RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
We turn now to fashion and one city that wants to be a fashion center. Berlin would like to be spoken of in the same breath as Paris and Milan, or London -which just wrapped up its fashion week. And the German capital is full of artists and creative types, including seven fashion schools. Trouble is, Berlin is currently better known for graffiti than glamour. As Susan Stone reports.
SUSAN STONE: Friday night in an old power plant-turned-hotspot, trend seekers and random German celebrities have gathered to watch young designers present their wares at the Beck's Fashion Experience, sponsored by, yes, Beck's Beer.
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STONE: Models wearing oversized Rastafarian caps paired with clear platform shoes and cocooning mini dresses clomped down the catwalk.
Next, male models show quirky, well-cut men's wear in black from local favorite QED. One of the designers, Julia Boege, says QED men have style and intelligence, and importantly, quite a bit of money, which means they probably won't be Berliners, who are more prone to Army boots than Armani suits.
Ms. JULIA BOEGE (Designer): Our clothes are very expensive because the quality is very high. And in Berlin, people don't spend very much money for clothing. So we're selling the fashion that we need to see the whole world. We have to work global.
STONE: International attention for Berlin's designers would help, the kind a major high-end fashion event can bring. Mercedes-Benz has announced that it will sponsor Fashion Week Berlin starting this summer, overseen by big media and entertainment group, IMG.
Deluxe runway shows are planned for a catwalk crossing Berlin's former border between East and West, running right through the middle of the historic Brandenburg Gate. Massimo Raedelli of IMG says the city brings together what he sees as two - at times, opposing powers, creativity and capitalism.
Mr. MASSIMO RAEDELLI (IMG): We felt again that Berlin has the best platform and opportunity in Europe to strike the right balance between art and commerce.
STONE: In theory, less glitter and gold - money that is - would follow. Berlin politician, Harald Wolf, hoped Fashion Week could stimulate the economy in the city, which is still struggling to fill jobs lost after German reunification, 17 years ago.
Mr. HARALD WOLF (Politician, Berlin): You have 800 designers in our city and so, we will give them the possibility to become internationally known, to go to the international markets, to have connection with international companies to distribute products.
STONE: The plan is they move in the right direction for a national fashion industry that can be out of step, says Melissa Drier, German correspondent for Women's Wear Daily. But she is not sure unglamorous Berlin, with its preference for a street style over designer labels, can or should be the next Paris.
Ms. MELISSA DRIER (Germany Correspondent, Women's Wear Daily): I think first we have to let Berlin be Berlin, and let people take advantage of that. We have so much sameness in the world, and in the world of retailing, that we should be thankful that maybe something looks a little bit different.
STONE: The first Fashion Week Berlin takes place this July, when temperatures and temperaments are at their best in this city with its own special sense of style.
For NPR News, I'm Susan Stone in Berlin.
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