MQ Fashion Week: Vienna Gets Gemütlich
At Vienna’s largest fashion event the designs are daring, without forgetting to stay gemütlich
"Vienna was a fashion capital around 1900, and maybe it will be again," said Elvyra Geyer lifting an eyebrow. She is one of the organisers of the MQ Vienna Fashion Week, now in its fourth year. As the crowds gathered outside the fashion week tent in mid-September, no one pretended to be in Paris or Milan. Vienna has its own pace and attitude. The event has to be comfortable and amiable… otherwise it’s just not right.
Nevertheless, Gemütlichkeit leaves plenty of room for style and innovation. The collections presented this year showed that Austrian fashion is making strides in a number of directions. The established designers gave Vienna new inspiration, while the event also shed light on some noteworthy newcomers.
A total of 80 designers showed during the five-day event. While event organisers Creative Headz invite designers from outside the country’s borders, they make a point of showing at least 50% Austrian designers. Still, there was a wide variety, ranging from modern takes on traditional garb like the flashy, trachten-esque get-ups by Manufaktur Herzblut, to more clean-cut pieces like the soft, streamline labels Elfenkleid or Michel Mayer.
"The designers have become more daring," noted Nina Kepplinger, a Vienna-based stylist at the agency Perfect Props. "In respect to transparency and mixing materials the tendency is going towards a more international scope. There used to be much more cotton and jersey, and T-shirts, but the designers now have more courage to experiment."
With a strong following and signature cuts, some labels were greeted with generous applause and even a few standing ovations. The urban chic of Callisti has a large fan base – classy, refined and wearable, making it an easy favourite for Viennese fashonistas. This season, its designer Martina Mueller presented black, tight and sexy, zipper-laden prêt-à-porter; occasionally injected with two-toned sweaters and jackets in grey and beige.
Vienna’s own ex-model Anelia Peschev wowed with a flowery collection of pastels, interrupted with spatters of kimono fabrics and light chiffon. There were mumbles that her collection was too eclectic, but nevertheless a number of outfits received cheers on the catwalk.
German enfant terrible Marcel Ostertag’s collection was called "The girl with the rose" and blended delicate transparent silks in purple and pastel hues with shiny red cocktail dresses in variations of layering, not to mention his signature billowy robes. The crowd went wild when he opened the show himself strutting his stuff in sky-high heels like he was "born this way".
It is hard to reach that balance between catering to fans and staying innovative. This year, Tiberius caught the audience off-guard. Known for designer Marcos Valenzuela’s latex and leather, fit with rivets and always a hint of S&M, his collection this year was bright yellow and innocently white, with almost no black. Elvyra Geyer noted the difficulty in bridging the gap, especially with a "cult" label like Tiberius "A few of my friends are Tiberius customers and asked me, ‘What should I buy? I don’t wear yellow or white.’" She shrugged. "But it really was a great show, colourful and silky, a big surprise."
Overall though, it was mostly young designers that made an impression on Geyer. "Lera Lechova, for instance, she was very different." The Russian newcomer had white geometrical dresses with plastic elements sporting gold prints. This kind of material mix is what gets the style-crowd’s blood flowing.
Kepplinger enjoyed seeing new names shine this year. "I’ve gotten to know this younger generation of designers, like Mark & Julia, who are more underground, but they can really compete." The winners of the 2012 Ringstrassen-Gallerien-Award paired androgynous cuts with patterned fabrics worked into the seams of black cotton and pastel silks, with sporadic flashes of colour on the form of a red "shorts suit" or a transparent floor-length dress.
When asked how he would describe Austrian fashion, designer Ostertag replied "Eingeschlafen", (asleep), affectionately mocking of the slow-going attitude towards change. "Everything takes too long to get here, but I guess that’s just Vienna." And it may have been that view that inspired MQ Vienna Fashion Week in the first place. The city’s fashion community has grabbed the reins to pick up the pace.
"It’s extremely important to strengthen fashion consciousness here in Vienna and we’ve accomplished that," Geyer explained. "That was the first step; the second is to expand the event so we can compete on an international level. Not we need to have 7,000 collections, but rather that we reach a certain level, where people say, ‘This, I have to see’."
Geyer stresses the event’s function as a platform for young and unknown designers to be seen by fashion editors and boutique owners as well as the general public. "Big labels have inquired, but that’s not what we want, we specifically want to give designers a chance who wouldn’t otherwise get one."
The concept of having the showrooms right next to the runway is also unusual, unique, an approach they pre-tested. "We went to Berlin to find out how people react to Austrian fashion. This contemporary design fashion isn’t easy to sell, like a suit jacket, where there’s a size 36 or 38, and you know you’ll fit into it. Design has little oddities and different things, and for many it’s too weird, or not weird enough… it’s just a different market."
Compared to past years, there seems to be more going on in the showroom area, but still mostly only the established labels make real sales. "People have to get over their inhibitions towards design," said Geyer. "It’s easier to go to H&M or Zara to buy a T-shirt, than to go to a designer and buy something unique. But when they do, they tend to feel good about it and are happy to have something special."
Despite Ostertag’s griping, fashion consciousness is growing in Vienna. Kepplinger has seen it over the past few years: "There are a number of big fashion events now, besides fashion week, there’s Modepalast, Blickfang, Festival for Fashion and Photography... But they’re all very manageable, and that’s exactly Vienna’s charm. Things happen more slowly here, but they happen."
Now in its fourth year, MQ Vienna Fashion Week has overcome many obstacles to get where it is today. "The tent is bigger, everything is bigger, we have more space, we can fit more people, we have more seating, we can fit 800 people, 200 more than in Berlin." But the organisers have taken the Gemütlichkeits-factor into account. "We have to see to what extent the designers can keep up with that," Geyer added. "So we’re learning more and more and the designers have to grow with us."
As Vienna becomes more design conscious, the attention toward the city’s largest fashion event will most certainly expand. And after New York and London, the obsessive-fashion-compulsive international design crowd may head east, for new fashion, but also because Vienna’s laid-back attitude is just what the doctor ordered.
For reviews of past MQ Vienna Fashion Weeks, see:
"MQ Vienna Fashion Week Debuts", Oct 2009 TVR
"Vienna Fashion Week: Mixed Messages", Oct 2010 TVR
"MQ Vienna Fashion Week: Into the Light", Oct 2011 TVR
For more, visit: www.mqviennafashionweek.com