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Hugo Boss Wows in Berlin, Plans for New York

If there is any proper mega brand in Germany it is without doubt Hugo Boss, which staged a thoroughly cool runway show on Thursday, July 5, in Berlin Fashion Week, an unexpected blend of canny modern sportswear distilled into couture silhouettes.

Staged in the Erika Hess Eisstadion, a huge indoor ice-rink built in the 60s carefully converted into a striped back, 150-foot long catwalk, this Hugo spring collection meshed couture lines and cuts with the bright pastels of Los Angeles in a polished display of fashion.

“I spent a lot of time looking at 50s couture. The shapes, volumes and event the armpits,” smiled Eyan Allen, who along with design partner Bart de Backer created the collection, explained to FWD.

The show was one of some 25 runway events in Berlin’s fashion season, which though highly popular with Mitteleuropean media, is little followed by foreign editors. Speaking to FWD at the event, Hugo Boss CEO Claus Dietrich Lahrs revealed that the house plans to show its top collection on New York catwalks, starting in September 2013.

“Our American business has been really great. We are opening six more boutiques in the US this year, mainly in the South. Our easy-to-comprehend high fashion collections connect well with American consumers. So, apart from a few major events in China, which is obviously a key market, we will show in New York. The city fits with Hugo Boss very well,” said Lahrs.

On the runway, Allen and de Backer found a clever method to hand paint reflective holograms onto various outfits, adding a smart high-tech touch to the looks.

Using a palette of palest gray, golden ecru, silver and lots of mint, the designers sent out sleekly cut fashion. For women, figure hugging cocktails, their side finished with holograms, or flared at the hip dresses that hinted at Dior or Balenciaga, but in modernist lighter-weight fabrics, and thus in the Hugo zone of probable chic. For men, the mood was streamlined, redolent of cult movie “Gattaca,” in its hyper clean elegance. Plus, the design duo injected just the right does of attitude, most notably their bomber jacket backs to another wise classic suit that was tremendously eye catching.

The show comes at an impressive moment for Hugo Boss under the management of Lahrs. His policy of gradually upping the Boss’ overall price point is clearly working. Last year, Hugo Boss scored a 19 percent increase in total revenues to 2.059 billion, or $2.553 billion. In the midst of a recession, these are imposing figures, and now Lahrs is predicting sales of 2.3 billion in 2012.

The CEO is pushing ahead on several fronts – radically upping the percentage of sales achieved in Boss owned stores, and investing substantially in new retail boutiques and flagships.

When Lahrs took over the reins in 2008, roughly one third of all sales were in Boss directly controlled stores. That figure shot past 50 percent last year, and will continue to rise until it’s two thirds of total sales.

“And we are planning to invest up to 70 million euros ($86.8 million) this year building new stores. We believe in the future,” added Lahrs, as the audience, which included Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actress Kate Bosworth and It Gal Poppy Delevigne took their seats around Lahrs for the show.

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