High fashion by German designers is a firm feature on the international catwalks. For decades now designers Karl Lagerfeld, who was born in Hamburg and is the creative mind behind the French haute couture company Chanel, and Wolfgang Joop, who is nowadays enjoying success with his Wunderkind Couture label, have been global players. Of the younger generation Bernhard Willhelm, Markus Lupfer, Stephan Schneider and Daniela and Annette Felder, for example, are enjoying succees from Paris, London, and Antwerp to New York.
In Germany Berlin has emerged as the place where the fashion scene sets trends: Twice a year the world of fashion meets there at the Berlin Fashion Week and the streetwear trade fair Bread & Butter, with around 700 fashion labels putting up stiff competition for fashion centers such as London and Paris. The German fashion designers play with identities and traditions and since reunification have developed an independent, self-confident style of its own. Their fashion also has many facets – from fresh and wacky, elegant and purist to colorful, poetic designs. In everyday life, Germans tend to focus more on the down-to-earth. In addition to functional business attire they tend to prefer casual sportswear, such as Boss and Strenesse by Gabriele Strehle. Though headquartered in southern Germany, both labels have long been well established in international markets. Great value is placed on creativity and individuality, both of which are more important to fashion-conscious Germans than status symbols. The German Fashion Association states that Germany is the world’s second largest exporter of fashion worldwide. However, many of the companies, such as Cinque, Oui, Marc Cain, René Lezard and Windsor are often not seen as German firms, as in terms of name the labels have a sort of international camouflage. German fashion companies were some of the first to adopt “green fashion” and place importannce on sustainability and fair trade.
German product design has a reputation for creating carefully devised, straightforward functional products. Design made in Germany – from Bulthaup kitchens to Braun razors – is held in high regard in the international arena. Companies such as furniture manufacturers Wilkhahn and Vitra still lead the way in terms of style, as do Lamy for writing implements and Erco for luminaires. The traditions of Bauhaus in the 1920s and the Ulm College in the 1950s are still highly regarded, but in the meantime a new generation has made a name for itself. It includes Konstantin Grcic, who was born in 1965 and is one of the most innovative young designers. Born in Munich, he accords totally banal everyday objects an unfamiliar touch of poetry. The newcomers from “Studio Vertijet” in Halle, Steffen Kroll and Kirsten Hoppert, also blend playful and analytical design elements in their work. In 2010 the textile designer Elisa Strozyk won the first award presented to up-and-coming designers by the German Design Prize.