Susanne Ostwald was a 10-year-old girl living in East Berlin when the wall came down. November 9 of this year marks the 25th anniversary of that epochal event, but that wasn’t the reason Ostwald and her partner, Ingvar Helgason, decided to draw on her memories of the now-defunct East Germany for their new collection. No, as Ostwald explained after today’s show, she and Helgason simply felt the time had come to do a “serious” collection. “We like to be upbeat, a little jokey,” Ostwald said. “But we were worried about painting ourselves into a corner, and we wanted to try another mood.” You could sense the difference just by looking at the clothes: They weren’t downbeat or somber, but the collection as a whole exuded a reflective tone.
There was some really lovely storytelling going on here. And it was a child’s story, or more specifically, an adult’s impressionistic recollection of childhood—not only its elements, but also its slant perspective. Thus, there were riffs on school and scout uniforms, folkloric prints and patterns, and arts and crafts detailing such as crochet appliqués. Ostwald and Helgason also made interesting use of magnification, exaggerating pockets on jackets and pleats on skirts. The technique had a skewing effect, making you see the world through a child’s eyes, huge and full of strange proportions. Elsewhere, the diaphanous sheer organzas felt like a kind of daydream of the past, fleeting and ghostly. Abstract as all this sounds, Ostwald and Helgason executed the clothes on the runway with their typical realism, and typical aplomb. Everything was wearable, and everything sat comfortably in the Ostwald Helgason vocabulary; this season’s shift was in mood, not style. The designers dug deep for Spring, and though this wasn’t a perfect collection, it turned out that depth suits them.