When Andra Dumitrascu arrived in Paris three days before her Fashion Week debut earlier this fall, she changed her mind immediately. She decided that her show, which was supposed to take place at the Pompidou (where Vetements staged its last runway show in January 2017), would have to move to a different location. "I was actually surprised how un-Pomidou the set-up was. The Paris rooftop panorama felt like a corporate five star hotel; the vibes were bland and rather pointless," she told L'Officiel.
"I didn't feel this was worth it, so we went for the metro station instead," she continued. "I liked the vision of the random commuters mixing with the models and the audience, the vibes of the station, the train noise, the rush." The Berlin-based designer replaced the conventional hard copy show invitation with metro card tickets too. "It felt instantly inspiring. So, it was easy." And just like that, Dumitrascu became one of the most talked about young designers who showed in Paris this season.
The Romanian-born designer studied under Raf Simons, Veronique Branquinho, and Bernard Wilhelm and attended the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. After that, she opened a nameless shop in Berlin, which functioned as a space to discover new talent in fashion, art and design. But this was her first formal fashion show in the City of Light.
Part of the reason Dumitrascu attracted so much attention for her debut show in late September was in part because she flipped the script of the traditional Paris Fashion Week show. In Paris, it seems that even the most compelling young brands have their shows or presentations at established, sterile locations such as museums and hotels. The collision of real life meets high fashion was entertaining and made for an authentic moment, espcially on Instagram. Dumitrascu even decided during the show to tell the models to take a ride on the metro. "It's very traditional but also traditionally anarchic," she says of the current fashion scene in Paris. "At least when it comes to fashion. It reinvents itself and also the industry once in a while."
The designer has a way of meshing unsual inspiration with her aesthetics too. "Antep Urfa," says the designer, referencing a kebab shop in Paris. "The sign of a closed kebab shop, late at night. It didn't have any direct impact; I just kept resurfacing while I worked on the collection. The inspiration was eclectic: clubs, people at night, refugees from the day, the war, the office, the rooftop. Whatever. Uniforms of transit, youth, representation — but also the essence of your belongings — what would still be part of your world if you had to leave it behind; what would you want to stay with you."
She's not the only Berlin-based designer changing Paris Fashion Week either. In fact, just a few days later, in early October, Ottolinger staged a series of shows on a tourist boat on the Seine.
As press, buyers and friends of the brand gathered on the edges of the bi-layer boat, models walked up the stairs and through the crowd. There was no music. The only sounds were the stomping of their feet, the gentle clink of the metal chain accessories and the fast clicking of the cameras. People walking above on the street stood and watched, wondering what was happening. Again, it was another case of a Berlin-based brand scraping the conventional runway show and involving regular people.
It was the second time Ottolinger presented in Paris. In 2016, Christa Bösch and Cosima Gadient were part of VFiles and presented their couture-like collection (which had been lit on fire, as part of the process) in New York.
"Paris Fashion Week might be the most important fashion week these days in terms of showing, presenting yourself, meeting people," the designer duo said. "It's hard to say for us if Paris Fashion Week is changing overall, we only showed here twice, but it certainly feels like a good place for us right know."
Unlike Dumitrascu, Ottolinger's perfomrance was planned in advance. "When we where in Paris the previous season, we fell in love with the "Bateaux Mouches“ floating on the river Seine, and just thought it would be amazing to show our collection on one of these boats, having the city as its background."
As for the growing number of Berlin designers being innovative on the Paris runways, Ottolinger's designers say, "Berlin is a great city for a young label like us, with a lot of young artists and designers, and it’s a place where we can focus on work because its still affordable." Dumitrascu adds, "I think Berlin is a good mindset for improvisation; it makes it easy to redefine things: aesthetically and intellectually. It's a place nourished by art, poverty and freedom; challenging its habitants with an ongoing change. That imposes a creative mindset I guess."