Why Isn’t Germany a Bigger Fashion Player? Why Can’t German Fashion Compete With Zara? These are the gloomy types of headlines that spring to the top of my Google search when I begin to dig into Germany’s standing on the global fashion stage, and I can’t help but feel a little sympathy for the country while simultaneously asking myself the same questions. Earlier this year, I traveled to Berlin for a shoot that I was working on. I had been to Germany before: Munich, Salzburg (I guess that one’s technically Austria), Frankfurt, but not Berlin. I had a lot of expectations surrounding the city—the political and cultural history alone is intensely involved—but admittedly did not expect to become as enamored with it and its citizens as I did in fact become. My previous impressions of the country were that the people were a bit icy, the food a bit dense (sausages, pretzels, and beer don’t bode well with my digestion system), and the overall aesthetic lacking in warmth like its surrounding Western European countries, e.g., Denmark and Italy. This time around, however, couldn’t have felt more different—and for the better.
Despite optics to the contrary, Germany has the highest-valued clothing industry in Europe (approximately $63.3 billion USD in 2017). And, unlike its neighbors that typically claim one city as its fashion epicenter (Paris, Milan, and Copenhagen, for example), Germany's fashion scene seems to be sprinkled throughout Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich, and Düsseldorf.
“Maybe the situation would be different if the German fashion industry had managed to focus on one city as its capital in the past 25 years after the reunification, and Berlin—or Hamburg, or Munich, or Düsseldorf—would be more internationally recognized,” Harper’s Bazaar Germany Fashion Director Kai Margrander told Business of Fashion regarding the topic back in 2014.
However it continues to shake out, this does not seem to deter the creative scene from flourishing in Germany. Stefano Pilati recently migrated to the country and cited that “the isolation from fashion that Berlin has given me creates more objectivity in what I do. I have no fear.” Perhaps that is what gives Germany its style appeal. There’s more anonymity and less noise, giving citizens an opportunity to express themselves without worry of judgment; an authentic artists’ community. This rang especially true while I was exploring historically hip neighborhoods such as Mitte and Kreuzberg, where every street is lined with modern, provocative boutiques like Voo and spotting a nonchalantly cool, inspiring outfit was as easy as simply sitting down at a café and watching pedestrians stroll by.
So, alas, due to its open-minded community, unabashedly dressed residents, and thriving creative scene, I conclude that Germany has the most stylish citizens of the moment. And though I’d recommend booking a trip there to see for yourself (always better that way), until you do, scroll down for a glimpse at some of the country’s street style and to shop my picks from brands and boutiques based in Germany to emulate their aesthetic.
Up next: Berlin street style at its finest.