2020, it seems, is a year of great change in the fashion industry and especially for its fashion shows. Designers all over the world raised their voice to reform the over-heated fashion schedule. It began with calls for a rethink of the increasingly faster getting show cycle and the exploration of digital formats. But now, one fashion week chose to use the COVID-19 crisis as a good time to change completely: in a surprise announcement on June 8th, the organizers of Berlin Fashion Week announced on Monday that the event will now take place in the city of Frankfurt starting next year, FAZ reported. Yes, you read that correctly. Frankfurt Fashion Week will premiere in Summer 2021, per event organizers Premium Group.
From Berlin to Hesse in one day
“This will transform the financial center of Frankfurt into a new hotspot for the international fashion and lifestyle scene and create a new, international fashion metropolis,” Frankfurt Mayor Peter Feldmann said in a statement. Since 2007, Germany’s major Fashion Week has taken place twice a year in Berlin. The most recent event in January drew around 70,000 visitors and dozens of designers to the German capital and raised more than 200 Mio. EUR. Berlin has long held the crown as Germany’s fashion hub, making the decision change locations to Frankfurt a surprising if not confusing move. Cries for a re-assertion of the Berlin Fashion Week are already starting to arise.
What happens to Berlin now?
According to Marcus Kurz, managing director of the creative agency Nowadays, which organizes the show format Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin, the next edition of MBFW Berlin will happen in January 2021, once again at the Kraftwerk in Berlin-Mitte (next to Tresor). Ramona Pop, Berlin’s Senator for Economics, Energy and Business, also supports Berlin as a fashion week location: “Berlin Fashion Week will continue to take place. The MBFW as a successful marketing platform is planned for the next time in January 2021. Without the fairs, the fashion shows can be held at a later date, which does not overlap with the fashion shows in Paris, from summer 2021.”
Why is Germany not a fashion giant?
But for many people in the industry, the apparent failure of Berlin comes to no (big) surprise. Germany is Europe’s biggest fashion spender, its largest national economy and its biggest consumer of clothes, according to Euromonitor. Still, the country always remained punching below its weight concerning Berlin Fashion Week. The overlap with Paris was just one of the problems. In a country home to relatively few major fashion brands — save for Adidas, Puma and Hugo Boss, Jil Sander and Escada — Berlin alone has over 2,500 fashion businesses, many born from its renegade creative scene. And yet the city’s most noteworthy labels — including GmbH, Ottolinger or 032c— all look to more established cities like Milan, Florence or Paris to show and make their name.
What Berlin is doing “wrong”
BoF quoted Jessica Hannan, fashion director of Sleek, a Berlin-based art and style title:
„The trouble is that Berlin has a too-cool-for-school mentality and an unhealthy fetish for failure. Berlin is a brand and everyone thinks it’s cooler than it is. Berlin capitalises on its own brand and everyone thinks they know what it is, but the truth is that people come here and never leave the perimeters of Soho House — or Berliners are embarrassed to be in fashion because they want to be artists. The reality is that the German market is much more conservative than what people perceive to be quintessential Berlin.”
The times of 1920s and early 1930s Berlin, when it formed one of Europe’s fashion capitals with its industry centred around Hausvogteiplatz, even with a German Vogue and a lustre rivalling Paris seem truly far away.
What we heard from friends and acquaintances in this city, is that being a creative person in Berlin can go one of two ways. Many lose themselves in the maelstrom of an incredible nightlife scene, still cheap-ish rents and a haze of drugs and alcohol. Berlin puts less pressure on people to earn big money and many people choose the city precisely because of it giving one space to just be an artist. There is practically no pressure, completely on the contrary to Paris or London, where creatives struggle to survive, making it or going under. Others get out of this atmosphere’s pull and learn to combine the unique creative atmosphere and the oft-quoted “German work ethic”.
A call to action
But maybe the virus forced pause and Neonyt and Premium’s exit for Frankfurt is a wake up call for both state and industry. The city is still quite well known for its art scene, with Gallery Weekend etc. Johann Koenig, famous gallerist, is set to host his first “Messe in St. Agnes”. But for a city so rich in creative energy, losing the Fashion Week to “Mainhattan” is a certificate of incapacity. We, at least, hope that this city will get its act together and start realizing its immense potential. Frankfurt cannot be the figurehead of German fashion. The state failed to properly support the Fashion Week in Berlin before, this may indeed be the last chance for the Berlin fashion dream.
Berlin, it’s time to retake your crown.
Image: Photo by Michael Jin on Unsplash