This is a translation of an article originally published elsewhere in July 2012.
In the days following Berlin Fashion Week, almost all big German newspapers put out a fashion week recap, and for some it was, again, time for some Fashion-Week-Bashing – a sport that the Germans are all too fond of.
Every season, the game commences in a similar fashion: Berlin was too poor, too boring, too avant-gardist, too experimental, too unimportant, they say. Usually, a overall pessimist image of Berlin as the fashion capital is the only opinion the most influential media of the country seem to be able to agree on.
This year, however, a new undertone has been voiced in several places, calling for a better organization of Berlin Fashion – a German Fashion Council. There are, of course, already some organizations that see to the advancement of the German fashion industry, but why does their work have such little impact internationally and within German borders as to the public image of German fashion and Berlin Fashion Week? Does Berlin have a shot to become one of fashion’s bigger players? Which factors could lead to success? And, most importantly, does anybody care?
Let’s have a look at what the more successful fashion cities have done, namely New York, London, Milan and Paris.
The exhibition following the 50 years anniversary of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), which took place at the FIT in New York in 2012, showcased how organization did indeed propel a nation’s fashion industry. The amalgamation of forces of the American fashion designers launched a new fashion heavyweight into the international race within less than half a century.
The recipe for this council, made up of the most important figures of the United States’ fashion business, was to support young upcoming designers and to create, establish and further an image of American fashion to the own population and to customers outside the US. The goals of the CFDA, as stated on their website, were: 1. The establishment of fashion design as an acknowledged part of American culture and art; 2. The Advancement of the artistic and professional standards of the industry, and 3. The improvement of the public understanding and the appreciation of fashion. (An agenda that wouldn’t harm the German industry, either, one might add.)
Great Britain’s fashion industry set up their own representation of interests in 1983 with the aim to establish London as one of the major players on the international fashion stage. Since then, the British Fashion Council has pushed the British fashion industry forward by organizing initiatives like “Britian Creates” in the course of the Olympic games, awarding young as well as established creatives with scholarships and basically just getting everyone to work together.
Italy, too, has an umbrella organization seeing for the interests of their fashion industry. The Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI) was founded in 1953 as a non-profit organization representing the “highest cultural values of Italian fashion”. The aim of this organization is the protection, coordination and strengthening of Italian fashion internationally as well as from within.
In France, these functions are assumed by the Fédération française de la couture, du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode. The Fédération is reknown for their tough criteria in selecting those admitted to present their creations on the stage of Paris Fashion Week. The goal of this organization is to preserve Paris’ predominance over the international fashion system. They organize the shows, support, very selectively, young designers and represent their members’ concerns like intellectual property. Nobody in France would dare attack Paris Fashion Week or the Fédération.
And who is in charge of the public image of German fashion? Who supports young German fashion designers? Who protects those designers who represent German Fashion? A one-person sub-bureau of the Berlin Senate that also has to take care of women, technology and economy, that’s who.
What Berlin and Germany need, is this exactly: a strong centralized organization that focuses on making German fashion cool – outside of our borders, but more importantly within them. Branding and exporting German quality and creativity as a cultural good shouldn’t be too difficult – it worked wonderfully with other design items before.
So, why not ask Jil Sander to preside over a German Fashion Council that joins the creative forces of Berlin’s young talents with the business know-how of firms from other states like Boss, Bogner and Adidas? Finally, the media could support this effort, instead of wasting time on writing articles why Berlin Fashion Week sucks.