Vienna’s rising fashion stars are making an international impact with their unique contemporary aesthetic, as Lucinda Turner discovers
Famed for its historic palaces, Lipizzaner horses and exquisite sweet treats, Vienna has not traditionally been regarded as a leading destination for fashion. While the city offers exceptional shopping from some of the biggest international brands, its home-grown talent has remained slightly under the radar on the global stage – until now. The inception of MQ Vienna Fashion Week in 2008 brought a new focus on the city’s modern, contemporary, wearable fashion, which references Vienna’s past while also looking to the future. Subsequent years have seen a wealth of young Austrian labels go on to achieve acclaim in Vienna and beyond, both via fashion week and through independent routes.
Petar Petrov is a leading example of how the city nurtures talent. The Ukrainian-born designer was brought up in Bulgaria and moved to Vienna to study fashion at University of Applied Arts. Here, Petrov found incredible support for his vision and he chose to remain in Vienna to launch his brand, resisting the pull of leading fashion capitals such as Paris or Milan.
Founded in 2009, the label came under the international spotlight in 2018, when stylists, buyers and influencers were pictured sporting Petrov’s elegant, minimalist designs during fashion weeks in New York, Paris and Milan. His eponymous womenswear brand is now stocked by platforms such as Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi. ‘My passion is designing clothes that create an emotion and desire to make women feel beautiful in a fresh, relevant way,’ says Petrov. ‘It is about embracing an aesthetic of effortless elegance and powerful femininity.’
Vienna holds a special place in Petrov’s heart and its influence runs throughout his collections. The city’s architecture and art are a key part of its allure, and serve to constantly inspire his collections. ‘Our designs convey a vision of Viennese modernism,’ he says, referring to the period between 1890 and 1910 when the art, literature, philosophy and architecture of Vienna was swept up in the modernist movement. Clean lines and a signature simplicity are seen throughout the brand’s spring/summer 2019 collection, which is ‘a take on the beauty of the simple form contrary to conventional understanding,’ according to Petrov.
The combination of luxury and simplicity seems to define many Austrian brands. The goal is understated elegance, using the most exquisite fabrics in a refined and often unexpected way, for clothes that whisper rather than shout. Anelia Peschev subscribes to this philosophy and the Vienna-based designer’s eponymous line has been shown at the city’s fashion week since 2009.
‘First of all, a dress has to surprise me before I can show it to the world to see,’ says Peschev. Using sumptuous silks and opulent jacquards, the brand’s dresses offer a thoroughly modern take on eveningwear. Statement details and volume teamed with classical ballgown styles have made Anelia Peschev a go-to for Vienna’s social set, with the brand’s dresses frequently worn by everyone from politicians to prima ballerinas at the city’s grand balls. Alongside eveningwear, silk day dresses with pussy-bow details and elegant hemlines were seen throughout the label’s spring/summer 2019 collection, further cementing it as a champion of elegant femininity.
The same can also be said of the aptly named Femme Maison, a Viennese womenswear label that creates luxury silk pieces for charismatic, strong women. Heavily influenced by a carefree aesthetic of the 1960s and 70s, the brand is a mixture of relaxed tailoring and easy-to-wear dresses. Terry O’Neill’s iconic 1977 image of Faye Dunaway’s poolside, post-Oscar breakfast in Beverly Hills is often an inspirational starting point for designer Franziska Fürpass-Kermani – with its mixture of 70s nostalgia and effortless glamour, it epitomises the brand. Pieces are handmade using the finest materials at Femme Maison’s small atelier in the city and the team creates seasonal summer and autumn collections as well as bespoke eveningwear and wedding dresses. Dedication to design and craftsmanship is paramount, as is commitment to presenting a modern version of timeless style.
This is perhaps the key to the success of Vienna’s new wave of fashion designers. In a city that offers so much history and culture, it is crucial to create contemporary clothing that also respects the past. Whether it is the modernist movement, the 1970s or the city’s time-honoured relationship with ballgowns, these emerging brands link past, present and future in bold, exciting new ways. Vienna’s fashion scene is garnering a worldwide reputation for effortless elegance – reflecting the style of its clientele.