Beneath the grand cathedrals, palaces and opera houses that dot Vienna’s skyline, a new force is stirring. The city is reputed for its historical architecture and old-world charm but its fashion scene is becoming as sharp and as finely honed as any across the globe.
The city has, since last year, hosted the bi-annual Vienna Fashion Week to showcase the emerging talent and seasoned stalwarts that are gradually making the city a style enclave. Vienna has been regarded as a centre for creative innovation and excitement since the early 1900s and now its new talents are making a bid to establish it on the international fashion calendar.
New kids on the block
Fresh from training at Raf Simons and Veronique Branquinho, designer Christina Steiner, founder of the Gon label and a graduate of the prestigious Universität für Angewandte Kunst Wien (University of Applied Arts Vienna), is carving out a reputation as one of the city’s most exciting new names.
The winner of the 2012 Evoque NextGen Award looks to curiosities, cultural finds from across the globe and nature to inspire her off-beat, whimsical designs. For winter, Steiner played with proportions to offer swamping, oversized jumpsuits, eclectic multi-coloured prints with painterly splashes and tie-dye shirting and trousers.
This sense of exuberance is mirrored by another Viennese fashion brand, Kayiko, a ‘private luxury label’. Founded by Karin Oèbster in 1998, Kayiko focuses on sleek, contemporary pieces and a sense of playfulness. For spring, Oèbster tapped into the pixellated trend that dominated the international catwalks with a series of hyper-real floral print gowns depicted using pixels.
Her winter offering is a modern take on tweeds and wools which turns their textures into innovative prints and patterns, alongside crisp, clean blouses and sweaters in glacial white. For men, the label continues its particular brand of quirkiness with leopard-print T-shirts, elongated cardigans and sleekly cut, Blade-Runner-esque black jackets.
In contrast to the pop-bright colours and the intricate prints of Kayiko, designer Peter Holzinger embraces all that is dark and brooding in his beautifully constructed, cerebral collections. A knitwear specialist, Holzinger founded his label, Superated, with Christian Moser in 2005. He trained under Veronique Branquinho, after previously working at Viktor & Rolf, drafting in Moser to handle the business side of the venture.
For winter, he offers an innovative twist on fur and shaggy proportions; a catsuit comes with a plunging neckline of black mohair, a beguiling blend of outdoor wear and vampish eveningwear. Holzinger’s plush fur coats are sculptural and substantial enough to protect against the winter chill of Vienna’s icy streets in winter, while for the party season he offers directional sheer gowns dotted with sparse, minimalist embroidery.
Superated’s menswear continues the fur and swamping knits theme with oversized shearling jackets and huge collars on elongated coats suggesting the silhouette of a 19th-century literary hero. ‘By mixing exaggerated volumes and shapes with classical tailoring, I propose fashion that has an element of surprise – a sense of humour along with utilitarian elegance,’ says Holzinger.
Back to basics
The notion of style is all-encompassing for Viennese fashion name Birgit Rampula, the founder of hip, urban label Amateur. She extends it beyond the clothes she designs into a variety of other projects. ‘The label is a one-woman DIY project I started three years ago,’ says Rampula. ‘It’s a combination of fashion design and accessories with screen-printed illustrations and arty stuff like home accessories, prints and stationery such as hand-bound scrapbooks or postcards. Everything is handmade, unique and full of life.’ Easy, draped jersey tops and trousers make ideal wardrobe staples, alongside directionally cut, intricately folded jackets and sweet dresses with ribbons and unusual necklines.
A star in the making
Edith A’Gay is one of the longest-standing names in Viennese fashion and her credentials couldn’t be more five-star. She trained under Marc Bohan, as well as with Helmut Lang and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. A fixture on the Paris and Tokyo catwalks as well as those of Vienna, A’Gay’s clothes pack a defiant punch. Her womenswear is slick, sharp and directional, offering spray-on catsuits with draped necklines, dresses bound in leather and sharp, shoulder-padded jackets that would fit seamlessly into Lady Gaga’s wardrobe.
The focus on Vienna’s streets may remain on history and tradition but elsewhere fashion for the 21st century is striding to the fore.