Lucky Number Thirteen – Kombinat Kollektionen

KombinatKollektionen designers © st.weicken

“We were at the University’s open day fashion show when it occurred to us,” says Simone Klimmeck. “Their show was quite improvised and quick, but we wanted to do something bigger, more professional.” 

If this statement of self-differentiation sounds like the best kind of youthful idealism, that’s probably because it is. Thirteen of the HTW’s fashion students, including Klimmeck, chose not to hold their graduate show at the same time as their peers, but instead to host their own show at former supermarket, HO Berlin, last Friday, to create a more unique, professional experience in which to showcase their work.

And, yes, though the show is an hour late, the work is worth it. Klimmeck’s collection, in partnership with Viktoria Klostermann draws on the growing pains of teenagehood, as the models seem to literally grow into an oversized moody streetwear-influenced collection, buttons snapped on and pockets dug in everywhere. Richard Liewald’s “shy masculine touch” for his graphic collection looks perhaps the most wearable, with a customer-friendly focus on sporty tailoring. Prints are noticeably absent throughout, although Julia Dorn’s kaleidoscopic trousers add an eyecatching moment to her collection of textured layers of mismatching lengths – a feature that seems to be particularly popular across the whole collective’s work. 

Elisabeth Cholewa’s collection of textile experiments in shades of cream stands out, with its wet tissue paper dress and holepunched plastic jackets. Buki Akomolafe, meanwhile, made a welcome break into bright colour in the form of royal blue satin headwraps, taking inspiration from her nomadic childhood between Nigeria and Germany, bringing these histories into a time-sensitive patchwork of inspirations through the language of menswear.

But will this talent remain in Berlin, or even Germany? Probably not. The city has a reputation of being the incubator for a lot of creative talent, without the infrastructure of funding and leadership to hold onto it. It’s noticeable that the event’s press release cites Givenchy, Acne and Celine as the collective’s hoped-for future employers (ambition is clearly one thing they all have in common). Klimmeck downplays the significance of these distinctly un-German designers in one breath (“Those could have been other designers’ names there”) but in the next confirms it: “Most of us love Berlin, but German fashion design is really just not happening for us. Even Vladimir Karaleev [who DJs the afterparty for the show] isn’t as well known in Germany as he is internationally.” 

Though one of the designers, Elisabeth Cholewa, interned with Karaleev, many others have worked with international brands, hence their dispersal from the German capital. Essentially, though, this only strengthens the idea behind the collective – as they are showing together in Berlin for one night only. “I like the idea of doing something ephemeral that dies when it’s at its highest peak, something temporary but beautiful,” Klimmeck adds.

Perhaps what is most significant about these thirteen is their initiative to create a brand for themselves, even if it’s as part of a group, differentiating them from the crowd. In the hostile international job market they’re launching themselves into, this may be the most important step they have learned to take.

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