Friday, September 25, 2009

Wunderkind (Berlin, Germany)

I know I haven't been posting as regularly as I could and it's not about to get better, because I'm leaving for yet another destination tomorrow and this time it's a real vacation, i.e. posting will be very light (I have no idea if I'm getting Internet access). The good thing is that Haute World will finally be taking you to a country outside Europe. Until then, I thought I'd present at least one store I visited while I was in Berlin (there are still plenty to come).

The thing that always irritated me a little about Germany was the fact that it's the third largest economy in the world (following the U.S. and Japan), yet when it comes to global acclaim in fashion design, they always seemed a little behind... at least compared to other nations - such as the two I just mentioned as well as the UK, Italy, France or even Belgium. Germany has given us everything from luxury cars to cool sports brands to Helmut Newton or Marlene Dietrich, so it's not like there's a lack of creativity there. And with many talented German indie designers popping up, there's thankfully a new movement of fashion innovators streaming from the country. But it's still not necessarily the country you think of when it comes to big-name designers. There are three exceptions, the two biggest being Karl Lagerfeld and Jil Sander, both hailing from the beautiful (and my favorite) city of Hamburg. The third is Wolfang Joop, a designer who is pretty much as legendary as the other two in his home country, but slightly overshadowed by them in an international context.

wunderkindWunderkind's SS09 campaign.

Joop, a native of Potsam (a city neighboring Berlin), first rose to fame when he created his namesake label JOOP! which specialized in women's and men's ready-to-wear. Later on, when the name became available for licensing, it was primarily associated with fragrances, as well as jewelry and other accessories. Selling all his own shares of the company between 1998-2001, Joop removed himself from the brand he conceived and created a new label called Wunderkind in 1997. The brand name, which means 'child prodigy', was deliberately chosen by Joop, because it's one of the few German words that's understood universally without translation (much like 'Schadenfreude', which is probably less suitable as a label name). While JOOP! featured mainly sophisticated, minimalist and very grown-up looks, he wanted Wunderkind to have a more youthful, fun and playful edge, but at the same time retained a mix of tailored, fluid feminine and luxurious elements. First unveiled during NY Fashion Week in 2004, the collections have now moved to the Paris shows, where they are presented each season.

wunderkindThe first artworks I sighted near the entrance.

Even though the label has become fairly successful and popular, Wunderkind might still be hard to find in retail spaces around the world, which makes visiting the main flagship in Berlin a real treat (and a must, if you love beautifully crafted clothes). The first thing that came to mind, when I stepped into the sleek boutique, was 'art gallery', and unlike other stores, which remind me of one as well, it wasn't just the clean interiors and simple decor, but the fact that entire walls featured nothing but framed pieces of art. The current FW09 collection is primarily inspired by the colorful shapes of Russian abstract artist Kazimir Malevich's pieces, as well as the black and white nature photography of Gregor Törzs. Prints of these works (most of them by Törzs) hang alongside the clothes, highlighting the source of Joop's inspiration and in some cases the framed prints are available for sale as well.

wunderkindPart of the window display at the entrance (left) and a range of skincare products (right).

The other thing I couldn't help noticing when I entered, was the huge range of beauty products in a corner towards the entrance. Wunderkind also creates a large number of luxury skincare items, all of which were available in-store. Accessories, such as bags and shoes were laid out as well, most of which reflect the same artworks that also inspired the clothes.

wunderkindPart of the store as seen from the entrance, incl. some photographs by Törzs (left) and a selection of bags on display (right).

Because I don't often get to see the Wunderkind collection in person, I immediately started perusing the clothes and was not disappointed. Even if you're not into the colorful patterns or the nature-inspired prints, the draping, tailoring and other details such as ruching or pleating of the garments is impeccable. Of course you'll also find a large number of classic items, such as sharp-shouldered black coats and dresses featuring the more masculine look that made Joop famous. The store was completely empty on a Saturday, which isn't uncommon in German luxury stores (some may remember I had a similar experience when I visited the Jil Sander boutique), but there were only two SAs present and because upbeat music was playing, the atmosphere didn't seem as chilly as one might think.

wunderkindClothes on display...

wunderkindA few more photographs that inspired the collection (left).

Despite the futuristic touches, such as the small wall lamps, there were also a few cosy elements: the seating area near the changing rooms with it's soft light contained cosy circular couches and was decorated with reproductions of ancient statues.

wunderkindA few cool wall lamps (left) and the cosy seating area (right).

Besides the clothes and artworks, there's also plenty more to look at. The most obvious prop is the large table in the center that stretches through the entire store. Its glass surface contains sketches, swatches, notes and photos, giving you a glimpse of how the current collection was created from scratch and any other tidbits Joop has decided to share with the consumer. The designer himself is an avid painter, illustrator and writer (his own artworks are currently featured and sold in Lumas), so some of the sketches were pretty impressive.

wunderkindOverview of the store from the back (left) and the inspirational collage on display (right).

wunderkindMore inspiration...

Currently there are only four Wunderkind boutiques in the world, three of which are in Germany (the fourth can be found in London), giving you the best excuse to drop by if you're ever in Berlin. There are plans of opening up more this year, mainly in the U.S. and Europe. What I loved most about the boutique, was the fact that it gave so much insight as to what inspired the collection, which is rare for a store and something a designer usually reserves for an exhibit. For further inspiration, I would definitely recommend checking out some of Joop's illustrations and paintings as well.

wunderkindFW09 RTW collection (images:

wunderkindA selection of W. Joop's illustrations, including sketches for Wunderkind and color paintings (images: Lumas).

Address: Gendarmenpalais, Markgrafenstraße 42, 10117 Berlin
Opening Hrs: Mon-Fri: 10:00-19:00, Sat: 10:00-18:00

Wunderkind Homepage

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Impressions of Berlin (Germany)

Berlin is one of those cities that only gradually grew on me. I remember disliking most of it the first few times I visited. I thought it was too big, rather boring and there was way too much construction going on: Because the Berlin Wall had come down a few years before, they were building like crazy and there wasn't really much to see. Large construction sites and cranes would make it difficult to enjoy tourist attractions such as the Brandenburg Gate or shopping along Friedrichsstrasse. It was only in the last few years I began to truly appreciate what the city has to offer. It's still huge, there's still loads of construction going on, but many of the older buildings have been renovated with new ones popping up, giving the city an eclectic mix of modern and traditional architecture.

berlin brandenburg gateBrandenburger Tor.

Berlin is now pretty much the coolest place to be when it comes to Germany. While few would consider Germany (as a whole) to be a primary destination to visit in Europe, the nation's capital usually does top that list and you have streams of tourists going out of their way to stop by the city. It's the media and film capital of the country and is home of the Bread & Butter fashion event. It's also one of the few (if not only places) in the country where most people are capable of speaking English to foreigners and it's become a large melting pot of different cultures and nationalities.

berlin SiegessäuleDie Siegessäule.

Of course the one thing that makes Berlin special is it's history. Once divided by the Berlin Wall, it is now a unified city, with the nation celebrating 20 years of unification this November. I would definitely recommend anyone to take the time to visit some of the typical tourist attractions, such as Checkpoint Charlie or the remainder of the wall. And despite the large scale of the city, I would also suggest walking around instead of taking the subway, especially around Berlin Mitte, as you'll get a chance to check out some of the architecture. I tend to forget to take pictures when I'm in Germany, so some of the following photos were taken throughout the last three years...

berlin reichstagReichstag / German Parliament with it's glass dome and spiral interior.

berlin reichstagsuferWhite crosses along the Reichstagsufer commemorate those who were killed while trying to cross the wall to West Berlin.

berlin holocaust memorialThe Holocaust Memorial consisting of 2711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid across sloping grounds.

berin potsdamer platzHigh-rises around Potsdamer Platz.

berlin spreeThe Spree river heading towards the Museumsufer.

berlin domBerliner Dom.

berlin buddy bearThe bear is Berlin's official symbol. Here, an ssortment of 'Buddy Bär's, representing different countries around the world. This exhibit used to be near the Berliner Dom but has since been removed. Other bears can be found around the city.

berlin Hackesche HöfeInside courtyard 1 of the Hackesche Höfe. This complex houses various restaurants, boutiques and art galleries.

berlin gendarmenmarktDeutscher Dom am Gendarmenmarkt.

berlin checkpoint charlieCheckpoint Charlie at the former border between the American and the Soviet sector. Many of the props have been recreated.

berlin wallA remainder of the Berlin Wall, incl. an exhibit on its history.

berlin wall markerA brass marker on a pavement indicating where the wall once stood.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hermès pour Liberty (London, UK)

liberty london hermes
First off, I'd like to thank everyone for their anniversary wishes. I know some would have chosen to attend FNO, but in retrospect, I'm pretty sure Jourdan Dunn or Daisy Lowe would have somehow convinced me to buy an overpriced item I didn't need, so it's all good (in fact, I heard Alice Dellal managed to sell someone a really expensive fur coat at Miu Miu... I wonder if that person regrets it yet...). Instead, I did more guilt-free window-shopping and this time around, my beloved Liberty hosted a pop-up store of its own.

liberty london hermesThe six Hermès pour Liberty scarves (images: Liberty).

Hermès scarves are as typically Parisian as the Liberty print is associated with London, so it was only a matter of time before these two brands teamed up to create a collection of six scarves featuring the signature Hermès 'Ex Libris' motif on Liberty's traditional Tara Lawns cottons. The scarves and three different special-edition Hermès-Liberty ties were designed by Bali Barrett, the Creative Director of Hermès Silk. To celebrate this union, Liberty created a pop-up store in their scarf section, remodeled to resemble an oversized dressing up box. Here, customers can not just browse the selection, which also includes Hermès' regular range of FW09 scarves and twillys, but also attend events ranging from scarf tying workshops to photo-styling sessions.

liberty london hermesThe amazing window display.

Because Liberty happens to be one of my favorite department stores in the world, I didn't really need an excuse to pay it a visit and I had actually forgotten all about this collaboration until I approached the beautiful Tudor building and saw the very orange store windows. Liberty is renowned for having some of the best shop windows, but I was still stunned by how they had managed to painstakingly recreate a miniature version of the department store using orange cardboard and paper. All of this was surrounded by Hermès boxes of course. These even hung by the entrance leading directly to the pop-up store area.

liberty london hermesThe entrance to the pop-up store. Hermès packages everywhere...

I hadn't really planned on spending much time here or even featuring it on the blog until I took a peek in the store. But the staff had done an amazing job transforming the scarf area into an Hermès paradise. Scarves and twillys could be found on almost every wall, tied to orange ropes attached to a soft padded background. Cute wooden mannequin heads modeling the pieces were placed throughout the store as well.

liberty london hermesliberty london hermesliberty london hermesViews of the scarf wall, cash desk and tie displays.

Tables in the middle of the store were made to look like dressing room tables, complete with mirrors and soft benches, allowing you to take a seat and try on the creations yourself. There was a lot of attention to detail, ranging from the giant Martini glasses containing some of the silk ribbons to the carpet featuring the iconic Hermès horseshoes.

liberty london hermesliberty london hermesThe scarf tables...

Open Hermès boxes attached to the walls served as cubbyholes for ties or displayed small mirrors, but the thing I loved the most of course were the props. I actually missed some of them the first time round and only noticed these on my way out, so if you go, pay extra attention to the items against the walls. The most obvious one was the famous Liberty zebra who usually 'lives' in the scarf room anyway but was decked out in traditional Hermès silk for the occasion. The less noticeable pieces were made of Hermès boxes replicating telescopes, cameras and other devices. Looking through these, you'd see moving or fixed images of zebras and horse-carriages. Very cute. In fact, if these had been for sale, I probably would have snapped them up.

liberty london hermesI need that zebra...

liberty london hermesThe reworked spinning hat box showed moving horse carriages.

liberty london hermesThe view in this box revealed zebras walking into a miniature Liberty store.

liberty london hermesClose-up of the scarf mannequin (left) and a camera prop (right).

Last but not least, if you go towards the main area on the ground floor housing the regular Liberty line, you'll see a magnificent arrangement of Hermès pour Liberty scarves suspended from the top-floor ceiling. Right below this, another circular table filled with such scarves can be found.

The store is by no means huge, but you can probably spend quite a bit of time here and I'd head to Liberty regardless of whether you want to catch this or not. I've rarely seen so much effort put into a pop-up store - seeing as they're not permanent, props and decor are usually kept to a minimum. The pop-up will be open until October 18 so you still have plenty of time. If you're not in London but want to get your hands on one of these scarves - all of them are still available via Liberty's online store.

liberty london hermesScarves hanging by the ceiling in the main section and another display underneath it.

Address: Great Marlborough Street, London W1B 5AH
Opening Hrs: Mon-Sat: 10:00-21:00, Sun: 12:00-18:00

Liberty Homepage & Online Shop

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nicholas Kirkwood, Pierre Hardy & FNO (London, UK)

Even though I was in London during Fashion's Night Out, I only caught part of it (towards the beginning) as I had a dinner date with my better half to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. I figured ditching him to hang with designers, models and socialites probably wouldn't be the nicest thing to do. Nevertheless, I did see a lot of FNO related stuff happening on the day - mainly in the stores - as they were preparing for the event.

One of the things I was most looking forward to seeing, was the launch of Nicholas Kirkwood's first ever official shop space in Rei Kawakubo's Dover Street Market. I've been waiting forever for this guy to get his own boutique, but I guess this is the next-best thing for now. DSM has always had the best selection of his shoes and I was slightly bummed I would be missing the actual FNO event where the man himself would not only be present (fortunately I've met him before at the Browns Shoes opening) but unveil his first ever flats. That didn't stop me from checking out his shop-in-shop though and despite the fact that it was smaller than expected, there was still plenty of shoe goodness to look at.

nicholas kirkwood dover street marketNicholas Kirkwood @ DSM (top image: DSM).

DSM had some other special edition items for sale for the occasion, such as the Comme des Garçons 'Play' Converse sneakers and a DSM Swiss Army Knife, but if you're like me and a bit of a shoe addict, you'll probably want to head either to the second floor (where you'll find the general shoe area) or the third floor, which is where the Kirkwood selection can be found.

nicholas kirkwood dover street marketSome of the eye candy I spotted. Love those boots. Not sure about the furry things on the lower right.

While I was perusing this bit, and getting slightly distracted by the newly revamped Lanvin area next to it, I noticed two French gentlemen out of the corner of my eye, chatting with a member of staff who was showing them something. I didn't pay much attention, until I headed to an area displaying Pierre Hardy's newest FW09 shoe and handbag range. It was only when I was trying to check the price of a stunning gold heel and the two men came towards the area, I suddenly realized that one of the guys was Pierre Hardy himself.

pierre hardy dover street marketMonsieur Pierre Hardy and an associate, critically eyeing their own display.

He seemed delighted someone was checking out his collection, though I'm sure his delight faded when I decided not to buy anything. He and his colleague went straight to work, which involved them standing there, looking at the display for one minute. Then Hardy would go over, move a few shoes around, go back to where he stood before and they'd assess the layout again. This went on for a while and was fascinating to watch. I couldn't resist snapping a pic, but decided to leave after a few minutes before I started looking suspicious. Hardy is a genius though... those who aren't familiar with his line might know him as Balenciaga's official shoe designer and of course more affordable versions of his shoes can now be found in a special collaboration with Gap.

pierre hardyA selection of the Pierre Hardy FW09 collection (images: Pierre Hardy).

Pop-up stores seemed to be all over London when I was there and most of them were of the 'here's a Vogue display' variety (i.e. Topshop, Mango etc.). H&M previewed the Jimmy Choo collection later that evening, but the high-street store that made the best effort to bring something new to the fashion world was probably Urban Outfitters, who unveiled a pop-up store for upcoming indie designer and London College of Fashion graduate Simon Preen (not related to the 'Preen' label). Most of his designs came in a monochrome palette and involved a lot of leather, lace, lycra, shoulder pads and leggings, i.e. goth meets 80s. The collection officially launched on Monday, so there's probably more to come.

simon preen urban outfitterssimon preen urban outfittersSimon Preen @ Urban Outfitters. The 'garter' dress (lower left) was one of the key items.

And just some quick impressions of the Alexander McQueen flagship's store windows as inspired by the FW09 runway. I know some hated it, but I personally thought it was refreshing compared to all the 'safe' shows everyone else did. Yes, I'm very biased towards McQueen. He also designed two special egg chairs for FNO in the signature houndstooth motif.

Alexander Mcqueen LondonAlexander McQueen egg chairsWindows at Alexander McQueen and the special edition egg chairs. The zip at the top is embellished with skulls (of course).

Unfortunately my camera died by the time FNO actually went underway - check out the Vogue UK homepage for extensive coverage. Everyone from Claudia Schiffer to Burberry's Christopher Bailey to Alice Dellal were in attendance. Browns probably had the coolest event, with designers such as Henry Holland, Hussein Chalayan and Marios Schwab to name a few, working away in-store at the cashier, as personal stylists or as visual merchandisers. Like most cities, there were special 'limited edition' tees on sale. The UK ones, designed by Vogue fashion director Lucinda Chambers, were pretty snazzy and only cost £10 (with all proceeds going to charity). They were still available the next day in most high street stores, so it's worth checking in if you're still looking for one.

London Fashion's Night Out t-shirtThe FNO Vogue charity tee as sported by Sienna Miller (left) and in the Emporio Armani window (middle, lower right).

But my favorite special edition of the evening came from Marni. This collection wasn't exclusive to London, but I thought it was a cute idea: three dolls and two bags were designed to be sold that evening, along with customized versions of the Vogue tee.

Marni Fashion's Night OutLimited edition Marni dolls, totes and customized Vogue tees.

I've since read numerous reports about the NYC event, but if any of you have your own stories to tell - regardless of which city it was in, please let me know! I'd also be curious as to how successful this was. Minds are divided regarding the London one - some SA's said their sales tripled, while others (including those of established designer flagships) said they didn't sell anything. I guess it probably depended on who was in-store that night and what each shop organized. In general, I think it was probably still a great idea though.