In Berlin, The Catwalk’s Just One More Gallery Space-------
At Berlin’s Fall ’12 fashion week, just wrapped in the German capital, the city’s status as a European art hub was front and center. It was no accident that the largest hometown brand, HUGO, chose the Old Masters’ Museum as the venue to host its star-studded runway show and party, inspired by “surreal nostalgia” and “theater,” and incorporating recent runway trends like Art Deco graphicism and bodycon cuts inspired by athletic wear. And heat was generated by the young design talents who the city has been incubating. On the less-established front, a handful of Berlin’s “ones to watch” ripened this season with strong shows demonstrating the maturity of their concepts and skills. The best collections embodied the gritty “considered chaos” aesthetic which artists Jonathan Messe, Zhivago Duncan (Michael Milchasky’s collaborator this season) and Kirstine Roepstorff have made into Berlin’s signature creative style.
Along with the sleek sexuality of artists’ favorite DSTM (Don’t Shoot the Messengers), Juliaandben are Berlin’s best bridge between fashion and art. Designer Ben Klunker owned a gallery before he decided to devote himself completely to his collaboration with Julia Heuse. Their tie-dyed pieces used the old bathtub-dyeing technique favored by hippies and adolescents to create a fresh form of city-chic: leggings and dresses that look grungy but are gracefully cut. You could see them slinking off the presentation stage into Berlin’s studios, cafés, openings, and gritty after-opening bars.
Equally expressive of Berlin’s art scene is Vladimir Karaleev’s polished collection of black and Yves Klein-blue draped dresses and coats, in layers of worsted wool, mohair, silk and cotton. The Bulgarian-born Berliner debuted in 2007 when his show culminated in a gown made of twenty interlocking T-shirt fabrics hand-stitched, braided and tied together. Since then, his hand-sewn, abstractly attached and intentionally ragged clothes have inspired appreciation for his aesthetic but not sufficient confidence in their craftsmanship. This time, his collection gracefully balanced reassuring core construction with de-constructed details, in which elegant subtle black leather, artfully interwoven blue mohair and yellows, oranges and tans highlighted well-assembled stitching.