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Berlin: Hugo Boss, To Russian With Mode

Godfrey Deeny
July 13th, 2007 @ 10:21 AM - Berlin

Fashion was rarely more a metaphor of our times than in Berlin Thursday night when the BMW of German fashion, Hugo Boss, staged a constructivist style fashion show underneath the Brandenburger Gate before throwing its after party in the Russian embassy.

Western Europeans in Paris or London might be extremely wary of Putin’s Russia and its threats to cut off our gas, or impertinent Internet jamming of our Estonia cousins, but our German neighbors embrace the Russian bear in a jolly embrace.

The efficiently staged, and perfectly wearable show, of Hugo, Boss’ edgier youth line, ended with the vampish – and all in red – Italian supermodel Mariacarla Boscono leading out a regiment of “workers” in Pillbox red clad overalls onto the catwalk in the custom-made show space in the opening runway show of the debut Berlin Fashion Week. The same employees then acted like human guideposts up Unter den Linden, the local equivalent of Fifth Avenue, as the guests marched up to the mammoth and impressive former Soviet – now Russian Federation - Embassy.

But though the theme was mock Stalinist gothic, the guest list was a respectable turnout that included Mischa Barton, Rupert Everett and, inevitably given that Mercedes Benz is the week’s lead sponsor, two ace Formula One drivers – Lewis Hamilton, David Coulthard.

The actual collection broke little new ground but could be admired for its clean, stylist-trick free, disproportioned takes on classic apparel. By that we mean, flat-fronted leather pants cut off above the ankles, stiff waxy cotton shirts buttoned all the way up to the neck and Thom Browne-style little boy suits in technical gabardine – for men. For gals, we were entertained by cool, crocheted white dresses, rather clever blotch plaid shifts, charming swingy cotton jackets and model worker gal trenchoats. The sockless men in cute brogues and woven leather ankle bracelets and the leggy gals in Roman style leather sandals and their jelled hair made for an austere mood.

But if the show was understated, the after party thrown by Boss CEO Bruno Saelzer and Russian ambassador Vladimir Kotenev rocked. Passing the embassy’s metal detectors, guests were greeted with a rich array of musical choices from a wild gypsy rock band to stirring male choir with balalaika and accordion accompaniment at the front portico.

“It’s great to have a fashion week here in Berlin. The city needed and merited one. It helps established names like Boss and will give oxygen to the young designers who are emerging,” Mayor Klaus Wowereit told FWD.

Hizzoner plans to attend at least half the gigs in the 11-show season, including the New Generation joint runway event, which some bright spark has scheduled as the final show on Sunday at 9AM. This is not a typo.

Around Wowereit the party rocked, as Boss bar staff served Jeroboams of Moet Chandon, guests dined on a great Russian buffet of pelimeni and (mega delish) smoked sturgeon laid out beneath chandeliers the size of small trucks and groovers danced in the garden to a laser show projected so high local aviation was warned to avoid the neighborhood.

But if the party was a symbol of Boss’ legendary generosity, the show centre was a cut-price affair, where a shambolic door staff kept literally scores of local editors including the editor-in-chief of German Vogue waiting behind a crash barrier for nearly half an hour, as overly officious IMG security glowered nearby.

Moreover what was purported to be a VIP lounge flanking the runway space felt more like a holding pen in a Deep South Immigration Department office. Why one wondered do you assemble a cast of international celebs and media at a wonderful location where the Reichstag flanks the lovely Tiergarten and then jam these folks into a shabby bar that resembled the backstage for a fading heavy metal band touring obscure Midwestern basketball arenas? No answer to that really is there.

But later at the Boss after-fete it was all systems go. One strikingly alluring barmaid, attired in a Rodchenko like heroine outfit, spent what seemed like a hour dancing erotically on the bar, while the single most authoritative figure was a melodramatically surly two-meter-tall transvestite in tights and a corset who towered over the assembled German hipsters.

Our colleagues in London may quite rightly be infuriated at the vulgar audacity of apparently Russian agents sprinkling radioactive thallium throughout Mayfair in their bastardly assassination of a dissident. In Germany, they take a different approach – let’s party the easterners into civilized behavior.

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