This book project is a collaboration between Prof. Susan Ingram and Ms. Katrina Sark, a graduate of the Centre’s Diploma program and currently a PhD candidate in German Studies at McGill University, Montreal. Together Prof. Ingram and Ms. Sark are researching the history of fashion in Berlin, its stories of divisions (the initial nationalizing 19th-century rupture with the French, the later post-WWII break into East and West), of trauma (the Nazis’ eradication of the primarily Jewish ready-to-wear industry, the disorientation of the Wende as East and West became “the former East” and “the former West”), of bureaucracy (the unsuccessful efforts to establish a fashion museum) and of street happenings (the more successful efforts to establish Berlin Fashion Week and, of course, the Love Parade).
Berliner Chic looks at Berlin’s fashion in the first instance from the point of view of the women responsible for making, wearing, preserving, collecting, and displaying it. Despite the popular male designers whose names have been associated with the department stores on Hausvogteiplatz and couture houses on Kurfürstendamm, Berlin’s fashion history is primarily a history of female labour. Today this labour continues to thrive in the hands of female museum curators, archival workers and fashion librarians, who administer and create displays of the fashion collections at museums and galleries in Berlin.
The researchers’ interest in these stories transcends the facts, however, going beyond chronological cultural history to ask questions of narration and location: where do we know these stories from? Who has told them and why? Where did they take place? What was the significance of those places then, and what is it now?
In comparing the work of social and cultural historians, sociologists and cultural critics with that of the practitioners in the fashion industry, the study’s approach is multifaceted and comprehensive, allowing the authors to assess, and demonstrate the longevity of, Berlin’s current aspirations to become a global fashion capital.
Research Director: Prof. Susan Ingram, Humanities with Katrina Sark (PhD candidate, German Studies, McGill University)