Berlin Fashion Week Thoughts by Harry Leath

words and images by Harry Leath

‘He who doesn’t take risks, doesn’t drink champagne’ or, as was the case on Friday, Marina Hoermanseder branded fruit juice. The man responsible for that quote did, however, die prematurely in a helicopter accident proving that risk takers sometimes don’t even make it to the wine bar. As the rain was falling in biblical measure half an hour before her show, Marina Hoermanseder must have been asking herself whether her decision to show her new collection in the unfinished and uncovered Humboldt Forum would be her helicopter crash moment.

Over at Kaufhaus Jandorf, the former home to the GDR Fashion Institute, the cream of Germany’s fashion world pored over another impressive display of “deutsche Mode”. Atelier About’s critique of censorship, the elegant conservatism of Michael Sontag, Lena Hoschek’s passionate celebration of feminine beauty, the fluorescent gym wear of Odeur and Ioana Ciolacu’s Bauhaus inspired collection were some of the highlights.

I’m always enthralled by the collections of Lena Hoschek at Berlin Fashion Week; the incongruity of the Austrian Dirndl alongside the aggressive gender neutrality of Atelier About’s output or the asymmetrical patch-work feel of Vladimir Karaleev’s designs was comforting and exhilarating. Watching the magnificent embroidered dresses glide down the runway after sitting through Atelier About’s display of non-specific political activism was akin to eating a hearty English breakfast lovingly prepared by mum after having to drink a celery and kale smoothie mixed by the vegan aunt.



On the verge of becoming a mother herself, Lena and her unborn child were bound by doctor’s orders to keep out of Germany for this one. Her presence was felt by the way of a large portrait which was carried to the end of the catwalk, showing all broody women how beautiful they could look in a Hoschek dress even after nine months of pregnancy – a practicality overlooked by the eager-to-shock unisex brands with their constricting shapes and inflexible materials.

Practicality is perhaps a word you might associate with Germany’s Bauhaus art movement, famous for balancing form and functionality. You can therefore imagine my surprise upon learning in the post-show interview that Ioana Ciolacu’s collection had been inspired by the Bauhaus group. Rather than focus on its defining features, Ioana instead puts the unsung female heroes of the Bauhaus movement at the heart of the collection and pays beautiful tribute to their Weimarian style with pleated skirts, delicate gowns and bold prints.



My final event of the week was the Hoermanseder showcase. It wasn’t until twenty minutes prior to the show that the rain relented and the clouds parted. Marina and her team were left with a queue of damp guests and a flooded construction site to drain but the timing couldn’t have been better. The excitement caused by the storm elevated the mood of the audience and the sodden catwalk intensified the drama of the show. This season we saw a human-sized leather matryoshka doll amongst her recognisable buckles, straps and flowers; adding further confusion to what it is all supposed to mean. Orthopaedic straps, sadomasochism and the babushka doll is a combination which leaves me wondering if I should think more or think less. Either way, her popularity continues to soar and her risks continue to pay off.

Almost one hundred years ago the deaths of four of the main protagonists of Viennese Modernism, Klimt, Moser, Wagner and Schiele, left a hole in the art scene of Central Europe. And next year will be as good a time as any to reflect on the impact Viennese culture has had on the world. The Austrian capital certainly left its footprint on Berlin last week, in the form of the Hoermanseder Buckle and the Hoschek Dirndl; both designers hailing from Vienna and both embodying that Viennese creativity and courage which has resulted in so much magnificent art over the years. Perhaps 2018 will see a new Lena after she has become a mother and perhaps Marina will source an even more outrageous venue for her winter show: I remain on the edge of my seat in eager anticipation.