Where the success of German fashion lies



WWhen it comes to fashion, most people intuitively think of Milan or Paris, big names like Dior, Fendi, Hermès or Dolce & Gabbana, which can look back on a long tradition – and who are currently at the fashion weeks in Milan and Paris stage in spectacular shows. Germany does not have this fashion potential to offer. Jil Sander sold her brand to the Prada Group more than two decades ago and lives in seclusion in Hamburg. Karl Lagerfeld went to Paris early on and only returned to Germany for money jobs. And in recent years, Wolfgang Joop has drawn more attention to himself with his pithy sayings than with his designs. At least he stays in business with the “Looks” brand. And finally: At the Berlin Fashion Week you saw many young designers come and go. With a few exceptions – such as Lala Berlin or Kaviar Gauche – most of them have not really caught on internationally.

The success of German fashion does not lie in haute couture and not in the low-cost segment, but in the middle market. This is exactly what brands like Marc O’Polo, Closed, Drykorn and Opus are aiming for. They all stand for modern and wearable fashion that appeals to many people. A sweater made from new wool by Marc O’Polo costs around 179 euros, and trousers are between 119 and 179 euros. This is good value for money. The clear stylistic signature with a focus on casual fashion and sustainability brought the company record sales during the pandemic. The Marc O’Polo Group achieved brand sales of 592 million euros in the 2021/22 financial year. That is 35 percent more than in the previous year. The younger Marc O’Polo Denim line in particular contributed to growth with an increase of almost 80 percent. “Of course, the topic of sustainability and the pandemic with the trend towards casual fashion played into our hands,” says CEO Maximilian Böck. “But sustainability has been our focus since the company was founded. We set the course before Corona and defined our current sustainability strategy. Our lead in the market is correspondingly large.”

German fashion comes from the provinces

His father, Werner Böck, had already recognized the potential of the brand, which has its roots in Sweden, in 1968. The first part of the collection was a patchwork shirt made from hand-woven Indian cotton. The first advertising campaign was adorned with a strawberry – the ad motifs caused a stir. Werner Böck brought the brand to Germany and founded a subsidiary in Stephanskirchen near Rosenheim. In the 1980s, sweatshirts with the oversized Marc O’Polo lettering on the back achieved cult status. At the end of the 1990s, Böck took over the majority of the brand and relocated the company headquarters to Germany.

Marc O’Polo from Stephanskirchen; Odeeh, the brand of the two designers Otto Drögsler and Jörg Ehrlich, from Giebelstadt near Würzburg; s.Oliver (originally Sir Oliver) from Rottendorf in Lower Franconia; Windsor, based in Kreuzlingen on the Swiss-German border: German fashion has worldly names, but comes from the provinces. An example of this was the Strenesse brand (from “Strehle” and “Jeunesse”) from beautiful Nördlingen, which has since been discontinued.

“For beautiful people”

The puristic style, by Jil Sander and Gabriel Strehle once cultivated, is also a trademark for Marc O’Polo. “We stand for casual wear with a Scandinavian signature, are rather simple and stand for long-lasting favorite pieces that you want to wear for as long as possible,” says Susanne Schwenger, who is responsible for the design as CPO.



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