Berlin in the 1920s is as much a state of mind as a place in time: creative, experimental, excessive, decadent, with the Nazi era on the horizon to add an edge of inescapable doom to the entire Weimar enterprise. Robert Geller has touched on this shadowy sensibility often in his work, but tonight he claimed direct inspiration, particularly from the mood of the movies that were produced in Berlin at the time.
There were pieces named for the director Fritz Lang and his expressionist masterpiece Metropolis. The hats were called after Conrad Veidt, whose performance in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was a high point in expressionist movie-making. And all the horizontal striping evoked the lighting effects of those old films. But curiously, the black and white angularity that was such a characteristic of expressionism was much less apparent here than it has been in Geller collections in the past. In fact, it was less decadent Berliners than the earnest, dignified country folk in the photographs of August Sander (a Lang contemporary) that Geller's design brought to mind. The way clothes were layered, the way everything was neatly tucked in tight, the sturdy fabrics and chunky knits in shades of gray, mulberry, and violet, and the center-parted solemnity of the models combined to create an impression of dressed-up country boys. So did a long plaid shirt knotted under a tweed jacket, or the shorts over knit leggings (this particular look is something of a Geller trope, though here it read more rustic Teuton than goth bike messenger).
To Geller's credit, he did develop his narrative to the point where black leather pieces injected a sinister bully-boy subtext into his Weimar idyll.