Travelogue: Where’s the German Fashion Scene At?

A model shows off an outfit from Lena Hoschek’s autumn/winter 2014 collection during the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Berlin - Markus Schreiber/AP

Being an EU state, I had solid preconceived notions about Germany before I had arrived. I had assumed it to have popular fashion streets and people in hot-off-the-runway ensembles, with their unique ‘German’ flair to it (though I had no idea what that meant).

Contrary to my ideas, Germany was rather a plain Jane. I barely saw colour in Frankfurt and Cologne, and saw more skin than clothes in Hamburg. Berlin, being a quintessential tourist destination, had frequent fashion moments but nothing very ‘German’.

You know how you can spot a French girl when she adorns a sophisticated monochromatic dress, with an edge so subtle it might go unnoticed by an amateur eye. Or how a New Yorker wouldn’t be afraid of pairing mustard and scarlet red, and strutting the streets like they own the world. Or a Pakistani with her carefully picked and striped trends from France and NY runways. How do Germans define their style sense? How do you spot one?

When it comes to Germany, it is quite impossible to place them on the fashion map. Its mind boggling as this country has wealth and has advanced remarkably in a number of fields; then why have the men and women of this region chosen to ignore the vivacity and frivolous lifestyle of a fashionista?

Just when I was trying to process these questions in my head, I came across an eloquent piece of writing on BoF by Kate Abnett. In an objective and reasonable manner, she explores why Germany isn’t a bigger fashion player.

Abnett states the current situation, highlighting an average German’s choices. They naturally incline towards basics and to an extent, conservative fashion choices. “That might be due to its Prussian work and life ethic and a general hesitation to show off,” said Adriano Sack, style editor at German Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

She thinks the reason is rooted in their history, with Nazis takeover and disintegration of the country during last two centuries. “Before coming into power in 1933, Berlin indeed was one of the major fashion capitals in the world. Its wild decadent nightlife was the international stage for the fashion extravaganzas of the time and even had a German Vogue edition for a short period in the late twenties,” said Kai Margrander, fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar Germany. But with constant upheaval, divide of wealth and power, and difference in reign that created irreconcilable differences, Germany got pulled into too many directions at the same time. And sadly lost it forte.


The country is home to many renowned labels, including Hugo Boss, Escada, Jil Sander, Adidas and Puma. Fast-fashion behemoth H&M counts the country as its biggest market. German cities are brimming with fashion businesses, where Berlin is home to 3,670 and Munich to 2670. Moreover, giants like Karl Lagerfeld are also of German origins (though are now more French than Germans). In lieu the growth and availability of talent, the country lacks behind.

“[Germany’s] attractiveness for exceptional fashion talents — not only designers, but also fashion photographers for example — is not very high and they tend to leave the country for a more inspiring environment like Paris, London or New York to gain international success,” said Margrander, citing Karl Lagerfeld, Bottega Veneta creative director Tomas Maier and photographer Jürgen Teller as examples of this. It is not recommended being a fashion designer in Germany at the moment, but there may be more of a market in the future. If you are looking to move over to this area of Europe, is a great place to start and learn the language for when you start travelling.

Moreover, home grown brands have decamped in recent times, preferring international stage to local scene, leaving the situation dire. But not all is lost.

There seems to be a new, albeit sluggish, wave of fashion revolution on the horizon. More and more designers are daring to establish themselves within Germany, while the media is trying to find their dictative voice. Online media is catching up and international influence is seeping into the stream. Though there will be no overnight miracles here. It will take a considerate amount of time for Germany to catch up with its neighbouring states on the fashion front.

Having said that, on a final note, I’d like to say that this kind of lacklustre fashion scene is not as bad as it sounds. There is an old school charm to it, a laid back love affair. There is no pressure and you can feel the strength of the society on the whole. It feels solid, and timeless. Like they have got their priorities right. Being a fashion blogger, it is probably criminal of me to say this but that’s exactly how I felt.

P.S. I didn’t spot a SINGLE selfie stick there. Or the mad obsession with pictures. Or Instagram. Imagine that!

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