Der Berliner Salon is the New Chambre Bleue
As costs are rising and only modern-day courtiers have access to the exclusive venues, the fashion industry and designers don’t always have a relationship that works in tandem. Historically, the combination of exclusivity and a ruling upper-class has resulted in everything from class-war to protests, make-shift productions and counter-cultural revolutions. One such by-product of these conditions were the Salons of Paris – famous for their integral role in the Enlightenment – and within these confines existed a preference for merit over status and a female-centered approach to sociability. Many have posited that the Salons emerged in opposition to the insufferable aristocracy of France in the 18th and 19th centuries – others feel they were simply an extension of it. Nonetheless, the intellectual exchange that took place provided a safe working space for both the intellectuals and the creatives of the time – and in recent years, Der Berliner Salon has resurrected and embodied this essence.
Founded in 2015 by Christiane Arp, Editor-in-Chief of VOGUE Germany and Marcus Kurz, CEO at Nowadays, which provides event production and creative services, Der Berliner Salon is an initiative committed to promoting German talent and designers across national and international networks. The Salons of past were an intricate network of philosophes and salonnières – while one indulged in civil banter, the other acted as the regulating authority – intervening with wit and a commanding expertise. Bearing this history, the irony and dynamism involved in the creation of Der Berliner Salon is not lost on us. By fusing the international prestige and witty decadence of VOGUE with the awe-inspiring, logistical preparations of Nowadays, Der Berliner Salon establishes a new era for German fashion design.
Left-behind, forgotten and dealing with a paralyzing amount of dissonance, in the decades leading up to the 21st century, post-War Berlin was grappling with reconstruction while the rest of the world moved forward. From a pop-culture standpoint Berlin was on the map mostly due to a few mentions by Bowie and various punk circles, but the proper fashion industry was disinterested, at best, as the couture runways of Paris and the new wave runways of New York dominated a shift towards flamboyance that Berlin simply could not afford.
In 1989, hammers and sickles were replaced with hammers and chisels – and the world watched, starry-eyed, as the Wall fell. Skittishly celebrating as the dust settled, Berliners were ripe with feelings and swift with actions. That same year, after almost two decades in business, Jil Sander went public on the Frankfurt stock exchange, proving that perseverance in post-Wall Germany was alive and well. Discounted and overlooked, German fashion design returned to the international scene the only way it knew how – understated and sober. The 90s were defined by a sense of angst and the sound of grunge – the trend of minimalism meant a complete reduction to androgyny and German designers opened the floodgates. Sander, Murkudis and Joop returned to the runways as powerhouses, reminding the world that despite its troublesome past, intellectualism and sophistication still reigned in Europe.
For those with narrow minds and apathetic hearts, the Millennium and current zeitgeist is an intimidating one. The reemergence of eclecticism and intellectualism, two entities rarely seen entangled, are now fused more than ever. For reasons perhaps still unknown to the city itself, Berlin has been situated at the apex of this cultural shift. And again, the world finds itself watching, starry-eyed – but now it is with both amusement and admiration as Perret Schaad, Strenesse, Michael Sontag and others dim the lights, cue the music and define the season. However, if these designers hold the key to the future temperament of fashion in Europe, then Der Berliner Salon is the landlord, providing a platform for those willing to sign the lease.
Arp and Kurz, in German tradition, have founded a quality organization that is practical in its means and through its venues and stages, provides a perfect balance of decadence to the sober and sensual collections making an appearance in Berlin for the last decade or so. Resourceful, intellectual and sophisticated, Der Berliner Salon is allowing Berlin the time it needs not to discover – but to rediscover – the agency and power it’s had all along.