Michael Michalsky's unabashedly bold designs reveal their fantasy-fuelled nightlife and streetwear roots from the very start. But they don't simply appeal to a desire for eye-catching glamour. The Hamburg-born and Berlin-based designer's high-end prêt-a-porter and denim lines are also grounded in more lasting considerations.
Because Michalsky is often inspired by historical references, his key concern is producing high-quality items whose appearance and allure has longevity. 'People do not want fast fashion anymore,' he explains. 'If they buy something, then it needs to become their favourite item. That is why I work with historic German companies that have a tradition of making things.'
Despite his broader investment in German craftsmanship, Michalsky's intellectual loyalties are more often with Berlin. This loyalty often finds expression in specific Berlin references interwoven with his collections. For his 2009 spring/summer menswear collection, he was inspired by the anniversary of the German Green Party to present prints containing iconic graphics from the summer '68 protest rallies. He then combined them with futuristic patterns he produced in collaboration with Japanese artist Shinpei Naito.
'Even when I look at the past, I never want my clothes to look like costumes. There are a lot of designers who take references too literally and they are really pretty to look at, but the motto of my company is 'real clothes for real people',' he asserts.
Judging by his catwalk shows and his own high profile, the reality Michalsky presents to his people is an exciting one. Two seasons ago, he sent floating 60s Sharon Tate-style red chiffon halter dresses, fine leather leggings and sculpted jackets down the catwalk at the Gemäldegalerie am Kulturforum. Last season, he occupied a dilapidated church on Zionskirchplatz for a show of heavenly white men's suiting complemented by patterned dresses, blazer linings and men's trousers that resembled illuminated stained glass windows, along with sinful silk lingerie-inspired looks, Swarovski crystal-encrusted denim and lots of bravado.
However, during the recent Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Berlin, Michalsky presented a collection in Friedrichstadtpalast whose watchword was gritty reality. On the stage where The Producers currently runs, Michalsky sent out male and female models in opulent looks ironically referencing the Great Depression. 'I will say that I am a very optimistic person,' Michalsky declares. 'Even when things do not look too optimistic, I find that there is something positive to every crisis.'
His models all had frizzed hair and nude make-up, but some wore sumptuous gowns, including one white billowing ball gown whose print included the gold loan statement pattern adorning the show's invite. Berlin-based top model Luca Gadjus closed the show in a breezy flapper dress adorned with lightweight Swarovski crystals, while men's pieces included hooded jackets, oversized cardigans and gleaming sneakers.
Michalsky's nightclub-ready catwalk combinations, pairing sumptuous pieces with denim and sneakers, are a consistent part of his aesthetic regardless of the eras or issues his overall collection addresses. Instead, sneakers and denim are central to Michalsky's history as a designer. After graduating from the London College of Fashion, Michalsky was appointed chief designer for Levi's and then served eleven years as a head designer for adidas. In 2002, he teamed up with Yohji Yamamoto on the Y-3 line before forming his own men's and women's label in 2006. The Michalsky brand, which is sold throughout Germany and other key countries in Europe and Asia, also includes a full accessories line, which gives voice to Michalsky's guiding principle that 'my style is for people who want garments that fit them, but do not overrule them. The people, like the city that inspires me, have an awareness of history but always want to create something new.'
Michalsky Boutique, Monbijouplatz 4, Berlin
+49 30 280 40 888