Don't you know, talking about a rave-olution with HUGO SS19... it's a whisper
There are moments in Berlin, in the dark of early morning, when you find yourself a wrap in an organ tingling sound system, your surrounds concrete and pitch black and freaky free and beautiful. Timeless abandon. Tonight is one of them. And the aggressive minimal techno is being served up to perhaps 20 people who are gleefully leaving it all on the floor in this dank cement block in the East of the city. This is before a 7 am pickup for a return to Los Angeles at the Hotel de Rome in Bebelplatz, a plaza which is best circumnavigated, Berliner beers in hand, at sunrise. Bebelplatz, that place of book burning, memorial, and a veritable center of a city just gifted some 9 hours prior a HUGO show several miles north, the first in seven years here, which sung of cosmic youth-after-dark; a collection that with flair and focus paid homage to an era of minimal, house, and techno served all mind-thrumming night in this city of empires fallen and risen, art, and a blurring of the lines.
The presentation very appropriately took place shortly before midnight at Motorwerk, the original techno club of Berlin, a sinister industrial building of exposed brick and dark vertices that was transformed into a mid-90s raver haunt. On entry, a spaghetti bundle of lasers and beams showered a self-intersecting runway in rhythmic electronic swirls and figure eights. The rest hereafter is a hazy let-go, the mixed men’s and women’s collection a sort of organized chaos atop properly diverse youth, pieces peppered with re-appropriated 90s party flyers stitched into t-shirts beneath oversized, big-shouldered jackets; a disaffected and purposefully subdued, almost drab palette with funky, loud neon linings; techno-grunge 90s layering with drawstring, breakbeat style pants, all with suiting touches that spoke of an ever balanced cosmopolitan’s rave ramblings following a dinner party inclusive of colleagues not hip to your deep techno predilections. It was fun.
As the show concluded, the models stacked several rows deep onto a stage-like altar that housed the sacred DJ booth, soon to be smashed to pieces by techno legends Ellen Allien, DJ Hell, and Marcel Dettman, but not before the sexy beast, one Wiz Khalifa, martial art-combed abs showcased between the vents of a fire red HUGO smoking jacket—not a techno artist but as much a fan of cutting loose on the floor as you could hope for—spit out a handful of his bangers as the models disappeared into the dark corners of the staging. Then came the party, which spilled into a large courtyard quickly populated with food and drink vendors, and a swell of pretty and influential Berlin fashionistas. It was edgy, it was eclectic, it was accessorized street met with techno caricature old and new, and it was lost in the rhythm and bass and crunchy turns of the knobs.
I had the opportunity to speak with both Men’s and Women’s designers backstage before the AM hours swallowed us all into an esophageal sonic adventure, Bart de Backer and Jenny Swank-Krasteva , respectively, to learn more about their vision for this special Berlin moment and collection.
The casting was diverse and super cool. Describe the mindset?
Bart de Backer: We were trying to get a Berlin vibe. We chose a young guy—the whole idea I had in mind was what I was feeling about Berlin at the moment—this kind of urban creative type. We have a lot of people moving from London and Paris at the moment. They’re most of the time creative people and they come here to experiment by being creative, but not having the pressure to survive. This influenced our choices.
Regarding the pressure to survive—the collection feels a little survivalist in the tone but free from constraints. It has attitude and a clear purpose. Would you agree there’s something survivalist in the collection, or how would you describe its relationship to rules?
Bart de Backer: it’s not so much about survivalism. It’s about mixing different pieces together and not following the common aesthetics. Experimenting and challenging them. And this is also another reason why we took Berlin as the city. We see so many individually dressed people here. People take garments out of their context and mix them together for a new look. So we have all this awareness that we mix with the tailoring. For instance, you can see the lining here [pointing at the finalized looks on a peg board in front of us]. We took this oversized piece from our archives from 1993. We add this kind of lace that you normally have in outerwear just to change the shape of the piece. It’s more like do it yourself fashion.
And would you say the attitude of the collection is more disaffected or conscientious?
Bart de Backer: Disaffected is aware but not caring; conscientious is overly caring. I like more the first one.
Describe this new introduction to Berlin club culture?
Jenny Swank-Krasteva: I have still yet to go to Berghain. But I’ve heard it’s the place to be, at least for tourists, so I’m really excited to go there. The music is really catchy. I feel like there is a release in it, you know? And I think it’s really relatable to the people here and the vibe here.
How does release and freedom relate to fashion design?
Jenny Swank-Krasteva: It’s everything to be able to create with complete freedom and this is something we were really able to do with this collection. It’s not necessarily something you get to do every day, but with this collection, no one was telling us what to do what to produce and it’s such an exhilarating thing. I feel like you really bring the whole experience to the next level, so I guess there is a correlation there between techno music and the clothing. It’s great you got that out of me! There you go.
Written by Matthew Bedard