Universität der Künste, SCHAU15 – by Silvia Bombardini

Dear Shaded Viewers and Diane,


As the curtain dropped on Berlin Fashion Week and preparations for various wrap-up parties were underway elsewhere, at sunset in the delightfully quaint venue of the Erika-Hess-Eisstadion the students of the Universität der Künste presented their graduate collections to the public, while we ate our pretzels and applauded in turn. As jury we had been granted a private tour beforehand, for the designers to explain in depth their method and references, and so that we could look closely at this or that detail – still, it’s seeing them on the body and in motion that gives garments their purpose, and that’s when their personality and potential really shone through. Diverse as each student’s work was, if there’s an adjective that all the same can describe the general sentiment of this 2015 class, heartfelt would be it. An intimate, at times raw connection between author and oeuvre is paramount, as it should be, when the students thread through themes of identity, memory and transformation – and prepare to step out from underneath UdK’s protective wing and meet the industry on their own.

My personal favourite was Sarah Effenberger’s Fomme. UdK inaugural MA student, Sarah already trained with the likes of Matthew Miller and Christopher Kane, and introduces her work with a quote by P. Oswalt: I had a romance novel inside me, but I paid three sailors to beat it out of me with steel pipes. Her collection blurs genders without relying on the sexless and basic, and doesn’t shy away from the staples of prettiness – plush bows, embroidery and Chanel tweeds. Sarah tells me how she would like her clothes to make men look “needy, soft and weak but not ridiculous”, but as her lookbook shows, it’s menswear that women wear well too. There were two more mens collection I really liked, Kai Gerhardt’s Put your lights on and Venus Nemitz’s The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. Wrapped in blanket-size, beautifully handwoven scarves, Kai’s work questioned the inconsistency of childhood fears, whereas Venus’, named after Milton Rokeach’s psychiatric case study of the same title, featured plenty of see-through tulle and lace, pyjamas, harnesses and a fresh shot of humour – closing the show, her boys walked on the notes of a harmonica cover of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball. Also Friederike Haller ventured the subject of mental illness in her Depersonalisation collection, with skin-like latex flaps and high slits through thin silks, in a bruised palette of black and blue, pale pink and peach. Suggestively fragile but sartorially solid nonetheless, it looked crafted with care, and didn’t slip off nor tremble when worn. Bettina Mileta examined the evolution of posture across the centuries, and how what was once taken care of by our garments is presently our own responsibility via fitness practices. Her Haltungsmuster collection merged the bright hues and ribbed, stretchy fabrics of contemporary sportswear with the dusty colours and high class lengths of the past. The golden accessories have a functional aim: prompting the wearer to turn their shoulder or wrist some particular way, they remind them of their pose. Lena Frank took instead the unassuming shape of the suit bag as her module: a substantial, clean and matte cover that occasionally unzipped, to reveal something precious lying just beneath.