Our roaming cultural lens turns to Germany, with a rundown of the essential fashion brands that the European nation has to offer.
Cars, beer, electrical appliances, and more cars; fashion is not the first thing that springs to mind when one thinks of German craftsmanship. While brands from New York, Milan and Paris will always be keen to shout their patriotism from the rooftops, German brands tend to be a little less forthcoming about their roots — a shame, as the nation boasts a thriving fashion scene. Similar to their Scandinavian cousins, German brands tend to lie low on the radar, specializing in minimal, disciplined aesthetics that put design first and foremost.
Without further ado, here’s a breakdown of the very best brands Deutschland has to offer.
ACRONYM are world leaders in performance gear, with garments expertly articulated for range of motion and with high-end technical fabrics for maximum performance. Innovative detailing means jackets can be fully unzipped and taken off in one movement and slung on the back like a rucksack, with mechanisms like the Gravity Pocket, capable of springing items — like a phone — into the user’s hand on command. Errolson Hugh’s label is constantly innovating and pushing boundaries with what clothing can and cannot do — check the brand’s highly unorthodox NikeLab collab for proof of their willingness to push boundaries. Indeed, the label’s designer played a pivotal role in the rebirth of Nike’s high-performance ACG line.
In typically German fashion, Phillip Bree’s PB 0110 label specializes in artisan-crafted leather goods that have been stripped back to the bare necessities – meticulously producing minimalist bags and accessories from high-end leathers in spartan, tonal colorways. Think of them as the Common Projects of the accessories world – with a price to match. PB 0110’s natural leathers promise to age beautifully over time, developing a unique, worn patina — just check some of the beautiful examples on their website for evidence.
Another minimalist Berlin label, designer Hien Le’s men’s and women’s garb focuses on discreet garments and subtle detailing. Each collection sticks to a distinct palette; whether it’s electric blues or soft nude tones, Hien Le keeps things tonal – letting cut and fabrication do the talking. As well as a full arsenal of ready-to-wear gear, the label has also branched out into their own unique fragrance; “delicate but explosive,” in their own words.
The avant-garde eyewear label use next-level technologies to create glasses of unbelievable strength and lightweight — all of which are manufactured onsite at the label’s Berlin HQ. Having patented their very-own screwless hinges and offering shades in seemingly every color and lens combination under the sun, the high-end label is for those who want a little more from their eyewear. Check out our tour of the brand’s Berlin building here.
To say adidas is an icon of streetwear would be an understatement. Indeed, Germany’s biggest brand is so ingrained in sneaker and street culture that you’d be forgiven for thinking it was birthed in America. The brand with the Three Stripes has found adoration everywhere from old-school rappers to British football hooligans, all of whom are drawn to the brand’s sporty-yet-timeless design language and commitment to innovation.
While nowadays the brand is locked in a headline-grabbing rivalry with Nike, it’s worth remembering the altogether more intimate conflict that runs through the brand’s history. The brand’s founder Adolf Dassler initially designed footwear with his brother Rudolf back in the 1940s, before the pair split and Dassler’s brother went on to found PUMA. Their hometown of Herzogenaurach is still divided to this day.
Founded by adidas founder Adolf “Adi” Dassler’s brother and arch-rival Rudolf, PUMA’s sportswear pedigree is perhaps less iconic, but by no means insignificant. From cult classic shoes like the Suede and the State up to contemporary collaborations with Rihanna, Stampd and this very magazine, Herzogenaurach’s second-most famous label has a long and illustrious streetwear history – albeit one that lies in the shadow of their arch-rival’s.
One of Berlin’s younger talents, Frisur produce quintessentially European men’s and women’s collections – that means minimal detailing, spartan colorways and an emphasis on cut, fabrication and utility. The brand’s full lineup of ready-to-wear garments are executed either tonally or with careful color-blocking; combining “Scandinavian simplicity with German functionality” as the label puts it.
A Kind Of Guise
Munich’s A Kind Of Guise are one of Germany’s most forward-thinking menswear brands. Their domestically made collections reference broad, eclectic influences – making a big step away from their country’s typically conservative menswear culture. With collections inspired by Mongolian football culture and lookbooks shot in Athens, A Kind Of Guise’s cosmopolitan take on casualwear steps into unknown territories while keeping one foot firmly planted on wearability.
A designer of legendary status – who The New York Times crowned “The Queen of Less” – Jil Sander has pioneered minimalism in fashion since 1968. That’s nearly 50 years of the low-key aesthetics which have come to dominate Germany and Scandinavia’s fashion landscapes so heavily. Her label has had a rocky history; it was bought out by Prada in 1999, before Sanders abruptly quit six months later, sending the company into a tailspin that saw sales plummet and nearly all of the brand’s production and design staff resign.
Sanders returned to the house in 2003, before resigning again in 2004 – citing insurmountable differences with Prada’s CEO Patrizio Bertelli. Prada subsequently appointed none other than Raf Simons to head up the house. After Simons left for Dior in 2012, the label has kept a steady course without a big-name creative director, furthering its iconic legacy in minimalism, while Sanders herself has established her own consultancy; which most notably collaborated with fast fashion giant Uniqlo on their +J collections.
Former assistant to Helmut Lang, Kostas Murkudis has been designing for decades; either under his own name, or lending his talents to high-end luxury houses across the globe. His own label mixes classic garments with contemporary styling – which, combined with a penchant for producing traditionally masculine garments for women, makes the Greek-German creative one of the nation’s premier designers.
Veterans of Berlin’s fashion scene, Ucon Acrobatics have been quietly working on their men’s and women’s collections since 2001, concentrating on bespoke fabrics and tailored cuts. Standout patterns are balanced by a tasteful eye for detailing, while colors are used with typically German discipline. As with so many of their peers, low-key design is kept at the forefront of the label’s priorities.
Founded in 2000 and headquartered in Berlin’s Kreuzberg, 032c originally started out as a contemporary culture magazine and expanded into apparel only recently. Under the creative direction of Maria Koch, 032c’s clothing line serves as an extension of its magazine’s editorial agenda, comprised of graphic and embroidered hoodies, t-shirts, and much more, celebrating the magazine’s collaborations with the likes of Gosha Rubchinskiy and ALYX.
Founded by Serhat Isik and Benjamin Alexander Huseby and a diverse community of collaborators, GmbH is a collaborative brand born from the dancefloors of some of Berlin’s most legendary nightclubs. Featuring pieces crafted from deadstock materials sourced from a high-end factory in Milan, the label resists the over-consumption of today’s fashion industry, tight jerseys, PVC pants, bulky leather jackets, and tactile vests.
Before founding GOETZE, Sissi Goetze attended London’s Central Saint Martins, pursuing an MA in menswear. Based in Berlin, GOETZE draws upon the city’s intersection of unconventional lifestyle with elements extracted from art, design, and leisure to develop and craft each collection. Combining traditional models of menswear with everyday aspects of contemporary masculinity, the brand takes inspiration from athletic apparel and casual wear as well as classic formalities.
In German, “Klar” means “clearly.” It’s also the word Munich-based footwear brand VOR uses to describe its razor-sharp design methodology. This is elevated lifestyle sneakers done right — utilizing only the finest materials with a near obsessive commitment to perfection. If you’re looking to invest in a high-grade Stan Smith alternative that will last a lifetime, look no further than the brand’s celebrated 3A model.
Engineering collective OBS recently made a splash with its knock-out leather handbags, but there’s much more to the brand than leather accessories. Although it’s relatively new on the scene, the brand’s uber-sleek and hyper-futuristic designs are reminiscent of other technical streetwear labels such as A-COLD WALL*.
Let’s be honest — shopping for mid-seasonal wardrobe staples at this time of year is a bit of a headache. Step in AMH, the brainchild of Ashley Marc Hovelle. The designer, who takes a strong ethical stance when it comes to his craft, has been carving out a name for years thanks to his constant stream of versatile knitwear and accessories. Growing out of Germany, the brand is now stocked in over 30 countries — a testament to its caliber.
If you’re looking for high-performance gear that will withstand fall and spring showers, g-lab is your label. The weatherwear brand combines contemporary fashion aesthetics with true performance, ensuring you stay dry while looking the part. Utilizing multilayer fabrics with a water column of up to 10.000mm, g-lab’s garments will protect you from even the most inclement weather.
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- Curated by: Nigel Minani