The glamour of Berlin has always been that much more dramatic after nightfall. In the 1930s, author Christopher Isherwood described decadent, cabaret-filled evenings and today the city is reputed to be the clubbing capital of the world.
Berlin’s fashion designers recognise that locals and visitors want to dress for the wide variety of nightlife available: whether you’re trying to charm your way into the ultra exclusive Berghain nightclub or are heading for cocktails at Das Stue, recently voted one of the best new bars in the world by Condé Nast Traveller, there is a Berlin brand with an impeccable outfit just for you.
Freedom and fashion
The city’s relaxed atmosphere inspires Lala Berlin’s designer Leyla Piedayesh. ‘It’s the feeling of freedom that you have in Berlin, especially at night. There are no rules. This feeling of freedom is what inspires me every day.’ The label’s latest collection aptly displays this affinity for nonconformity, combining seemingly disparate pieces to create an edgy take on refined eveningwear. Lace panelled minidresses worn over PVC leggings and topped off with a silver blazer offer a sophisticated take on modern androgyny. Elsewhere a paint-splatter print is applied to loose trousers and panelled crop tops, leggings feature bold word-prints and mannish overcoats are draped over models’ shoulders.
These are ideal outfits to wear when queuing to get into the city’s most exclusive nightclubs, offering the option of warmth, while still allowing the wearer to bare a hint of skin. Piedayesh believes the buzz of Berlin’s nightlife is down to the blend of people and fashion. ‘It’s very special,’ she says. ‘People mix all types of looks, and combine vintage with modern. When I think of Berlin’s nightlife, it’s Kater Holzig or Bar 25 that come into my mind, along with feathers, hats, colours and fun, a little bit like in a cabaret.’
Isherwood would be thrilled to hear that the spirit of 1930s Berlin that he captured in his stories is still alive and well in the city’s elite clubs. Kater Holzig and Bar 25, both located close to the Spree, were famed for their parties, which went on for days at a time. Though both have now closed, whispers of a new nightspot from the creators of these legendary clubs are circulating the city like wildfire. If it should open, Lala Berlin’s layered looks will be the perfect attire, and will ensure that you are ushered straight in to join the party.
Berghain is another Berlin nightclub with a reputation that precedes it. Known for being one of the world’s most impenetrable nocturnal fortresses, the internet is rife with advice on how to dress to get past the notorious head bouncer, Sven. To protect oneself against the elements outside the mammoth former power station, we recommend investing in a coat from Patrick Mohr’s autumn/winter collection. Every item is realised in the richest shades of blue, and styles incorporate sequins, sheer fabrics, wool, leather and suede. This is directional Berlin design at its best.
Comfort is cool
In a recent article in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, John O'Ceallaigh, a regular visitor to Berghain, recommended ‘don’t dress as though you’re on a night out – Berlin is a casual city’. As such, the luxury printed tracksuits from Starstyling’s Qatari Vortex collection are ideal. Founded in 2000 by Katja Schlegel and Kai Seifried, the brand now has five clothing lines and a successful store in the Mitte district.
Starstyling’s latest collection is made up of comfortable jersey separates printed with geometric patterns, which are perfect for an all-night dance marathon. As Schlegel reminds visitors: ‘The night has 24 hours!’. She believes that Berlin’s nightlife is so special because, once you make it past a club’s gatekeepers, looking good comes second to embracing the unique atmosphere. ‘Berlin is still one of the last places where you can act like you want,’ says Schlegel. ‘There’s no judgement and no social pressure. The focus is on the music.’
If you prefer to sup a cocktail in an elite nightspot that evokes the atmosphere of Isherwood’s heyday, Das Stue is the place for you. For a taste of understated Berlin style, the latest womenswear collection from fashion marvel Karl Lagerfeld contains plenty of fierce yet feminine options. A metallic gold minidress is toughened up with fingerless gloves, whereas Lagerfeld’s take on the classic tuxedo is paired with a cross-body bag in tangerine with a tie-shaped strap.
For those who prefer their eveningwear with a large dose of drama, DSTM’s latest range mixes silk and leather to create head-turning dresses in rich champagne and black. Jen Gilpin, the label’s designer, admits that items in the collection were inspired while dancing: ‘We wanted something beautiful and interesting yet comfortable to wear.’ And, of Berlin’s after-dark allure, Gilpin stresses that ‘you can always find an adventure’. Whatever your eveningwear aesthetic, when dusk arrives in Berlin, adventure is certainly on the cards.