German fashion designers have long been pioneers of pared-back style, focusing on cut, elegantly sculptured silhouettes and clean lines.
Minimalism reached a peak in the 1990s and, while there has been a re-emergence of these styles over the past few seasons, many of the labels who spearheaded the understated aesthetic have embraced vivacious prints and bold colour for spring/summer 2014.
Jil Sander, the undisputed queen of restraint, returned to her namesake label for three fleeting seasons, following Raf Simons’ departure. When the label showed at Milan Fashion Week, the palette for spring/summer was black, white and grey, although there were several looks bursting with colour and print, inspired by the work of the Italian conceptual artist Alighiero Boetti.
Escada’s bright future
Escada was bought by Megha Mittal in 2009. As a mother who travels regularly, she is much like the modern woman the brand wants to dress; as a result, her influence is producing interesting results.
In 2012, Mittal brought Daniel Wingate on board to modernise Escada, while staying true to the label’s heritage. Critics praised the new creative director for bringing a freshness to the collections; he has simplified key looks and introduced sharp suits and separates while bringing back a touch of the flamboyance seen in early Escada designs, such as his beautiful long evening dresses trimmed with feathers for autumn/winter 2013.
Creating a sense of escapism with daring prints is an area in which Wingate excels. For spring/summer 2014, animal influences – seen in zebra stripes and giraffe spots – sit alongside blown-up graphic floral prints and pineapple motifs. The collection includes floaty dresses, trouser suits and evening dresses.
Tailored to perfection
Drawing on the stylistic artistry of the surrealist art movement, classic pieces have been given an update at Boss. The label, known for its clean lines and smart tailoring with subtle yet inspired detailing, has manipulated standard shapes. This season, the label plays with illusions, in homage to the great surrealist artists such as Man Ray and René Magritte. Just as the surrealists rejected limits, the new collection transcends boundaries, with leisurewear and eveningwear blurring. The neckline of a double-breasted wool blazer, for instance, mimics that of a casual coat. The magnified rose blossoms on an etui dress appear to be hand-drawn, and the colours are subdued – from powder blue to grey – so as not to distract from the designs.
Germany’s relationship with creative fashion stretches back further than many people might imagine. Over 700 years ago, a German man created what is believed to be the first fashion book. Matthäus Schwarz was an accountant, born in Augsburg in 1497. He commissioned an artist to record in detail what he was wearing from the ages of 23 to 63. It remains one of the most unique documents in the history of fashion.
Embracing dress up
‘Then as now people used clothes to express values and emotions,’ explains Ulinka Rublack, author of Dressing up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe. She explains that even back then, clothes communicated fantasies, aspirations and anxieties and that Schwarz ‘loved the possibilities’ of new accessories, materials and cuts.
Returning to 2014, German fashion is entering a new dawn through print, colour – and exuberance.