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Fashion

Berlin Fashion Week big on bizarre, not on business

You'll spot a humongous cat at Berlin Fashion Week, or some snobby spectators, but you'll be hard pressed to find hotshot labels and true interest in clothes. DW's Susan Stone searched high and low for good taste.

I've made it to the half-way mark of Berlin Fashion Week, and I'm not sure quite what I've seen.

Wait, scratch that. I've seen a giant cat in the front row and popping up at parties - delighting passersby and paparazzi alike.

A woman in a cat costume is sitting in the front row at the Lena Hoschek fashion show at Berlin Fashion Week, January 2014, Photo: DW / S. Stone

Marketing gag or commentary?

In reality, it's a rather tall woman wearing a white feline head, but I prefer to consider the cat an arch commentary on the increasing presence of celebrities at fashion shows - posing, preening, getting their photos taken, and ultimately distracting from the reason we're all here: the clothes.

Then again, the rumor is that the cat is an agent of trendy fashion magazine Tush, so perhaps it's just a purring marketing stunt.

Bye-bye big names

In truth, the real big cats are conspicuously absent from the scene again this season: Hugo Boss, Escada, Rena Lange, Basler. Even the Fashion Week VIP lounge, often filled to the brim with champagne-guzzling D-list German celebrities, seems a bit empty.

More importantly, some of our prize-winning pets are also hibernating. Local talents Michael Sontag, Sissi Goetze, Issever Bahri, Don't Shoot the Messengers, Antonia Goy, and Mongrels in Common are all missing in action. Lack of support, lack of money, and lack of interest from retailers seems to be making things tough for the locals.

These small designers simply can't get placed in German stores, and without sales and name recognition, they just can't afford the several-thousand-euro investment required to participate in a fashion show.

Cheers to a decade of tough business

On the High Street side of things, love is in the air. It seems like global chains are opening monthly - and Berlin has three new malls in the works. Two of the hottest events this week were hosted by out-of-towners: Uniqlo's warm-up party, and Topshop/Topman's joint basement bash both had way more more attention and attendees than presentations from some of the city's hometown creatives.

One Berlin designer with nine lives - or 10, really - is Esther Perbandt. On Wednesday night, Perbandt celebrated a decade in the business with an artistic show on the stage of the Volksbühne Theater.

An experimental choir vocalized unearthly tones that were mixed live by a sound artist, while a contemporary dancer writhed expressively. The fashion show itself was fun and raucous, with the audience cheering on the models, many of whom were actors from the theater and artists Perbandt has previously worked with.

Gray-haired men and determined average-height women seemed to truly enjoy strutting in Perbandt's deconstructed menswear-inspired styles, which included a three-piece jumpsuit and jackets with zip-off sleeves.

Designer Esther Perbandt at Berlin Fashion Week, January 2014, Photo: Timur Emek/Getty Images for IMG

Esther Perbandt chose not to work with supermodels at this year's show

I took a friend with me who is a visitor to this strange fashion landscape. After Perbandt's show, she was pleased and delighted with what she'd seen and commented that she wasn't intimidated by the crowd.

Unlike the snobby spectators found at many of the shows, this audience was artsy and seemed genuinely pleased to be there supporting Perbandt and her work.

What a relief to get a tiny taste of fun while staying focused on fashion. And that's what Berlin Fashion Week should be about - at least some of the time, before we get back to business.

DW.DE

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