To BErlin or not to BErlin?

It is considered to be the gay metropolis of the world. It represented a pioneer force of the movement for homosexual rights, especially when in 1897 Magnus Hirschfelf established Scientific Humanitarian Committee, the first group for representation of gay rights. Gay scene developed quicky in the 1920s when Berlin opened its doors to artists, actors and creative people from all aspects of life. It was the city where it was completely normal to be free. In such atmosphere, logically, fashion scene started to develop alongside. Berlin fashion scene was always known by its bravery and unity.

Gender fuidity is in the heart of Berlin style, its ethos and history. Unisex clothing, cross-dressing and celebration of androginy dominates Berlin’s fashion studios and the streets of this unique city. The idea of unisex fashion is not a Berlin invention, it is not new and neither is a trend where men and women reclaim traditional gender codes from each other. However, one of the main tendencies of Berlin fashion is introduction of clothing that ignores tradional gender forms. This step ahead gender-neutral clothing does not aim to erase the existance of gender but to loosen up the grips and arbitary rules that define what people should and should not wear. Gender fluidity is also evident by the fact that genders do not necessary concur. While sex is given by birth, gender is defined by social and cultural expectations of how a person of certain gender should behave, and the way a person is feeling inside. Certain number of people do not feel their gender is in line with their sex, and many cultures around the world even accept more than two defined genders. Therefore, genders is merely a social and psychological construct. Since clothing has an important role in this process, it is a huge part of someone’s social, but also gender identity.

Gender-neutral, unisex clothing first appeared alongside the rise of feminist movement and re-definement of gender roles in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It represented a response to rigid stereotypes and streamed towards neutralizing gender differences. Unisex clothing was first publicly presented in Paris fashion shows where designers, such as Pierre Cardin, presented „Space Age“ style that was defined by sleek, simple sihlouettes, graphic prints and new, synthetic fabrics. Unisex trend soon became an androgynous trend that represents a combination of masculine and feminine elements, instead of erasing gender roles completely.

Fashion designers that create unisex clothing will certainly not resolve burning issues about gender roles, but the new space defined within the world of fashion will create a slightly larger comfort zone for people who do not fit into a strictly defined category. Today, both men and women, wear the same clothes, frequently bought in the same sales landscape that is equally abundant, diverse and confusing as the gender itself.

New York, Milan, Paris, London and Tokio have always represented leading capitals when it comes to the industry that is innovative, creative and that continously streams towards developing new trends. Synonim for these capitals is usually fashion. However, for many years now, Berlin’s ESMOD fashion school assists young fashion designer in approaching world standards, and in setting Berlin shoulder to shoulder with fashion giants. In the last twenty years, Berlin has developed to a points where it is almost impossible to believe that it was until recently extremely divided.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city experienced (in the best possible way) a clash of cultures, that resulted in creating a completely new artistic concept. It is a city where it is important to be different in order to stand out. The city’s population is around 3,5 milion people from over 180 countries of the world. Its rich cultural and historical heritage creates each Berlin stret unique, while some of the most creative spots exist in the city’s exits where you can find some amazing pieces of art- graffitis.

In the beginning of the 18th century, Hausvogteiplatz square was the epicenter of the fashion industry. The industry was run mostly by Jewish families that, at one point, owned more than 2.400 companies and employed more than 100.000 seemstresses. Fashion/Textile industry was a creative force of German economy. Nathan Izrael, David Leib Levin and Rudolph Herztog were three most important names of Berlin’s fashion scene. By the beginning of the World War II, situation started to change drastically. Jewish families were deported and factories and boutiques were closed. Today, at the Hausvogteiplatz, there is a monument dedicated to the Jewish employees from the fashion industry that were exectued in concentration camps in Germany.

A hundred years later, legendary Berlin Chic developed, and fashion scene gained a completely new image; open-minded attitude is a must, and the energetic atmosphere keeps attracting designer and creative people to the city. Berlin became Germany’s most fashionable city. Mercedes Benz Fashion Week was first organized in 2003. By its organization, the city experienced a huge development. Every season, this event is visited by approximately 200.000 visitors- fashion experts from around the world.

While researching for Berlin’s young designers, I focused on ESMOD graduates that showcase their work inside and outside Germany. One of them is Franziska Michael, whose eponymous brand witnesses a great success at the international fashion scene. She believes in differences and bravely stands up for her beliefs. She sees freedom as an imperative. So far, she presented her work at many fashion weeks worldwide, but stays loyal to Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Berlin that continues to be here priority. Far from the fashion standards, Franziska’s style is characterized by strong contrasts, innovations and precise prints. Due to her unique work aesthetics, in 2013 she was awarded with Young Designers award for best woman collection. I had the chance to interview her for Urban magazine and got to learn more about her vision, work principles and the unique chemistry that runs through each aspect of her creative life.

I was mesmerized by her strength and the one-of-a-kind inspiration that enables her to create statement pieces. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so take a look at gallery bellow.