Ger­man De­sign­ers Start Cre­ative-Led In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion

The Ger­man Fash­ion De­sign­ers Fed­er­a­tion wants the world to take lo­cally de­signed cloth­ing as se­ri­ously as it takes Ger­man cars.

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY CATHRIN SCHAER

France has what lo­cal de­sign­ers call

“la Fédéra­tion” and the U.S. has the CFDA. As of this week, Ger­many has its own in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion “by fash­ion de­sign­ers for fash­ion de­sign­ers,” as the founders put it.

The Ger­man Fash­ion De­sign­ers Fed­er­a­tion was ini­ti­ated in spring 2018 af­ter two years of prepa­ra­tion and launched of­fi­cially to­day in Ber­lin, a few days be­fore the city's bian­nual fash­ion week be­gins. As yet, the Fed­er­a­tion, or GFDF, only has a hand­ful of mem­bers but they al­ready have some im­pres­sive sup­port­ers: Fi­nan­cial back­ing is be­ing pro­vided by MercedesBenz and Ger­man skin-care stal­wart Dr. Hauschka. Ger­man de­signer Bern­hard Will­helm is a mem­ber and other big, lo­cal names, yet to be an­nounced, are also ex­pected to join. The GFDF's board in­cludes Re­nate Kü­nast, a se­nior mem­ber of Ger­man par­lia­ment for the Green party and for­mer fed­eral min­is­ter for food, agri­cul­ture and con­sumer pro­tec­tion.

The GFDF was the brain­child of Eva Gron­bach, a Ber­lin-based de­signer who pre­vi­ously worked for Her­mès and Yo­hji Ya­mamoto, who will also serve as the body's first pres­i­dent.

“We were very in­spired by the CFDA in New York be­cause it is a younger or­ga­ni­za­tion than the Fed­er­a­tion in Paris,” says Gron­bach, who started the project by sim­ply e-mail­ing other de­sign­ers to ask them if this was some­thing they saw a need for.

It is true that there are other ap­parel in­dus­try groups and as­so­ci­a­tions in Ger­many but, as the GFDF's vice pres­i­dent, lo­cal de­signer Monya Wasilewski notes, “these tend to be in­dus­try-ori­ented and not run by the de­sign­ers them­selves.” The GFDF won't be com­pet­ing with any other as­so­ci­a­tion. Rather, they plan to net­work with oth­ers. And as Gron­bach and Wasilewski both add, they are grate­ful for or­ga­ni­za­tions like the Fash­ion Coun­cil of Ger­many, whom they credit with in­tro­duc­ing the mer­its of fash­ion to lo­cal politi­cians.

How­ever, un­like sim­i­lar bod­ies else­where, the GFDF will not use an ac­cred­i­ta­tion or in­vi­ta­tion-only pro­ce­dure but will be open to all-com­ers, in­clud­ing stu­dents, as long as they are fash­ion de­sign­ers, Ger­man or work­ing in

Ger­many, and will­ing to pay a yearly 150 euro fee. “We're Ger­man, we're more demo­cratic,” Gron­bach laughs as she ex­plains the mem­ber­ship sys­tem, be­fore more se­ri­ously not­ing that the founders are also very con­cerned about so­cial jus­tice and sus­tain­abil­ity in fash­ion.

The GFDF will be there to ad­vo­cate for Ger­man fash­ion de­sign and all those who un­der­take it, Gron­bach and Wasilewski ex­plained. Top­ics they want to tackle in­clude on­go­ing state sup­port for new de­sign­ers, sus­tain­able fash­ion and the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and prove­nance of that, health and unem­ploy­ment in­sur­ance and parental leave, as well as the le­gal­i­ties around copy­right and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, a prob­lem par­tic­u­larly for less ex­pe­ri­enced de­sign­ers. More long-term and eso­teric aims in­clude in­creas­ing the level of pro­fes­sion­al­ism in the sec­tor and chang­ing the way that Ger­mans per­ceive fash­ion de­sign in gen­eral.

“We have a prob­lem with the cul­ture around fash­ion here,” Ber­lin-based de­signer Kostas Murkudis, who spent seven years work­ing for Hel­mut Lang, con­firms. “In France, [for­mer pres­i­dent, Fran­cois] Mit­terand de­scribed fash­ion as a high art — that is, not an ap­plied art, but equal to fine art. We don't have that in Ger­many.”

The Ger­man in­dus­try tends to be seen as the man­u­fac­turer of en­ter­tain­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, or what might best be de­scribed as “skirts and shirts.” And al­though the at­ti­tude to fash­ion is chang­ing, a gen­eral Ger­man ten­dency to­ward prac­ti­cal­ity means that for many lo­cals, high fash­ion is of­ten still seen as fool­ish or frip­pery, Murkudis notes.

Both Wasilewski and Gron­bach say they'd like Ger­man fash­ion de­sign to get the same kind of in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion as Ger­man prod­uct de­sign or Ger­man en­gi­neer­ing. And a decade from now, their fond­est dreams in­clude a GFDF mu­seum of fash­ion and a re­search in­sti­tute spe­cial­iz­ing in fash­ion, his­tory and tex­tile de­vel­op­ment. Clearly they have big am­bi­tions.

For now, per­haps one of the most con­tro­ver­sial is a planned push to even­tu­ally change the dates of Ber­lin Fash­ion Week, which starts on Jan. 15. Cur­rently the event, which has been be­com­ing less rel­e­vant to the in­ter­na­tional fash­ion in­dus­try for years, co­in­cides with the Paris men's wear shows. “If you were a buyer, where would you be?” Wasilewski ar­gues. “We have to find our own unique sell­ing po­si­tion here.”

There may be re­sis­tance from or­ga­niz­ers of the trade shows that run con­cur­rently with the Ber­lin event but Gron­bach and Wasilewski say what­ever hap­pens, the out­come will be demo­cratic. “We will have to ask all the other de­sign­ers and the other fed­er­a­tions. If every­body wanted to keep the cur­rent date, then we would,” Gron­bach con­cludes.

Eva Gron­bachMonya Wasilewski

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