words by SANDEE WOODSIDE

This season’s Berlin Fashion Week (BFW) programme began July 1st and featured not only 35 shows but also Seek, the enticing commercial fair for international buyers; Berliner Salon, featuring high-craft fashion from select emergent designers; Neo Fashion Week, a competitive presentation of ten German schools’ best fashion student designers; a Vogue Business panel talk, comprising 3 days, 6 panels, and 30 panelists; and a plethora of side events. And with this city-wide swivel of activity, creativity, and diversity we can witness the hopeful spark of BFW radiating and expanding.

Senator Franziska Giffey’s speech on opening night set forth an inspiring tone as she noted the resilience of Berlin’s diversity, freedom, and vibrancy ‘for subcultures, for creativity, for development, for self-fulfilment.’ In a heartfelt acknowledgment of the communal strength and connection in Berlin’s fashion scene, she offers hope for further connection and recognition.

Christiane Arp, Fashion Council Germany (FCG) President, also spoke that night on the evolution of BFW: ‘Fashion is a mirror of the time in which it is created—a contemporary witness.’ As we witness these times, she lauds Berlin for its ‘progressive, open, and diverse fashion culture,’ which focuses on craftsmanship, sustainability, design, and technology—noting how BFW’s promotion of fresh and innovative designers is crucial so as to establish this city as the ‘powerhouse of talent’ that it is. Arp further explained how the gradual adoption of Copenhagen Fashion Week’s sustainability requirements, which are now ‘in a pilot phase until they come into full force in 2026,’ will serve as binding criteria for BFW moving forward.

Another momentous occasion this week, INTERVENTION was in its second instalment, injecting the city throughout the four days with shows and events from brands and designers both local and international. INTERVENTION is the brainchild of Mumi Haiati, CEO and Founder of Reference Studio. In an interview Haiati said of its 2017 start: ‘There was a very small bubble of relevant stakeholders in Berlin at the time, including the beginnings of 032c as a brand and Ottolinger. But there was an energy, and the challenge to turn Berlin into something that would resonate globally.’ Seeing Berlin as a ‘breeding ground for creative exchange’—with innumerable influences melding to birth from a source of community, INTERVENTION intends to provide ‘a platform [to] represent the diverse and international’ facets of Berlin, while ‘serv[ing] the talent who make a global impact.’

A rewarding collaboration between Vogue and FCG launched earlier this year: the FCG/Vogue Fashion Fund. Of the seven Fashion Fund finalists, five are explored below: Lueder, Namilia, Richert Beil, SF10G, and Sia Arnika. Also interviewed are established designers William Fan, Claudia Skoda, and Gmbh, solo show sophomore Kitschy Couture, new to the runway Clara Colette Miramon, BFW debuting—for their tenth anniversary—Horror Vacui, and fresh and synergistic Haderlump. A look at Shayne Oliver’s Anonymous Club runway, their second BFW show, rounds off the reportage.

LUMINOUS FINALISTS

LUEDER

London based designer Marie Lueder says her brand’s vision has happily evolved from solely upcycled, bespoke, timeless, and easy to care for pieces ‘towards the future [with] more innovative and technical pieces using regenerated ocean plastic nylon and innovative and sustainable dying processes.’ And with this new focus she feels ‘more confident’ with her supply chain and production, enabling her to ‘offer a better price point,’ as affordability and accessibility are quite important to the Lueder brand.

Having ‘garnered swift recognition, and forged partnerships with esteemed retailers like Browns Fashion in London or H-Lorenzo in L.A.,’ Lueder’s Berlin runway revealed her “Rubedo” collection in the midst of a memorable ‘narrative of transformation.’

Asked to discuss what showing for the second time in Berlin means to her, she says ‘Berlin taps into the more conceptual approach and language of the brand and London the more commercial.’ Being able ‘to show in both worlds’ inspires and challenges; ‘Berlin is in a very exciting position to form or keep forming its identity for a great new fashion week’ and ‘with Reference Studios as a partner,’ this exciting movement is something she ‘want[s] to be part of.’

As part of INTERVENTION, the show blurred lines between theatre and runway, with choreography and performance at its centre. And with such an intimate and cosy location, a sense of community permeated the encircled space.

NAMILIA

Their previous collection shown at BFW in February was their most political and an outstanding success. ‘It felt great to have our message out there after AW24. There was lots of international press, which was great to amplify our message of queer acceptance.’ When Nan Li was asked how it feels to be returning for the second time this year, they said: ‘Feels fucking iconic. We love showing in Berlin!’ And with boldness at the helm of their label, the setting makes sense.

For SS25, Namilia is in collaboration with Ed Hardy, with many of the show’s pieces having been ‘upcycled from deadstock’ and through which they’re ‘exploring the lifecycle of fame and our cultural obsession with celebrities.’ They go on to explain: ‘We’re investigating and remixing stereotypes of stardom, specifically of female celebrities and the pressure the media puts on them to maintain their fame.’

With this focus on pop culture, fame, and subversion comes what ‘always feels like a party’; providing amazing vibes amongst an enthralled audience of about 600, Namilia once again displayed their trademark rebellious-tinged ingenuity.

RICHERT BEIL

Despite numerous BFWs under their belt, the success of the duo’s last show really made them feel ‘appreciated and supported’ as they ‘made valuable connections’ with buyers, enabling them to grow their decade old business. Having been nominated for Germany’s inaugural Vogue Fashion Fund this year also delighted them. All the same, Michele Beil and Jale Richert noted that ‘Berlin should stay true to its identity as a vibrant city with a unique perspective. Maintaining a smaller, high-quality fashion week will help preserve its underground vibe.’

For it’s the city’s underground essence that ‘has now become a beacon for inclusivity, sustainability, and community spirit.’ Beil and Richert went on: ‘We’re proud to have consistently pushed this development over the years with our work and inspired others to do it, too. These days, Berlin embodies a very contemporary approach to fashion.’

In line with this ultra-current encoding, their SS25 collection offers up a deconstruction of stereotypes. The collection “Bademodenschau” ‘reinterprets the typical beach look by defining a vibrant and unexpected convergence of diverse identities at a quintessential German beach.’ In doing so the collection challenges ‘traditional perceptions’ while ‘reflecting on societal richness and the importance of inclusivity.’ Dispelling ‘typical clichés of German culture while highlighting the unique identities of a diverse community’ again situates the inclusivity-focused brand at the forefront of Berlin fashion.

SF1OG

Staging the Berlin label’s SS25 collection in their interpretation of a ‘vivacious marketplace,’ SF1OG called upon BFW to ‘witness their perspective on the local ritual of coming together.‘

In ‘pay[ing] homage to the cultural phenomenon that are markets’ and the concomitant cruciality of ‘crafts, local products, and the unique interactions they foster’ they ‘proclaim their vision of a viable future.’ Using mostly recycled antique materials (some even from the 19th century) and deadstock—alongside collaborations with Eastpak and Dr. Martens—enabled the brand to highlight their sustainability-mindedness while encouraging a sense of nostalgia. For instance, antique mens shirts with checked patterns similar to those found in a market place were incorporated, mirroring the vibrancy of such times and spaces.

‘The way markets nurture a more appreciative approach to consumption by making visible the product origin and fostering an intimate client-seller relationship’ was a central tenet of the show, which was accompanied by a Golden Hours rock performance.

SIA ARNIKA

Danish-born Sia Arnika is another Berlin-based designer making waves—or rather, swarms. She says of this season’s runway location (an old drugstore now sat empty in a shopping mall): ‘We always like to find a space that ha[s] a notion of something from the past, some nostalgia of what was.’ But what made this space especially striking is that it featured large fridges filled with live flies. As surveillance cameras projected the swarming onto screens, audience members were immersed in a buzzing soundtrack or ‘primal symphony,’ all of which ‘represents unity in chaos and the relentless pursuit of meaning.’

Further inspiration for her SS25 collection ranged from ‘growing up in the countryside in Denmark; playing football, being in nature, and watching MTV—to being in Berlin discovering new ways of life, being a part of a community, and building for the future.’

For her, ‘the ambition to make FW work here, not just from the Senate and the Fashion Council, but from all the designers pushing hard to make the most memorable shows to give a lasting impression, gaining more attention and making it our own’ is what makes BFW so special. She’s also notably thrilled about having debuted her very first shoe here this week—’a super sexy heel and boot.’

LUSTROUS FIGURES

CLAUDIA SKODA

Words like iconic, unconventional, and pioneering can only begin to describe the international allure of Claudia Skoda. Establishing herself throughout the 1970s and 80s, hers has been a trajectory from co-creating The Factory in Kreuzberg, to following David Bowie’s advice and developing her brand in NYC, back to Berlin where she opened her first store on Uhlandstrasse in 1987.

The following year she organised a momentous show at the Hamburger Bahnhof, which was still a technical museum, presenting a collection of select designers—including Vivienne Westwood. She says that she didn’t expect to do another runway, and so she’s quite glad to have created this collection for BFW. In fact, some pieces presented were from her 70’s archive.

Skoda’s use of thin yarn stock revolutionised knitwear, with this ingenuity stemming from her dissatisfaction at the wool on the market at the time. And while she may not have been pleased with the market back then, she proves that the Berlin Fashion scene is far from new. She also sets the bar as a Berlin designer who is able to have developed an internationally renowned career.

GMBH

In 2016, when GmbH started, they report there was ‘no sense of a fashion scene in Berlin,’ but living here, they were urged ‘to create a brand that challenged the lack of diverse voices in the global fashion industry.’

While they note there is so much they love about Berlin, such as how their community has ‘established themselves as artists and musicians, and [have been] growing up beside [them],’ their real inspiration stems from their own ‘lives, politics, music, and art.’

And so making their BFW debut was a decision that carried a sense of urgency this season; acknowledging how a large part of the community they hold so dear has ‘felt increased persecution over the last months,’ the word on their lips and at the centre of their show is ‘resistance.’ If ‘we can build a sense of belonging—instead of fragmentation in our community—[it] is a chance we must seize.’

In asking themselves how they can ‘resist the growing fascist movement and political repression of both queer and immigrant communities,’ the answers came in hopeful ways. This can be seen in the collection’s inclusion of ‘childhood fantasy superheroes,’ offering an amalgamation of ‘reality and fantasy’ as ‘dream fighters of the resistance.’ In line with this community-mindedness, their advice to Berlin designers looking to begin is to be sure to ‘team up.’

HADERLUMP

For their fourth BFW runway “AERO,” Berlin-based Johann Ehrhard and Julius Weissenborn of Haderlump collaborated with the Vostell Family, thereby coupling their ever-expanding vision with Wolf Vostells’ 1968 “Lipstick Bomber” reimagined as the show’s silk scarf centrepiece. ‘Vostell created the piece as a statement for world peace,’ and in this meaning laden fabric they extend their collection’s promises and perceptions.

“AERO” debuted at a Berlin landmark and heritage site, Tempelhof Airport. Utilising such an ‘impressive setting’ with ‘historic aircrafts […] positioned specifically for [their] show’ was a powerful experience. With appreciation they noted: ‘We have such great support for smaller fashion brands here in Germany, and we are grateful to be part of this.’

In the same vein of artistic collaboration, the runway’s soundtrack was provided by none other than ‘the iconic Berlin DJ Duo Pan-Pot,’ who have a special track ‘that actually serves as homage to Tempelhof Airport,’ further cementing the brand’s thematic vision.

WILLIAM FAN

In lieu of a show for this season of BFW, William Fan accompanied their weeklong Pop Up store at Château Royal Berlin with a four-hour presentation in a fresh format: ‘a breakfast presentation’ appropriately entitled “Breakfast at William’s.” The decision proved fortunate, being ‘more interactive than a traditional show, […they] got the chance to explain everything in more detail.’ And their foray into Pop Ups this first half of the year additionally enabled ‘a record in sales turnover.’

Of this business savvy BFW direction, William Fan says: ‘As the city becomes more and more enticing with its fashion week, [it] draws international guests in[to] town and receives corresponding support, [so] this can be a moment to become a place that is forward-looking and provides ideas for various other formats.’

Having ‘hit a new kind of target group’ with their leisure wear focused “OFF DUTY” collection last season, the ‘cinematic narrative’ continues to unfold in SS25’s “ON DUTY.” We love ‘telling storylines across seasons,’ he says. And with their 10 year anniversary just around the corner, they intend to ‘reflect on the last decade from a business perspective and use this to shape the future of the next.’

HORROR VACUI

For their 10th anniversary, Horror Vacui—meaning, ‘“fear of empty spaces”’—makes their BFW debut. Anna Heinrichs explains their origins: ‘[In] 2014, I was driven by a profound love for intricate craftsmanship and a desire to revive historical techniques that were becoming increasingly rare.’ Abiding by their ‘philosophy of embracing fullness and complexity,’ along with their continued ‘commitment to sustainability and ethical production,’ they continue to ‘celebrate and preserve’ historical craft. And with these guiding principles, Horror Vacui is ‘not just garments but works of art.’

Observing ‘a significant evolution in the German fashion scene,’ Heinrichs sees the country as ‘a dynamic hub’—a place where designers may ‘increasingly explore new materials and techniques, pushing the boundaries of traditional fashion to create forward-thinking and environmentally conscious collections.’ For instance, this season’s collection, “Love’s Continuum,” uses leftovers from previous ones ‘to create something entirely new and innovative.’ Inspired by ‘Berlin’s history of division and unity, [it] reminds us of the importance of love and reconciliation.’ Aside from seeing Berlin as ‘a unique and influential player on the global fashion stage,

Horror Vacui is proud to have its roots in Bavaria, a region known for its rich cultural heritage and craftsmanship.’ Meanwhile, Heinrichs continues, by manufacturing ‘in Ukraine, we ensure that each piece is crafted with care and expertise, supporting local artisans and preserving traditional techniques.’

KITSCHY COUTURE

‘As a child of Tamil immigrants being born and raised in Germany,’ Abarna Kugathasan’s ‘identity was shaped through a fusion of both.’ Having begun her journey here in school, Kugathasan says: ‘Kitschy Couture was created as the graduation project of my fashion studies in 2021, long before I knew it would grow into a fashion label.’ From Neo Fashion’s fashion week for students, to Berliner Salon’s showcase of emergent designers, to her sophomore runway this season, she notes how this development underscores ‘the importance of sharing [her] story, as it is not just [her] own.’ Kitschy Couture is a ‘celebration of cultural identity,’ which is increasingly relevant as ‘there is such a lack of representation of South Asia‘s cultural diversity and the celebration of Diasporic identity.’

Ensuring that this culture is both ‘seen and felt,’ while basing Kitschy Couture’s studio in their ‘hometown, Pforzelona,’ the multicultural meets safe expression and unhindered freedom. ‘Creating the Paradisiacal Universe of Kitschy Couture allowed me to fully find and express myself. In my Kitschy Universe there are no rules to live by, no restrictions which hold you back, and there could never be too much of anything. I was able to honour my Tamil roots, express my longing for a home I have never known, and create an excessively Kitschy Paradise I now call my home. A shelter for all those feeling lost amid societal norms, cultural borders and the fear of not fitting in.’

With a focus on the juxtaposition between nostalgia and new beginnings, she creates ‘a dialogue between [her] inner child and [her] grown-up self’: ‘It‘s this in-between world that I was born into and that I am so heavily influenced by.’

CLARA COLETTE MIRAMON

With instant social media garnered interest from her first personal project collection, the eponymous label Clara Colette Miramon started in 2021 enabled her to build the brand she has today. From already having dressed pop stars such as Doja Cat and Kali Uchis, to the designer’s ‘nuanced perception of femininity’ encapsulated in her use of rat nose prosthetics on the runway, it’s no wonder she’s generated such a buzz. And as her AW24 collection launches this month, the threads of empowerment for women are woven and waiting.

BFW is home to her first runway show, thanks to the Berlin contemporary prize’s support.Taking her inspiration from female surrealist artists such as Meret Oppenhein and Leonor Fini and ‘the themes of distortion and dreaming that appear in their work,‘ Miramon’s value moves beyond the garments to the imaginative. She says, ‘I want[ed] to show the glamorous and outrageous rat girls on the runway’—and that she did, adorned in a fantastical collection.

ANONYMOUS CLUB

Berlin-based and New York-bred Shayne Oliver, who helped launch streetwear in his previous label Hood by Air, returned for his second BFW with his brand Anonymous Club. ‘‘FREUDIAN GLITCH: FANTASIA 2024” took place at Tempodrom, a presentation on INTERVENTION’s programme, offering up a dreamy and ‘dissonant’ new garment launch and attracting an audience of about 700—including Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot and Kayne West.

The heart of the collection rests in the ‘dichotomy between one’s aspirations and their present-day experience,’ thereby playing with Freudian notions of the subconscious, manifesting ‘a sense of truth underneath whatever we may feel.’

Physically situated ‘with a spaced out layout intended to heighten the audience’s perception of distance and alienation,’ the accompanying orchestral soundtrack recalled cartoons, while Oliver’s Disney-inspired runway aesthetics augmented to ‘evoke a certain extremism and darkness that may feel contradictory, yet function harmoniously.’ Of being in Berlin, Oliver has praised the freedom designing here permits as well as the levels of infrastructural support he receives.

THE SIGNIFICANCE

As we see again this season through these interviews and insights, the scene is evolving. And with connection and diversity at Berlin Fashion Week’s centre, it’s no wonder it’s becoming increasingly international.

As BFW’s brightest bits continue to illuminate community, inclusivity, sustainability, creativity, and craft, the city has kindled a fierce and value-charged promise for its future. And what a unique brilliance it emits.

TEAM CREDITS:
creative direction CHARLOTTE GINDREAU
photography ISOTTA ACQUATI
writing SANDEE WOODSIDE
fashion assistant MARGARITA KONDRATOVA