Being a fashion-icon like Paul Smith is never easy, especially when dozens of pushy journalist storm the backstage area right after the show. Luckily, the designer is a very well-tempered gentleman and answers all questions with an enviable serenity, which is something he might have learned in his 30-years’ designing experience. He is to menswear what Vivienne Westwood is to womenswear: a pre-eminent British designer with a strong mind and attitude regarding his work. “There is no theme to the menswear collection at all, there is no reference to a certain music, art, star or anything. I just wanted to add something to our existing wardrobes, to make you buy a jacket that fits to what you’ve got! And I especially want to make people smile!
This I why I danced on the catwalk with my models during the finale. There is so much trauma in the world, so I just wanted to be positive”, he explained to sleek. Indeed, the outfits where pretty energizing. Skinny pants, but also bigger shapes, were introduced to pleats; preppy cardigans and knitwear added some softness to the very urban collection. Timeless primary colors are making a joyful statement. Here and there, some more fashionable shades are added like terracotta or taupe. “I just did the outfits for the show, in real life you would never wear them together”, adds Paul Smith cheekily before getting back to his staff. Hurray to British longevity!
Through variation and repetition, Bonnie Begusch investigates how information can be lost, obstructed or recombined to construct a message. She uses video, photography and text to explore the process of perception. In Means and Ends, an endless array of exclamation marks, semicolons, slashes, and other signs are displayed against a white background. The camera constantly shifts up and down along the sheets of paper, creating a sense of disorientation that stands in contrast to the punctuation marks’ purpose, which is to give regulatory cues for logical text processing. Using imaging techniques that have their roots in radical abstraction and experimental film, Begusch creates representational systems to explore how meaning materializes within prescribed boundaries. In a practice that recalls McLuhanian communication systems, she puts the transmission of data at the centre of her work, in order to focus on the processing of the content by the recipient.
Johannes Paul Raether is a German artist, and we don’t mean this only in the narrow sense of the word. His work – with titles impossible to translate from the German – scrutinizes symbols of German national identity and other quintessentially German phenomena. Special attention is given to authorities and bureaucratic absurdities. Which is not to say that his rehashing of these themes is not universal. In fact, Raether may be regarded as a cultural delegate of sorts, refracting aspects of German society through his very specific lens. His polemics call forth the political satire of German agitprop theatre and the absurdist rage of Christoph Schlingensief, but these are veiled in the naiveté of the fantastical multicolored, full-body costumes he makes for his performances, complete with impressively impasto facial foundation in the brightest colours imaginable.
Having worked in business administration before turning to art, Ignacio Uriarte appropriates standard digital and non-digital technology used in today’s office environments for his artistic production. His work should not to be misread as a critique of the monotonous structures typical of a nine-to-five environment, but as a critique of how people moving within these structures perceive and deal with them. Bringing out and celebrating the beauty inherent in such mundane things as a rolled up sheet of paper, Uriarte proves that dullness is not in the nature of ring-binders but in the office worker’s attitude towards them. This is not to say that any pen pusher could transform their workspace into something resembling an Uriarte exhibition simply by changing their attitude – but taking inspiration from the artist’s sense of humour would certainly make office life more entertaining.
Take one commercial space, add artist/DJ/designer collective Sleep is Commercial and Italian fashion designer Livio Graziottin, have them industrially decorate the place, and what do you get? Concept store Pastpresent, where collections by Sleep is Commercial and Graziottin’s label 24-7 are displayed alongside the choicest vintage cuts handpicked by Graziottin over 20 years, all arranged to fire your foraging hormones. Semi-global it may be, but according to the tags all the items have been ‘Dreamed in Berlin’.
Pastpresent, Köpenicker Straße 96. Mon-Sat 12-8pm, Sun 3-8pm.
One of the last vacant lots on what in spite of its enduring grimness is about to become Berlin’s hottest street, Torstraße, was recently filled with a structure that is an architectural delight and the shell for a store concept which really put smiles on our faces. Conceived by fashion designer Mischa Woeste and erected by architects Fingerle&Woeste, the store features an eclectic mix of brands many of which were previously unavailable in Berlin, such as Meadham Kirchhoff and – no joke – Topshop.
We were gutted when Bless closed their store on Mulackstraße, but when we heard that the Bless universe had expanded to fill an entire apartment, all was right again with the world. Tucked away on the third floor of a residential building, the Bless home is an invitation to indulge in a prolonged snooping experience; the imaginary owner of the apartment is an avid Bless collector, and you can not only check out their furniture, but drink their tea, read their books and even relax in their hammock.
BLESS SHOP BERLIN, Oderberger Straße 60, back house, 3rd floor. Thu 4-8 pm and by appointment.
You know it’s time for Berlin’s Fashion Week when you spot Yann le Goec walking around Mitte in his multicolored getups. Born in France le Goec is the buyer and manager of WUT Berlin, the Tokyo boutique centered on Berlin’s creative output. Skeptical at first, le Goec came here with the notion that Berlin was not a fashion city. “When I was first sent here by my company to report on Berlin I said it would be a waste of time, that fashion here is so 90s.” But when he met some local designers and saw the immense potential the idea for WUT was born. “I was reading a French translation of a German novel on the flight back and the word ‘Wut’ kept turning up. It was written in German with a note from the translator that explained how ‘Wut’ couldn’t be sufficiently expressed in French. And I thought to myself that designers in Berlin must have a lot of ‘Wut’, a productive, creative rage to continue producing here considering how little support they receive.” Now that fast fashion has hit Japan and H&M is bigger than Burberry, Tokyoites only spend money on designer clothes if they can’t get something similar anywhere else. “I look for people like Vladimir Karaleev who are doing something really different.” His favorite thing about Berlin? The never-ending “Frühstück” or breakfast. What annoys him? “The organization of the Fashion Week. Unless they change something fast, I don’t think it has any future.”
Equipped with a mix of Austro-Italian and Belgian-Peruvian DNA, designers Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos have managed to fillip their young label Peter Pilotto towards critical acclaim and an impressive sales graph, against all economic odds in a period marked by a financial crisis. Their signature designs unite otherworldly prints with soft, sculptural shapes and keep evolving from one collection to the next.
They have come to Berlin for one night only to present an installation at an exhibition involving Mercedes-Benz cars and curated by the Antwerp fashion museum MoMu. Though they haven’t been here in over seven years, their impression of the city is pretty spot-on: “It’s an exciting city that relates to youth,” says De Vos, “It seems as if you’re young and cool and naughty, you have to be in Berlin.” Pilotto adds: “In London, everybody considers moving to Berlin. In that sense it must be quite exciting, how the city is becoming more international. A place that only has locals is boring. But in terms of fashion, we belong in London.” They both agree that the Berlin design scene is too casual for their high fashion range.
As for the design process, creative decisions are made together. “I won’t say there are no fights, though,” De Vos says with a smile. “But communication is very important,” Pilotto adds. “The business is growing and we have to be careful to take the right steps.”
Paris-born, New York-based conceptual artist Cyril Duval, often operating under the moniker Item Idem, works at the intersection of conceptual art, product design, branding and retail. He has collaborated with an impressive roster of edgy names, from Bernhard Willhelm to Colette and, recently in Berlin, for filmmaker and reluctant pornographer Bruce LaBruce, on the art direction for the opera Pierrot Lunaire. The musical melodrama is based on the arrangements Schönberg composed to poems by Albert Giraud about a century ago. LaBruce transforms the Commedia dell’Arte figure of the moonstruck weirdo, Pierrot, into a contemporary gender-bending tragedy à la Boys Don’t Cry. “The stage design is a strong reference to German expressionism and especially Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau, only more druggy,” explains Duval. “I call it Merzbau on steroids.” Duval believes that the show could have only materialized in Berlin: “You never get public funding for an experimental piece like that in New York. Especially not with a castration scene…You’ve got to love Berlin for that.”
While here, Duval stayed at the new Bless apartment, which he also had a hand in designing. “I ended up co-designing the shop and having the best place to live. There’s this table where you press a button and it rotates to become a bed.” He’ll be back very soon for a window project at the Galleries Lafayette during Gallery Weekend. “Berlin has been very good for me,” he says. We can’t get enough.
Gaspard Yurkievich launched his first women’s collection in 1998, after winning the Festival de Hyères in 1997. The French designer quickly became the name of choice for fashion forward men and women who appreciate his urban collections with the Parisian touch. His lines now include menswear, accessories, and his ever so popular shoes. We caught up with Yurkievich during a quick stop in Berlin upon an invitation by the fashion school ESMOD.
sleek: What was your incentive for sitting in the jury for a graduation show? Gaspard Yurkievich: I was invited to be the president of the jury. It was very flattering, of course, to be “the president.” But seriously now, I’m getting older, and as a designer, it’s interesting for me to see what the younger generation is following, what are their influences. Being on the jury for a graduation show is like taking a snapshot of that generation.
sleek: And what do the snapshots show you? GY: First of all, the technical level of the students is astonishingly high. The schools is really getting behind and pushing them. I was teaching for three years at the Arts décoratifs and let me tell you, as a teacher you can get very involved, it’s intense. Another thing is that there’s a certain loss of innocence. It’s like the time we live in doesn’t allow the students to be naïve anymore.
sleek: Isn’t that what every generation says about the next one? GY: Not at all, I’m not saying that everything was better back then. I wish I had all the possibilities of the internet when I was a student and the social networks when I was starting out.
sleek: As an established, or in your words ‘older’ designer, what advice would you give aspiring, young ones? GY: Fashion is really a cross-over between industry and creativity. I think I have nothing to tell them, because they seem to be very aware of it these days. They know they need to be marketable. It’s not better or worse than the way things were for my generation, it’s just the snapshot of the now.