Outfit | How to Wear Leather Pants Like A Boss+ Why Germany is still far away from becoming a significant international fashion influence
Wearing: Reformation Coat (old, but find similar here, here, and here), & Other Stories Leather Pants (cheaper option here), H&M Boots (shop similar here and here), Maison Cashmere Sweater c/o (similar here), Céline Sunglasses (alternative), and a Saint Laurent Bag (similar here and budget option here)
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It’s merely cultural. Contrary to popular belief, neither fashion nor talent run in blood categorized by nationality, ethnicity, religion, or culture(Yes, even if those Parisian girls look as if they have something special going on in their DNA when it comes to style). However, it’s not only a matter of nature, but it’s also a matter of nurture. It’s a symbiosis. For a culture to excel at a specific field, there must be a breeding ground for it. Furthermore, while it is difficult to generalize about an entire population, there are cultural and historical aspects that will unavoidably trigger the same kind of behavior and pattern of preferences in a significant amount of people in said population.
Scroll down to read more about why Germany isn’t the big fashion player it should be despite the fact the country is Europe’s biggest consumer of fashion.
“Das ist doch Schmarrn” (Translation: That’s nonsense.) is the reply I often got when I made aesthetic design suggestions to colleagues on university projects in architecture school. Those were probably my first times experiencing the extremely pragmatic idiosyncrasy of many Germans. But don’t be fooled, since this kind of reply is not limited to architecture. As a matter of fact, it is quite common in any field if you are not being strictly straightforward and if you don’t do things in a certain way that seems almost selbstverständlich amongst many. While this pragmatic approach can work very well in science and math, the big problem is that it simply won’t work in creative visual fields, where intuition, whim, and emotion play a huge role in design, aesthetics, and in the arts in general. I dare say that to have a specific way to do things might even often hinder the path to creativity and imagination. Formulaic and programmatic thinking are not exactly compatible with the latter.
Long gone are the days of the Weimar culture, where Berlin in its heyday was not only the Western World’s epicenter of fashion but also of the arts and sciences. Many of the most overwhelmingly beautiful paintings and films were made in this golden era also called Die Goldenen Zwanziger. Avant-garde movements that gave birth to modernism arose during this time. From the ouvres of expressionist painters from Der Blaue Reiter and Die Brücke to true cinematic treasures like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Robert Wiene’s Das Cabinet Dr. Caligaris, the stream of imagination seemed to have no end for the German culture of that time.
However, it all came to an end during the Nazi era, where all of these jewels were categorized as Entartete Kunst (degenerate art), since they defied the traditional notion of art, which is precisely what the Nazis sought to conserve. Regardless of this legacy and its still palpable influence in Western culture, the cultural loss of post-war Germany can’t be measured, as today’s society is still deeply affected by it. The elimination and vilification of that liberal spirit and free-thinking that reigned during the Weimar era and which gave birth to all that great art can still be felt in modern day society, whether people are aware of it or not (chances are, many aren’t). I doubt you have to be a sociologist, ethnologist, or anthropologist to reach the conclusion that we can attribute Germany’s lack of influence in international fashion and in the arts to the remnants of society in that dark era. In fact, in a BoF article titled, “Why isn’t Germany a bigger fashion player?” despite being Europe’s biggest consumer of fashion, Kai Margrander, fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar Germany, also expresses this roots in the dark days of the Nazi reign. The article mentions how “Jewish businesses were shut down or forced out of the country; the liberal-minded creative and intellectual elite subdued or expelled.”
To think that this stops at art would also be naive, as it extends to every aspect of life, including fashion. Especially fashion. Anything that is outside of the norm is mocked at or citing my colleagues, “Schmarrn”. To wear an asymmetric piece of clothing, frills, or anything that doesn’t strictly adhere to the function of a garment is simply unthinkable. Therefore, it is safe to say that to venture in form when it comes to design can often be frowned upon. One can’t expect a clientele for experimental and avant-garde fashion to exist in an environment which is practically hostile to wearing something that is not strictly practical. If that weren’t enough, the general Zeitgeist doesn’t limit itself to strict practicality regarding what you wear, but also to what can be described as an unwillingness to stick out from the crowd. If you do, chances are you will be laughed at or stared at as if you just landed from Mars. I’d be lying to you that this has only happened to me in a small town like the one I currently live in, but it already happened to me during a 48 hour stay in Berlin, where a girl who passed by me stared at me from head to toe and was still laughing out loud all the way past me while still staring at me. Yes, this happened in Berlin, the current German epicentre of arts and culture, where you would at least expect, that as the capital city it is, people to be more open-minded. Fact is, that Berlin fashion is as practical as it gets, with most young people sporting sneakers and streetwear.
Continuing quoting the same BoF article:
“It is a wealthy country but quite conservative when it comes to fashion,” said Adriano Sack, style editor at German Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag. “That might be due to its Prussian work and life ethic and a general hesitation to show off. More subtle and less ‘fashion’ labels are doing well, but Germans spend their money rather on cars than on couture.”
“There is a prejudice, which is true, that Germans like functional wear,” said Martin Premuzic, creative and managing director of Temporary Showroom, a Berlin boutique and sales agency that showcases emerging German and international fashion designers noting that the majority of brands sold at Temporary Showroom are international and that the same is true of the store’s clientele. “Concerning fashion, Germans don’t really spend here as much; I can really feel it in my store… you can really see that Germans go more for the safe stuff.”
While there is nothing wrong with a preference for understatement and simplicity, expressing yourself as an individual is vital if you are genuinely interested in fashion, and mind you, but I’m neither referring to wearing a flashy Gucci logo belt nor an all-over printed logo pair of Fendi boots. I’m also not referring to wear those Balenciaga Triple S sneakers you often see German influencers wear or insert here any other ‘It’ item that is not only a seasonal must-have but a semester one. If you are unwilling to externally manifest through clothes those unique characteristics which make you who you are, your personality, tastes, mood, etc, chances are, you are going to end up looking like everyone else. For creativity to flow we must be willing to express ourselves and it is important to have a very strong sense of self and of the individual you are, not a sense of self and self-esteem based on a notion of a collectivity. The problem also is that this strong sense of self is often mistakenly taken for egoism. Ironically, egoism is when you are uncomfortable with or have a problem with another person being unapologetically themselves without hurting others, only because you don’t have the courage to do it yourself.
The other aspect of German culture that stands on the way of the country’s creative fields, including fashion, is the still alive and well monster of nationalism and an enormous sense of national pride that people try to conceal due to the country’s past, but which, nevertheless, it is still very present. In fact, I’m pretty sure there will be people who will be offended by me writing all this, because I dare to write an article being critical of the ills that still pester the land and which many are still unwilling to see, instead of seeing it as something constructive in order to improve even more certain aspects of the already most powerful country in the continent. And all of this is something coming from someone who comes from a Third World country (a.k.a. a country where there is allegedly a stronger sense of nationalism) and who couldn’t care less if anyone criticized the countless aspects of it that hinder its growth.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for consuming local, but nationalism is a problem when it comes to fashion and style. Take, for instance, the fact that it is not uncommon to stumble upon boards on Pinterest strictly dedicated to German fashion and German fashion bloggers when fashion and style have no nationality. They are, in fact, a language that overcomes borders, ethnicities, and religions. It goes even further than that: there are renowned local fashion magazines where you will exclusively see German personalities portrayed as if they were the ultimate embodiment of chic, whether they are fashion bloggers or celebrities. There are undoubtedly stylish women in Munich, but to rule out the chances that there are equally or even more stylish women in Beijing or any part of the world for that matter, is more than a tad short-sighted.
As the global community the world is and in the internet era, when phenomena stopped being local decades back and became global, it is simply hard to understand why there is still this hermetic view of things. If anything, the exchange has only been beneficial in order to evolve in any aspect, since we all learn from each other. However, when people only consume local, only look at national figures as style role models, people are putting themselves something worse than a frontier— a barrier.
My German husband tells me his Oma was always complaining during Olympic games or during the World Cup when everyone in the room was rooting for Germany, “Why do they always need to win?”. This ‘need to win’ in everything is also probably a repercussion of the Cold War and the need to be the best at everything to prove their power upon others. But the Iron Curtain is long gone and the fascist regime that demanded “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state” is no longer there.
Like with music, why would my favorite song have to be enclosed to geographical borders? In the same way why would my dream bag have to be made by Hugo Boss, Karl Lagerfeld, Jil Sander (as much as I love the label) or a local designer, especially if they are not offering me the absolute best? If I am going to spend a lot of money on a quality bag, you can be damn sure I’m not going to look for the prettiest bag in Germany, I’m not going to limit myself to functionality either, but I’m going to search for the most beautiful bag in the world. The latter is the main reason why a purchase like this won’t be made hurriedly out of a whim and why it might even take years.
Chances are, I’m also not going to look at brand names, logos, or specific nationalities when searching for my dream bag, I am going to look for something with a design that speaks to me, that seems like coming out of my dreams, because I am not going to waste my money on anything else less than that. Nevertheless, I still find hard to understand the fact that people are actually buying things only because others do, or to appear ‘cool’, or because they find a temporary and shallow sense of satisfaction in purchasing things, or because owning a particular piece makes them belong to a certain social class or group, a status symbol if you will. If you really love fashion, that’s not going to happen to you. You are simply going to buy something because it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen and the chances that these things are local are low, since there are talented and creative designers all over the globe. There is, after all, a difference between loving fashion and between loving shopping. People can’t often distinguish between both. Therefore, the consumerist aspect of the culture can also be considered a defining aspect as to why people are not taking fashion more seriously than they should.
Despite the local efforts to boost Berlin Fashion Week as a significant event in the international fashion landscape, it is still far away from being an opportunity for designers to present radical proposals and show their creativity, unlike other fashion metropoli such as New York, Milan, or even the much smaller Copenhagen. The creativity and the potential surely exists, but the clientele and demand for such fashion is basically non-existent. Berlin Fashion Week is more of a social event or meeting, or a Klassentreffen (class reunion), just like I read a German commentator state in an article covering the latest collection of a very popular local designer, which resembled at its best a snoozefest. Fashion events in Germany tend to be centered around their social aspect, not the fashion one. This is probably the reason why there are also many prominent fashion figures who are there for the glamour, the trips, the fame, the attention, the praise, the goodies, and the money rather than for a mere love of fashion.
In conclusion, regardless of what may appear to many of you as a negative undertone when addressing the reasons why I believe Germany’s lacking on the fashion department, I still have hope this might change in a future as the country becomes more diverse and open and as people start having a national conversation around all of these topics.
I hope this article might contribute to the general understanding of why Germany isn’t a bigger fashion player. If you guys would like me to write more articles like this one, please let me know and please do not hesitate in letting me know your own opinions, objections, or criticism on the subject.
Regarding the outfit: How to wear leather pants and exploit them to their full potential? Go for an all-black outfit and make sure to mix different textures and lengths. I’ve added white boots to avoid going too black, if there is such a thing, but I love the playfulness and contrast they add to the overall look.
Wishing you all a great Thursday. x
P.S. If you are wondering what is exactly the difference between a fashion influencer and a fashion blogger, check out this post.