Annette Pringle-Kölsch from The Fashion Agent recently attended Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin, where she scoped out the latest trends and faces. Annette represents local fashion labels and designers and runs the only multi-label wholesale showroom in the country. We asked her what she learned in Berlin.

What were the top trends coming through at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin?

1. The hottest colours are shades of red and blush.

2. Look out for tassels, pompoms and lace detailing.

3. The white shirt is still a must-have.

4. Athleisure is definitely (still!) the trend of the future. Think clean and technical designs and fabrics.

5. The bearded man is out!

What can South African designers learn from their Berlin counterparts?

1. Most countries have a positive connotation of South Africa and local designers should use this better for their brands. Designers in South Africa need to communicate their stories better to their customers. If you don’t have a story, you don’t have a designer brand.

2. Be creative and original, and show innovation and modernisation in your designs. Show the consumer how to wear your designs and how to experience and enjoy fashion.

3. Be proud of your work and execute it to perfection. Get only fantastically manufactured and finished garments on to runways and into stores, both online and bricks-and-mortar.

You’ve worked in the fashion industry in Germany and South Africa. What are the differences between the two countries?

1. South Africa’s fashion industry is still not led by design. Red-carpet events and cheaper mass-market brands dominate the fashion industry.

2. South Africans and local designers don’t want to spend money on ‘investment’ pieces or to develop a certain style, technique or material within a designer brand. This is needed to create and sustain a broader-based fashion industry.

3. Our retailers are not creating emotions; there is no ‘shopping experience’ in the bigger department stores. This is a challenge as the big retailers have the power and influence to educate the masses.

4. The CMT (cut-make-trim) labour that’s accessible for smaller designers and brands are in general not investing in state-of-the-art technology. Thus the fashion and clothing manufactured in SA on small runs can in general not compete with the international standards. Attention to detail and excellent quality needs to be developed and fostered.

Which international designers inspire you?

Ann Demeulemeester, Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons. They design pieces that are distinctive and instantly recognisable, paying close attention to detail and the use of cutting-edge techniques in pattern drafting, materials and manufacturing. These designers work with specific aesthetics, touching on topics and stories which inspire me and with which I can identify.

Do you think slow fashion – a trend in Germany – could develop into a mainstream trend here?

I think slow fashion (designing, creating and buying for quality and longevity) will gain more momentum in South Africa. It fits the attitude and values of the millennial generation. When I arrived here 13 years ago, you could not find a good cappuccino anywhere. Since then, local food and fresh produce markets have mushroomed. Consumers want to know more and more about what they drink and eat and that movement can also be felt in the fashion industry. When consumers slow down, they step back and reassess what is really important to them, and they make more conscious shopping decisions. This is the chance for local fashion designers and designer brands to tell their stories to consumers: where the clothes come from, who has designed and manufactured them, which techniques and materials were used, and how to care for it to make it last. By doing all, you can still look fabulously fashionable and live life better by living slower.

Consumers are appreciating retail destinations such as The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock in Cape Town and 44 Stanley, Arts on Main, Neighbourgoods Market, WorkShopNewTown and 27 Boxes in Johannesburg. Such new retail locations need to be curated in detail to guarantee people shop there.
Annette Pringle-Kölsch was a guest of Lufthansa and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin.