‘Berlin is a city that makes you feel free,’ says Odély Teboul. A French native, Teboul is one half of the talented design duo behind the Augustin Teboul label, and part of a wave of designers and labels moving to Berlin, drawn by the city’s unique creative character.
Though Teboul’s design partner Annelie Augustin is German, it was not her nationality that brought the pair to Berlin; rather, it was a feeling that the city was the place where they should launch their label. ‘There’s a great creative scene, it’s great to be surrounded by so many creative minds,’ Teboul explains. ‘The style is very individual, people dare to mix and have a personal touch.’ The city has indeed proved welcoming to the designers, who have won prizes for their creations and now show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
Strong, feminine designs
‘Strong’, ‘feminine’, ‘sophisticated’ and ‘detailed’ are the terms Teboul uses to describe the Augustin Teboul brand, and all are reflected in its all-black collections, which embrace strong silhouettes. The latest Augustin Teboul collection evokes a tropical storm and juxtaposes geometric lines with the softer theme of plants. The black and white colour scheme is particularly powerful on a polka-dot shirt dress with an asymmetric hem of cascading ruffles. Augustin Teboul’s bold, unique womenswear falls somewhere between ready-to-wear and bespoke, and the Berlin scene has proved the perfect place for the two designers to explore their idiosyncratic ideas.
Inna Stein and Caroline Rohner, another creative duo, met at the Weissensee school of art in Berlin. On graduating, the pair, who are Russian and Swiss respectively, chose to remain in the city and found the Steinrohner label, which won the 2015 Fashion Council Germany Young Designers’ Award. ‘The city is multicultural and very inspiring,’ they explain. ‘A lot of artists and musicians move to Berlin, turning it into a continuously growing cultural capital with a very vibrant creative scene.’
Sleek and simple
The two describe Berlin fashion as minimalistic and architectural, with classic influences, and the same could be said of their own creations. The design of their womenswear seems simple and yet there is always something experimental. ‘We like to shape fabrics into seemingly impossible cuts where you might have to look twice to understand how it’s done.’
The spring/summer Steinrohner collection, Relieve the Reef, dips into the underwater world for inspiration, playing with ‘curiosities of colour under the surface’ and loosely embracing a coral motif throughout. As in Stein and Rohner’s other collections, prints, shapes and textures are experimental, but the overall effect is genuinely wearable. The ideas are bold and new, but an underlying classical element means the clothes will fit easily into most wardrobes.
Make your own rules
Vladimir Karaleev came to Berlin 15 years ago to study, moving from his hometown of Sofia in Bulgaria. Now an established name, he has seen the city grow and watched the evolution of its creative scene from uncertain to exciting. ‘Back then, Berlin was looking for its own identity. It was unexplored,’ he recalls. ‘There weren’t rules for fashion, art or music like there were already in New York, London or Paris. People moved here because of this freedom.’
Classic with an edge
Karaleev’s eponymous label was launched during these years and the flexible, open environment worked well for his fledgling business, which swiftly gained both recognition and commercial success. His aesthetic is, as he puts it, ‘contemporary unconventional’. Like Steinrohner and Augustin Teboul, Karaleev strikes the perfect balance between the esoteric and the commercial. For spring/summer, soft colours and soft tailoring are given an edge with frayed edges, interesting textures or pops of bold orange and cobalt. A little black dress is taken to the next level with unexpected twists and drapes, becoming almost architectural yet somehow still remaining soft. This is an accomplished collection from a seasoned designer who has taken full advantage of the opportunities available in Berlin.
A home from home
Common to all these designers is the idea of their adopted city as a constant influence on their work. For Karaleev, this is paramount. ‘The place I live influences my work most of all,’ he says. ‘My job is my life.’ After 15 years in the city, the Berlin he sees now is a melting pot that combines the cultures and ideas of everyone who has moved there. This eclectic mix is what drew him and others like him to Berlin – and continues to draw others today, fostering some of the most exciting fashion design in the world.