems simple and inconspicuous. Other pieces suggest the wearer's desire to celebrate life. 

Why slow growth is a good thing

With just a few days to go until the show starts, preparations in the Berlin atelier located near the central train station are in full swing. Everyone is focused, but Goy still manages to slip away for a brief interview.  

Antonia Goy and Bjoern Kubeja
Antonia Goy and Bjoern KubejaImage: DW/G. Schließ

Her label, originally located in a small studio in Berlin's Brunnenstrasse, has grown rather slowly, but she says that's healthy for it and things should continue that way. 

"We're open-minded about the results," says Goy, adding that she doesn't want media criticism or economic factors to impact her passion for fashion. She waited for a long time to do her own show, and received a great deal of encouragement from friends and colleagues. But now, the time has come, say Antonia Goy and label partner Bjoern Kubeja.

Putting on the show has been very costly for the tiny label. There's a stylist who, acting like an art director and supported by the designers, developed the dramaturgy and managed details like make-up. In addition, 15 models needed to be paid, not to mention hair cuts, make-up, music and - perhaps most important - press relations.

They both don't like to talk about money, but it seems clear that the amount of money involved totals to a five-digit sum - minus the 2,500 euros in subsidies they receive from the Berlin Senate's support program. 

Antonia Goy making final preparations in the atelier
Antonia Goy making final preparations in the atelierImage: DW/G. Schließ

'German retail lacks courage'

Antonia Goy's label has already gone international, with stores in the US, Japan, Australia and Austria buying her products. Now her pieces are also available on the renowned Italian online fashion shop Luisa Via Roma.

Goy and Kubeja clearly see their future on international stage since young designers seem to have a hard time in Germany. "German retail isn't particularly courageous," laments Antonia Goy, adding that their American counterparts act "much more spontaneously." When they like something, they go for it, whereas the Germans rather opt for safe choice, preferring established foreign labels.

The "Berliner Mode Salon," which offers German designers a platform and is in its fifth year at Berlin Fashion Week, wants to change that. The team behind the event's manager, Marcus Kurz, constantly negotiates with German retailers. Antonia Goy profits from their efforts, and even Berlin's posh KADEWE department store now sells her products.

Antonia Goy's winter collection
Antonia Goy's winter collectionImage: DW/Gero Schließ

But Berlin remains difficult terrain for Antonia Goy. Another reason for that is that over the years, it has become increasingly difficult to find good manufacturers that are on par with those in Paris and Milan. "In Berlin, good tailors have become a rarity," explains Björn Kubeja.

That's why Antonia Goy's fashion is now produced in Stettin. According to Kubeja, the Polish city located just a short distance from Berlin offers high quality at affordable prices. Although things aren't easy for them in Berlin, Goy and Kubeja wouldn't want to work and live anywhere else. And ever since their first successful fashion show took place, they have one more reason to stay.