words by Sandee Woodside

Berlin Fashion Week’s (BFW) four day programme kicked off on the 5th of February, showcasing high quality trailblazing styles under the auspices of the Fashion Council Germany (FCG). With the notable shift in their financial support from sponsorship to that of the Senate, BFW’s core message is one of fearless freedom, responsibility, subcultural creativity, and inclusion. Knowing that the visibility of such fashion is paramount to its international engagement and success, State Secretary Michael Biel (SPD) also spoke of the Senate’s collaboration to conceptually overhaul BFW, starting about one year ago.

As Christiane Arp, COB and founding member of FCG stated at the opening dinner, ‘how we dress will always say something about the world we live in and what is happening around us.’ Biel later added: ‘The local fashion scene reflects Berlin’s unique creativity and freedom like no other, and contributes significantly to the city’s important and international appeal.’

Also announced that night is the fresh initiative: FCG/Vogue Fashion Fund. With only four other countries teaming up with Vogue in this way, having a German counterpart is both a nationwide honour and a boon for Berlin. A jury—consisting of sponsors and illustrious experts such as Edward Enninful, OBE, the Editorial Advisor to British Vogue and Mumi Haiati, CEO and Founder of Reference Studio—will compose a shortlist and choose the winner from these finalists.

Another seismic shift in BFW—aside from it now being scheduled so as not to conflict with other industry events—has been the Berlin Contemporary competition. This year saw its third iteration, with 18 designers being awarded 25,000 euros each. Of these winners, seven are brought into focus here. The winners include emergent talents Marke, Sia Arnika, and SF1OG and established designers Lou de Bètoly, Namilia, Richert Beil, and William Fan. Also interviewed are the up-and-coming collective Haderlump, established designer Danny Reinke, and first-time pop-up International Citizen. The following dialogues with and discoveries about these BFW talents prove that Berlin’s fashion scene has peeked out of the darkness, reaching an alluring and promising point.


With notions of collectivity and community at the forefront of their brand, the upcycling focused Haderlump is proud to call Berlin their home. Designer Johann Ehrhardt said, ‘we have plenty of freedom here and can realise ideas that other cities may simply not recognise. Berlin is hard and tender at the same time, both open and closed, slow and fast. Berlin thrives on contradictions, and these are great for exciting fashion.’

Located within this city of harmonious contrasts, this is their third show working as a collective without hierarchy. Using this ‘super contemporary’ work model, they source deadstock materials (i.e. materials deemed worthless) to create high-quality pieces. Their name is admittedly ‘perhaps a little controversial, or let’s say counterintuitive,’ as the term Haderlump recalls rag collectors—those who were usually unhoused using the scraps they found or selling them to paper mills; instead they ‘make clothes out of used material,’ but they ‘liked the industrial…and subversive aspect of the idea.’

Singer Domiziana, wearing Haderlump for the show, expressed her affinity for Berlin—‘some of the coolest people live here and express themselves here’—while also expressing her love for their collaboration; ‘ it feels like something repeatedly iconic that we keep doing.

Mario Keine from West Germany, the designer and founder of Marke, had his first full runway show at BFW featuring the second instalment of last season’s cycle, which reflected his ‘design roots.’ Now the ‘reflection cycle’ continues, peering into the question ‘what people shape me during my life?’

The philosophical approach to both his collection and its presentation brings the notion of tabula rasa and talisman to the runway, as models walk along sculptures ‘like silent observers of the past,’ signifying the stages of life. ‘Along your life, you have this collection of talisman you take with you all the time, and which shape you, and the more you live, the more eclectic this collection of talisman gets.’

With sustainability also at the helm of these poetic explorations of the past, all materials are circularly sourced, developed in Cologne, and produced in either Germany or Poland. Of the Berlin scene shifting, he said ‘it’s incredible what turn-around BFW has managed to accomplish,’ and he also expressed his elation that FCG/Vogue Fashion Fund has been announced. ‘Building long-lasting support for young brands,’ he added, ‘we’re on a very good track.’

Designer Rosa Marga Dahl worked with Creative Director Kyra Sophie Wilhemseder for SF1OG’s show this season, and this was the label’s third runway.

Inspired by Dahl’s East German school days while inviting current day contemplation, their collection is also concerned with the past. They created ‘exciting textures through repurposing linen from the 18th and 19th century, leather and other materials,’ all set in a school gymnasium, thereby using a ‘multigenerational perspective’ and inviting the audience to question how the past can commingle with the present through their collection’s creations.

It’s all about the joy of the journey for Sia Arnika, a Berlin-based Danish designer. Arnika credits the silent era film star Asta Nielsen, a Danish artist who moved to Berlin around 1910, as a major source of inspiration, finding parallels in their journeys despite the centuries that separate them.

Arnika explained, ‘she was also very mundane.’ This seeming contradiction of ‘different kinds of opposing forces’ is what she uses to fuel her collection’s universe of duality. From sound and light, to fabric and shoes— this is a place Arnika is very proud to have meticulously curated, ‘where we have everything working out perfectly.’

While working with a team she trusts, it always came back to her love of the craft: ‘You learn every day, you don’t know where you’ll go, and it is about the journey. I love the textile I have in my hand.’ When asked about creating in a world so filled with chaos, she said: ‘We want to look at beautiful things; you wanna say “good”; you wanna think that you have some sort of community as well—that thing kind of gives you, somehow, power.’ And the power of collaboration in Berlin is not lost on her either. She worked with London and Shanghai based label Untitlab to create shoes, completing the collection’s look and augmenting her brand’s vision.

Annika Tibando, Vancouver born and NYC established, recently launched International Citizen in Berlin, a place where she believes fashion is ‘going through another emergence.’ Citing her intuition, this she believed was her home for the company.

And it is here, amongst the BFW buzz that her first pop-up occurred, housed in RDV’s permanent Mitte residence until the 17th of February. Not having been in the running for any award (yet?), International Citizen is the result of a ‘personal life pivot’ that landed the ‘universally identifying, sustainable luxury brand’ where it was always ‘destined’ to be.

The label’s ‘DNA is rooted in sustainability through mindful design,’ whereby Tibando ‘weaves energetic modalities like incorporating chakra crystals and colours into minimalistic, cleverly cut, and sensually curious clothing.’ While many of the styles are intended for all genders, ‘the styles are built on the female form.’

Tibando infuses ‘spiritual modalities into the clothing designs and company practice.’ Choosing crystals that will both be hidden or exposed in the clothing, they ‘resonate with the 7-Chakras.’ Sacred geometry such as cubes and prisms are also inspirations for ‘many clothing silhouettes that take their literal form…while the prices of the clothing are considered with the understanding of numerology.’


The eponymous French designer Lou de Bètoly works on one show a year. With artisanship and upcycling at the heart of her Berlin-based label, she started this collection last April, taking her time so she can ‘feel really happy and enjoy the process.’

Among her striking uses of sustainable fabrics, she made a wool skirt suit of dog hair called Chiengora via a German based company. The leather incorporated in this collection was recycled, and she explained, ‘we also made our own fabrics with a weaving loom.’

She works on the mannequin mostly, since the materials are ‘so fragile,’ admitting that this detail and fragility is in itself ‘a weird statement, to do this crazy work on stockings.’ With a mix of time-consuming techniques, such as embroidery and crochet, she adds that ‘the more you go into details, the more you’re like, oh, let’s do it even more fine[ly].’

For her, the realities of BFW mean it cannot aim to compete with major epicentres such as Paris or Milan. Instead, she says, ‘it should have this vibe of new, fresh, ‘cause I think it’s more what it stands for. And there are so many creatives in Berlin that are not even in fashion…I think it would be nice for BFW [to] show this creative scene that is existing already.’

Namilia is the epitome of BFW subculture; this gender fluid focused brand oozes inclusivity and diversity with their fashion fit for the Berlin club scene.

Founded in 2015 by Nan Li and Emilia Pfohl, ‘the Techno Fashion Label’ once again places worthwhile importance on sex-positivity and body-positivity. This collection is called Pfoten Weg, which Nan Li explained means ‘paws off/don’t touch,’ adding ‘[it’s] like, I wanna hide, but I also wanna be super sexy and provocative.’

The collection uses ‘really strong characters’ to reflect the ‘super diverse and gender fluid’ state of Berlin, where ‘people are coming from everywhere.’ And with these characters, the collection comes to life, highlighting the intersections of self-expression and concomitant concerns about safety in public spaces.

Namilia also reported that while they had been showing in New York the past few years, they’re very pleased to be home in Berlin.

With a decade under their belt, the duo sought to mark Richert Beil’s ten year anniversary with a reflection of not just their prior collections but also their heritage.

The diverse and inclusive collection is aptly named “Nachlass,”, or Heritage in translation, and it asks some sentimental questions: ‘What is like in a family, what is passed down by your grandmother? What is also passed down by fashion heritage in Germany?’ The word Nachlass elucidates their concept best, but Richert and Beil describe it as what is left after you’ve died, or ‘what’s your footprint?’

Using four elderly women as models—some over 80 years old and mostly from streetcasting—the designers are also concerned with connection. For them, bringing generations together was another pivotal concept not only for the collection and throughout its process, but as larger inspiration.

They wanted to ‘create a world,’ or a ‘surrounding, where all these people exist together, and live in an inclusive world, and make connection points also with each other and see that they might have something in common, or that they can learn from each other.’

Jale Richert went on to explain how taking Berlin as a basis, a place where ‘we have so many different cultures, different types of people, and we can live all together,’ shows why developing an inclusive collection is so important.

A pillar of the scene, Berlin based label William Fan’s first time at BFW was in 2015. Meanwhile, this is his 18th show, now featuring the “Off Duty” collection: ‘relaxed, casual, like, really chic airport elegance.’ Fan curates such quiet luxury, even down to the sound; ‘it’s my playlist,’ he admits.

Tobias Sagner, who is Hairstylist Lead for the runway show of William Fan, applauded how international their team was and how their 33 models, some of whom were streetcast, were also ‘very diverse.’ He said he really loved the concept of the show, from the ‘very rich fabrics’ to the culture and beauty.

Fan discussed how BFW ‘became smaller, then it became bigger, then [went] back to small again,’ and here we are at this new expanded point. Asserting, ‘it’s healthy to grow slowly and stead[ily] and have…real contact, he went on to recognise how Berlin gave him ‘so much platform’ and feels ‘it’s nice to have [a] real network’ and ‘a lot of support here.’

After expressing how the German and Berlin fashion scene are so important to him, Fan concluded: ‘It feels good that there’s a new generation which is growing up…and so many new people came.’

Founding his label in 2017, Danny Reinke had his first runway with BFW at Mercedes-Benz. With an affinity for artisanship, they ensure ‘every piece of clothing, every detail is carefully handcrafted in the Berlin studio.’ Collaborating with Hannah Kaplan, textile designer, for the first time even allowed for the creation of ‘unique garments refined with gold leaf.’

Reinke explained: ‘As the son of a fisherman, I grew up in a small fishing village on the Stettiner Haff and learned from an early age how important sustainable craftsmanship is.’ Which is why he wants to both ‘preserve and promote it as a fashion label’ that is ‘durable, high quality, and produced to the highest standards: perfectionism throughout—even to the smallest detail.’

He also spoke of how Berlin—far different than the village of his label’s inspirations—still continues to inspire him. As an ‘infinitely diverse city that never stands still,’ he finds ‘this energy is a constant source of inspiration.’ Tracing the constant evolutions through fashion, music, art, and museums, ‘the great cultural offer’ of Berlin ‘influences and shapes’ him.


While many of the labels and designers interviewed recognised how much 25,000 euros helped them to realise their concept, even those who were not recipients of the Berlin Contemporary grant this year could see how pivotal it is that BFW is giving access to a larger audience.

Berlin Fashion is about creativity, diversity, inclusivity, and high quality—all while situating itself as a trailblazer. And while the Art scene in this city impacts those who call it home, it is clear that the Fashion is deeply inspired and reflected back to it. Along with last week’s displays of dynamic talent, ingenuity, and fearlessness, the sought after sustainability and international recognition that Berlin Fashion is looking for seem within reach. Indeed, a bright future has been sparked.

creative direction CHARLOTTE GINDREAU
photography ISOTTA ACQUATI
content creator CHARLOTTE MARIE POST