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Germany's classic fashion labels


Precision tailoring, pared-back silhouettes and impeccable proportions: no wonder women around the world have fallen for the less-is-more ethos of Germany’s designers, says Stephen Doig

Stephen Doig ,

Call it a testament to impeccable German design that some of the country’s most influential sartorial landmarks have made themselves known in whispers, not shouts. Because when it comes to classic pieces that endure beyond trends, the German fashion contingent has it nailed. Simplicity has become a USP of the country’s fashion leaders, thanks to their ability to execute precise cuts and impeccable looks. In doing so, they’ve built a roster of wardrobe staples for modern women to enable them to move seamlessly from cocktails to first-class lounges.

Pure and simple

Jil Sander is perhaps the grandmother of this movement, a fashion force who crept up on the world from her small Hamburg store and soon altered the content of the world’s wardrobes. Her proposal was shocking in its purity: that perfectly cut and proportioned clothes, in muted tones, stripped of adornment, could carry more clout than anything else with modern women. A sleek, pristine white shirt, a wool shift dress in the deepest midnight navy tone, precision-cut black trousers: that pieces such as these became must-haves is testament to the look’s power. This spring, her resonance is felt all the more thanks to her return to the label that bears her name after a seven-year hiatus. The collection’s mood is infused with her signature pared-back cool; the white blouse features heavily, along with blocks of tomato red or (that shade again) navy.

Classic case

Another German fashion brand for whom classicism and simplicity are fundamental is Marc Cain, founded in 1973 by Helmut Schlotterer with a remit to act as a ‘declaration of love to women’. Understatement, low-key sophistication and a restrained sense of glamour soon became the watchwords of the label, with a focus on sharp silhouettes and the wardrobe staples that women actually wear.

Like Sander, Schlotterer was astute enough to know that the cut of a neat black jacket, the austerity of a black blouse or the timelessness of a trench coat would stand a woman in good stead far longer than pieces that bent to the winds of change and trends season after season. Which is not to say that Marc Cain’s pieces lack exuberance or jolts of fun – this season, neon lime provides a pop of colour on jackets and trousers, and skirts come elegantly printed in splashy florals – but the philosophy of restraint remains; balance these pieces with a sharp shirt or tailored blazer is Marc Cain’s styling suggestion.

Smart set

At German brand Basler, the aesthetic is feminine but clean cut. The brand, founded in 1936 and currently helmed by British designer and former Escada creative director Brian Rennie, has evolved into a go-to name for smart tweeds, gauzy cashmeres and easy shift dresses, with a yacht-to-Croisette-influenced spring range of monochrome, striped gowns and slick jackets. Again, simplicity and restraint are key.

Working it

Texture, fabric and precision of execution are the founding tenets of Boss Black, one of the main lines of design titan Hugo Boss which was launched in 1924. Flashiness and showmanship play no part in the brand’s DNA; instead it offers tailored suiting, the perfect little black jacket and simple silk cocktail dresses season after season. Suiting has formed the backbone of the Boss Black offerings, with spring seeing nipped-in waists in a nod to 1940s style, along with sheer column dresses and – that secret ingredient again – black jackets, this time in jacquard and a princess cut.

That German designers have managed to build global brands without shock tactics, but by focusing on longevity, timeless design and classic shapes in the most luxurious and expensive of fabrics, is to be applauded. Logos and label-mania have taken a back seat, allowing the appreciation of quality as the first priority in fashion. And, from shift dresses to butter-soft cashmere, no one does it better than Germany’s leading style makers.

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