For all that Berlin is unlikely to lose its crown as the fashion capital of Germany any time soon, it is increasingly difficult to overlook the nation’s second city as a centre for style. Hamburg is becoming a hub of young creatives, and a distinctive aesthetic is emerging thanks in part to its prestigious fashion college, Akademie Mode & Design, or AMD. Unlike young Berlin-based labels influenced by streetwear and club culture, the best emerging designers in Hamburg are going back to basics and embracing the clean cuts, simple silhouettes and exemplary fabrics that put German fashion on the map.
Birgit Brockbals, an alumnus of AMD, launched Spectrum in 2011. Focusing on strong shapes, luxurious fabrics and ethical production, the label reflects the aesthetic emerging in Hamburg. Brockbals’ designs are simple and beautiful, favouring enduring, elegant style rather than passing trends or gimmicky concepts. Her signatures are an expert use of draping and limited but well-considered colour schemes. Ranging from separates to suits and eveningwear, her pieces complement any wardrobe. The label’s appeal to many Hamburg citizens is demonstrated by the fact that its pieces are stocked at the best concept stores across the city.
Another favourite with locals is Musswessels, the eponymous label of designer Kathrin Musswessels. Like Spectrum, it has a minimal approach to colours, with the occasional pattern appearing in each collection, such as muted stripes for autumn. Kathrin Musswessels excels in soft tailoring and wardrobe staples; she has a knack for injecting a sense of luxury into everyday pieces. Hers are garments for wearing from day to evening in any situation. This is clothing to feel great in, and it is classic enough to suit every taste.
A distinctive aesthetic
The idea of lasting style and functional luxury was once synonymous with German fashion. Brands such as Jil Sander, Hugo Boss and Escada built empires on the back of a simple commitment to longstanding style and excellence in fit and fabric, eschewing the avant garde leanings of many catwalk labels. But in recent years a wave of experimental brands has emerged from Germany, celebrating alternative cultures and presenting a very different idea of fashion. So what is it about Hamburg that fosters a leaning towards the classic?
For Lotta Meyer, co-founder of Hamburg label Nusum, the aesthetic resonates with the atmosphere of the city. ‘To me, typical Hamburg style is classical understatement. You see this sense of understatement in our architecture, our way of speaking and, of course, in the way people dress. In Berlin, for example, you have to be loud to be noticed. In Hamburg, we express ourselves more subtly. Here, you have to pay attention to the details.’ This is played out in the creations of Meyer and her co-designer Tessa Münchow, which, says Meyer, ‘combine the Hamburg understanding of elegance and class with the city’s high regard for individuality’.
That is certainly an accurate representation of Nusum itself, which delivers classic pieces with a modern edge. The duo’s style is simple, focusing on great cuts and fabrics. But that does not belie a lack of thought. From contrast-lined jackets, designed to be worn with the sleeves rolled up, to expertly draped off-the-shoulder jersey tops, the simplest looking pieces are cleverly devised by Münchow and Meyer.
The label has a line of non-seasonal items that are available throughout the year and that don’t conform to passing fashions. The seasonal collections tend to involve more experimentation. For spring/summer, for example, Nusum has introduced knitted fabrics and lace. Between the two lines, the label offers everything the modern woman needs, all adhering to the philosophy of truly wearable elegance.
Irina Rohpeter is another designer offering a line of classics alongside her seasonal collections. She chooses key pieces that she feels are the most ‘fresh, timeless and sophisticated’ and recreates them each year. They may alter slightly in colour or material, but the original design stays the same and the range is a strong representation of her signature style. Her approach focuses on cuts and fabrics, with muted colour schemes enhancing the use of innovative lines and luxurious fabrics. ‘My designs challenge traditional perspectives by re-interpreting conventional cuts,’ she explains.
Although Rohpeter moved to Hamburg for ‘a very personal reason – love’, she has found in this city the perfect home for her label. ‘I really appreciate the seriousness and the honesty of Hamburg and its creative scene. People are open-minded and don’t need to show off.’ She and her fellow Hamburg designers are inspired and encouraged by the creative scene of the city and by its unique character. ‘Classic, elegant and sophisticated’ is how Rohpeter describes Hamburg – and this is reflected in the city’s fashion scene.