Heil fash­ion: how Ger­mans got their groove back.

Weaver’s nat­u­ral won­ders. Ken Thomp­son; Hot Buy.

The Weekend Australian - Life - - FOOD & WINE - HAR­RIET WALKER

First we all wanted to be louche French women, then it was wil­lowy Scandi blondes. Now there’s an­other coun­try shap­ing up to be our new Euro crush. Af­ter decades of drab, Ger­many’s fash­ion street cred is on the up.

For­get mul­lets, trouser suits and Ok­to­ber­fest dirndls (more of which later) — Ger­many’s new style icons in­clude Is­abelle zu Ho­hen­lohe-Jagst­berg (Minzi to her friends), a Bavar­ian princess with a Valentino habit, and Ger­man

Vogue’s Chris­tiane Arp, who has made the silk shirt into an art form. (Think

Home­land’s Ber­lin chief of po­lice Astrid in her del­i­cate silk T-shirts and sturdy slacks, rather than An­gela Merkel.)

If you like your clothes smart but com­fort­able, well made but with a smat­ter­ing of glam, the coun­try that gave the world Birken­stocks and Jil San­der has plenty to of­fer you. And they have ways of mak­ing you shop.

The coun­try al­ways used to be a bas­tion of sen­si­ble sep­a­rates, but that’s shift­ing. At Marc Cain, one of the coun­try’s big­gest fash­ion brands, capes, fring­ing and fun fur are the things that are fly­ing. Dorothee Schu­macher, who showed at Ber­lin Fash­ion Week this month, has raw-edged culottes, printed midi-skirts and jack­ets with cut­away shoul­ders for spring. If you’re still not con­vinced, take a look at Luisa Cer­ano’s or­ange drain­pipes and blue suede bomber, or Lau­rel’s jewel-col­lared blouses.

“Ger­mans are still care­ful,” Princess Minzi tells me. “They don’t want to take risks, but bloggers have taught peo­ple to be more dar­ing.”

Ger­man women are cau­tious, de­spite hav­ing more dis­pos­able in­come than most Euro­peans. They’re loyal to brands they like; they buy pieces in sev­eral sizes to en­sure the best fit (be­fore send­ing the spares back); and they shop less fre­quently than us (but spend about the same). They don’t buy on im­pulse, but they love colour and em­bel­lish­ment. They don’t do sea­sonal trends, but they’re less ob­sessed with “clas­sics” than us. Their ba­sics are less, well, ba­sic than ours — but they’re al­ways prac­ti­cal.

“I’d never wear a cer­tain skirt just be­cause it is ‘the piece’ at the mo­ment, if it makes me look weird,” Minzi adds. “I love fash­ion only if it suits me.”

I asked In­Style Ger­many’s fash­ion editor Jen­nifer Dixon what three things ev­ery Ger­man woman has in her wardrobe. “Flat shoes, jeans and a down jacket,” she says. That seems to sum it up.

“A lint roller,” adds art dealer Mon Mueller­schoen. “And a very ex­pen­sive pair of heels.”

All three women live in Mu­nich, Ger­many’s af­flu­ent fash­ion cap­i­tal, where the glossy mag­a­zines have their of­fices too. Die Munch­ner are glam­orous but not showy, de­spite their deep pock­ets. If you want flashy, go to Dus­sel­dorf with its con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion and big-name bling. Ham­burg is more con­ser­va­tive, while Ber­lin is home to hip­sters and the avant garde. (“We’re poor,” the cap­i­tal’s mayor Klaus Wow­ereit de­clares, “but we’re sexy.”)

Mario Eimuth is a founder of the retail site Style­bop.com. Think of it as the Ger­man Net-a-Porter: based in Mu­nich, it ships glob­ally and has a net­work of VIP cus­tomers across Ger­many and the world.

“In Eng­land, [they] ad­mire and imitate peo­ple — that’s not so com­mon here,” he says. “Dur­ing the 70s, it made sense to hide your wealth, be­cause the Red Army Fac­tion killed a lot of peo­ple for it. But the younger gen­er­a­tion has a dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude — they want to ex­press them­selves.”

Style­bop caters to the wealthy women who are chang­ing the coun­try’s tastes. The site’s most pop­u­lar items tend to be eye-catch­ing cat­walk looks rather than safe, ver­sa­tile pieces; Valentino and McQueen do well, but Bri­tish la­bels such as Mary Ka­trant­zou (sam­ple price: $2345 for a dress) and

Si­mone Rocha have also been a hit. Com­pared with sim­i­lar shop­ping sites, Style­bop’s se­lec­tion is re­fresh­ingly idio­syn­cratic.

“We’re al­ways keen on bring­ing global trends to Ger­many,” says Thorsten Eimuth, Mario’s brother and co-founder. “We were the very first to sell Ugg boots in our store, and the se­cond was Sel­f­ridges. Peo­ple were send­ing their chauf­feurs from St Moritz to Mu­nich to pick up four or five pairs.”

The Ger­mans know their la­bels. On Max­i­m­il­ianstrasse, Mu­nich’s lux­ury shop­ping street, there are more de­signer hand­bags than peo­ple. Ce­line and Fendi totes are pop­u­lar, as are the Chanel sling­backs that sold out in ev­ery Euro­pean city within weeks last au­tumn — they’re just the right com­bi­na­tion of sen­si­ble and chic for Ger­man women. (Ditto Valentino’s rock­stud pumps, $1075, which are con­sis­tently one of Style­bop’s best-sell­ing styles.)

Still, there is some way to go in a coun­try where the high street is a rel­a­tively new con­cept.

“In­di­vid­ual style you only see on a wealthy mi­nor­ity,” says Mueller­schoen. “The mass is now dressed bet­ter than 15 years ago, but un­for­tu­nately they all look the same.”

The streets of Mu­nich aren’t ex­actly full of clones, but even in the city’s hippest venues — at Schu­mann’s, where Vogue staffers drink cock­tails with fi­nanciers, and the art deco bar at the Haus der Kunst, which at­tracts a more bo­hemian crowd — the look is rel­a­tively uni­form. Cloth­ing tends to be quite straight — not in a Scan­di­na­vian sharp lines sort of way, but flat­ter­ing and re­as­sur­ingly bour­geois. At the Mu­nich in­sti­tu­tion (and cater­ers to the Re­ich­stag) Kafer, the city’s doyennes eat brunch in tailored trousers, printed silk shirts and fur or Moncler coats.

Like their Scan­di­na­vian coun­ter­parts, Ger­man women em­pha­sise qual­ity over quan­tity. “We have this tra­di­tion of build­ing qual­ity cars, qual­ity ma­chin­ery,” says Mario Eimuth of the elab­o­rately embroidered and em­bel­lished pieces that sell so well on the site de­spite their price tags (new ar­rivals in­clude a $6535 be­jew­elled Bal­main minidress and an embroidered leather jacket from Alexan­der McQueen — a snip at $5825). “When we spend money, we want to see that it is hand­crafted and has a story.”

The big­gest in­flu­ence on Ger­man women’s wardrobes (se­cond only to their hus­bands, I am told) is street style, par­tic­u­larly the crop of home­grown edi­tors who have made it their arena. Blog­ger Veronika Heil­brun­ner is one such (whose Aus­tralian-born part­ner, Justin O’Shea, buy­ing di­rec­tor of MyTheresa.com, is equally in­flu­en­tial on menswear), as are Jen­nifer Dixon and Chris­tiane Arp.

But there’s one area in which Mu­nich’s fash­ion scene will per­haps al­ways be diver­gent — from Ger­many’s, from the world’s — and it’s the dirndls. Shops sell them on ev­ery cor­ner (and in Mu­nich air­port, even at Hugo Boss) — not, as I ini­tially as­sumed, to tourists but to lo­cals, and of­ten at great ex­pense. They sit along­side the likes of Chloe and Lan­vin on MyTheresa.com, where a pi­nafore, blouse and apron from Aus­trian la­bel Lanz will set you back $2600. On bill­boards around town, male mod­els pout into the middle dis­tance wear­ing leder­ho­sen and feath­ered caps.

This tra­di­tional fin­ery is im­por­tant in Mu­nich, where so­cial stand­ing rests on the cal­i­bre of the pri­vate par­ties you’re in­vited to dur­ing Ok­to­ber­fest. Style­bop hosts its own, as have Stella McCart­ney and Tiffany.

“I stick to tra­di­tional fab­rics,” Minzi ex­plains of the dirndl. “They look like a Hal­loween dis­guise when they’re too mod­ern.”

‘Ger­mans are still care­ful … but bloggers have taught peo­ple to be more dar­ing’



Princess Minzi zu Ho­hen­lohe; Mon Mueller­schoen, right; Vogue’s Chris­tiane Arp, below right; blog­ger Veronika Heil­brun­ner, below left

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