how berlin's rave fashion was born
In the early 90s Berlin was dancing in clothing that looked like it was on a trip too, probably because it was made it the middle of one.
Fashion and music go together, like, well, fashion and music. Not just in fashion metropolises like New York or London, who have a long history of mingling street, sound and style, but also in a very special way Berlin in the 90s, and in a way less documented too. Music inspires fashion, it creates a subculture, but it inspires the fashion industry too when that subculture becomes a lucrative target group.
In 1994 two and a half million young people were dancing in German - mainly in Berlin - raves; this group had the buying power of about five billion Deutschmarks between them, and out of them a new fashion style was born in Germany, clubwear, fashion for going out in, fashion to rave in, fashion to make you stand out whilst you danced away.
"The fashion came from dancing," recalls Frank Schütte, one of the most well-known figures in nightlife and fashion in Berlin's 90s techno scene, dressing the raving masses with his label 3000. These days Frank Schütte goes by the name Frank Ford, but back then he created clothing that he described as techno couture, designed to make you really stand out amongst the raving masses. With fashion designer Stefan Loy at his side, he created miniskirts out of plastic bags, polyester evening gowns and also printed provocative slogans like "Rich Bitch," "Spritzen" and "Porn Star" onto shirts - which at the time was still pretty shocking. Schütte, who used to wear everything from fishnets to Gaultier, finished the early collections in small runs at home, and according to Frank, often on acid.
Ravers became the fashion reincarnation of the flower children from the late 60s, who were open to experimentation, and as into dressing up as they were to being naked. The 90s raver uniform was often an exercise in how-to-be-as-naked-as-possible-and-still-be-dressed as well. What you did wear came in screeching neon colours, together with plush, platforms and synthetic fabrics.
Raver kids with money spent it at boutiques like Berlin's Groopies. There you could find American brands like Patricia Field — the same Patricia Field that later became famous for styling Sex and the City. Patent leather boots and fur bags regularly arrived in the German capital from New York, Paris, Tokyo and London. The concept behind Wicked Garden was similar, even if it had a somewhat fancier reputation due to its image-heavy regular customers like TV personalities from MTV and Viva as well as the famous DJ, Marusha. Fashion from London was sold next to German rave labels like 3000 and Sabotage, the latter wove ceramic fibres into wool shirts to protect their ever-dancing customers from overheating.
Other labels responsible for the dressing the colourful partying raver masses of the early-90s were Panis & Hams, Asprial and Jörg Pfefferkorn. By the mid-90s, their greasy, gleaming polyamide urban spacewear landed on international runways, elevating the DIY techno couture to haute couture in Paris. On dance floors, what followed at around the same time was the slacker, looser, more understated style, as an answer to the loud clubwear. Functional, cheap and durable instead of shrill, colourful and expensive. Trends come and go and even techno subculture isn't free from this most natural law of fashion. People started wearing hoodies (with a logo at most), track pants (with three colourful stripes at most) and jeans (worn high on your hips).
In due course, even Sabotage started making mundane, everyday looks without the ceramic fibres, and sold them at more marketable prices. Jörg Pfefferkorn focused his creative energy on business fashion. By then Schütte had disappeared from Berlin too, after cheating a bunch of people out of their money. At some point, ten years later, he reappeared in L.A. as Frank Ford, still collaborating with Stefan Loy, where he began dressing stars like Britney Spears and Cher in things that looked like recycled trash.
Text Lisa Riehl
Photography Tilman Brembs / Zeitmaschine.org
In Kooperation mit Converse.