Engineering style

Deirdre McQuillan reveals 10 things you might not know about German fashion


Put German fashion on world map
The queen of clean, Jil Sander, from Hamburg, became one of the most successful international fashion designers of the 1990s, known for her austere minimalist aesthetic, a counterpoint to the glitz of the period.

In 1999, Prada bought 75 per cent shares in her company, but the partnership foundered and was eventually terminated in 2004 when Sander returnedto the helm of the business having in the meantime designed successful ranges for the Japanese company Uniqlo.

Now aged 70, she told Elle magazine in March the three items she could not live without were a white shirt, dark jeans and a tailored navy coat: “In serious economic situations like this, people opt for understatement; they don’t feel like dressing up.”

owned by a reclusive German family
Cofounded by Malaysian-Chinese shoemaker Jimmy Choo and then Vogue accessories editor Tamara Mellon, Choo sold his share for £10 million, in 2001, and Mellon went on to become one of the richest women in the UK.

The label was bought in 2011 for £500m by Labelux, a German luxury group owned by the reclusive billionaire Reimann family, who also own Coty. Mellon has left the company and Labelux plans further international expansion for the brand.

Coy about German identity
One of the most successful and best known global menswear brands, it was founded in 1924 by Hugo Boss originally producing sports and rainwear, but later supplied the Nazis with uniforms. A reference to this by Russell Brand at a recent GQ Men of the Year event in London sponsored by Hugo Boss to the tune of £250,000 ended in uproar.

The company does not stress its heritage but prefers to describe itself as international and has over 6,000 points of sale in 124 countries. It is sponsoring an exhibition of David Bailey’s work at the National Portrait Gallery in London next February.

One and only Irish connection

Manufactum is a German retailer with nine spacious stores focusing on durable household and garden goods made using traditional methods. It also sells furniture, baths, computers, bikes, shoes, food and clothing apparel. Founded in 1988 by a former managing director of the Green Party, Manufactum’s weighty catalogues have an almost cult-like status in Germany. The only Irish company in its vast portfolio is Inis Meain on the Aran Islands, whose updated traditional island knitwear is stocked in all Manufactum stores around

Sponsors fashion all over the globe
The German car maker sponsors more than 30 fashion events across five continents, most notably New York Fashion Week. It has been supporting fashion events for more than a decade in LA, Berlin,
Brisbane, Sydney,
Milan, Stockholm, and Amsterdam, but never in Dublin.

Über cool eyewear with celebrity fans
An über cool, award-winning German brand whose innovative eyewear, in flexible stamp steel, without screws or joints, has acquired a cult status among hipsters.

Fans include Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie and Bruce Willis. From its lovely little shop in Mitte, Berlin, it now manages seven others in Tokyo, Berlin, Milan, Zurich and Paris and New York. After Sarah Jessica Parker wore gold framed Mykitas designed by Bernhard Willhem, sales doubled overnight.

High-end underwear since 1875
This German brand of unisex underwear dates from 1875 and is renowned for its craftsmanship and quality. In subdued colours and fine cotton, its long- and short-sleeved T-shirts, vests and boxer briefs are available online ( and Schiesser had sales of €132 million in 2011. Last year, global Israeli giant Delta Galil took it over in a deal worth €68 million, which will enable Schiesser to target Russia and eastern Europe for further expansion. It currently sells to all major German department stores and 5,000 speciality stores in Germany and Europe.

Cool looks for non trend driven fashionistas
Founded in Munich 15 years ago, where its flagship opened in 2004, Oska’s loose shapes and individual colour palette have earned it a following among women of all sizes who are fashion conscious but not necessarily driven by trends. Quiet and neutral shades are mixed with more vivid colours, and its styles are determined by the aesthetics of the designer Stefanie Schmitz, using mostly natural materials such as cotton, linen, silk and wool. In London, its latest shop opened in November, on Marylebone High Street, and in Ireland it is stocked by Brown Thomas.

Preppy style an Irish favourite
A craggy Jeff Bridges stars in Marc O Polo’s latest campaign, along with supermodel and actor Amber Valetta. Shot by Mario Sorrenti, who has been responsible for most Vogue covers, the campaign is a bold new marketing approach by this German company founded nearly 50 years ago. Last year it made a profit of more than €400 million, and although most of its sales are in Germany, it has several outlets in Ireland (Miss E, Sandycove; Pure, Douglas, Co Cork; Sarah King, Wexford; Unique Boutique, Longford; Luca, Gorey) plans for a standalone store here.

Clothes for real women is their mantra
Well known in Ireland, this German company was founded in 1973 by Gerry Weber and made women’s trousers. From such beginnings it has become one of the biggest manufacturers of womenswear in Germany, with sales in 2011/2012 of €803.3 million, the highest in its history. It has 4,584 employees, 71 per cent of whom are in Germany, and it has 6,000 stockists worldwide.

It was one of the first to pioneer the installation of RFIDs (radio frequency) into garments for improved efficiency two years ago, for which Weber received a US industry award.

“We make clothes for real women,” is their mantra. The brand has been selling in Ireland for more than 20 years and has more than 70 points of sale, the biggest customer being Pamela Scott. A flagship store opened in Dundrum in 2008.

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