The fashion industry has quite a few obsessions, but one of the most ubiquitous ones probably is that with youth, youth culture, adolescence, the next generation – you name it. And it’s not simply an obsessions with youth, it’s an obsession with youth that is required to rebel, to change ideas and ideals, to push things forward, and at best be multi-talented and highly successful by the age of 20. There is no doubt fashion history has seen quite a few of these outstanding figures, their visions and designs still remarkable today – there also is no doubt these high expectations held by journalists, possible employers, colleagues, or the audience per se put an immense, and at times unbearable, pressure on minds that often thrive when there are no restrictions and boundaries at all.

Looking towards what is emerging certainly is no bad habit, as views of those still growing up often are less restricted, and the strive towards leaving a mark still stronger then of those who have been in a profession or environment for years upon years. Still, fashion loves to loose itself in the notion of the genius underdog conquering the industry on his own – although working in house, at a company, or with your own label on a smaller scale can be equally seen as success.

Speaking to six of Berlin’s up and coming fashion design students that all just did their BA at art school ESMOD, it got clear that starting your own label right out of uni might be perceived as the ultimate goal, but that these young talents actually prioritize other things when it comes to success and self-fulfillment – collaboration, a never ending learning experience, and a sense of staying true to yourself and others.

Lena-Marie Schütte, 22

What is the most important thing you learned during your studies?
To deal with various stressful situations, to learn what really good design is, and how important the process actually is. That’s the key for good design. You can’t create a product right away, the process is the key to everything.

What are your plans for after uni?
My plan is work in a team. I enjoyed studying but I had to do everything alone, and that is something I didn’t like as much. I really want to go into a team now, work for a brand I can identify with because I think the results are much stronger in the end as opposed to when you just work by yourself.

Which brands are the ones you identify with at the moment?
Y-Project, Eckhaus Latta, I think they are very progressive right now, also Balenciaga. I would like to got to a brand that is more experimental, not really ready-to-wear but a bit more avant-garde. Brands that are trying a lot of things, that are just really forward in their design and not commercial.

If you could change anything about the fashion industry what would that be?
I would make it slow down. Everything is just happening too fast, there are too many collections, not the right materials, people also just consume too much. It should be more about making good clothes that you can wear for a long time. I would try to slow the whole industry down a bit and have even more diversity shown. I still think that a lot of people are not really represented, and also bodies that are not perfect or “normal”. Why don’t we just show regular people with regular faces, not these stereotypical model faces. I would change that completely. There already are brands doing this, I think that is a very important and big step. Especially for young people to have a better body image of themselves, because that is so influencing.

Why is Berlin a good place for a young person interested in fashion?
That is very difficult to say. There are a lot of opportunities even if you don’t have as much money but Berlin is not really the place for fashion. The development of the fashion scene is very slow in Berlin, which is quite sad but something you have to come to terms with. I think people could make a lot more out of it, there definitely are very interesting people that experiment a lot, a small but very interesting scene. Everything is allowed here, which is great, but sometimes it also makes people lazy. It would be nice if people would just try to express themselves a bit more. Fashion is so fun, so let’s make the most out of it.

Yulia Kjellsson, 25

How has Berlin shaped you as a designer?
It helped me become who I was meant to be. Maybe that would have happened sooner or later but I think it happened faster here.

Why is Berlin a good place for a young person interested in fashion?
It’s really creative, it’s really open-minded, it encourages you to be arty. You never feel like the most extravagant person because there is always someone worse than you. So even if you are a shy person you can become the most you can be.

What are your plans for after uni?
First I want to sleep. And then I want to go work for another label to just get some experience. Maybe in the future it would be really cool to do my own thing.

What do you view as the most interesting development right now?
For me it’s really intriguing how labels are playing with femininity on men. But I think that hasn’t been done in a way that doesn’t look like a costume but actually feels authentic. There should be another approach, they just go overboard and turn it into a costume. It has something to do with authenticity, where you come from, what your really want. A lot of big brands are also playing off brands, trying to be feminist or trying to be sustainable, because they understand that it’s the deal but you know that it’s not really coming from their soul. Then it just looks weird.

If you could change anything about the fashion industry what would that be?
So much. Most of all the production line, how we produce, how we don’t care about what happens before the garment gets to the store, who produces it, which fabrics are being used. Sustainability still isn’t really seen as cool or important to the bigger brands, which I think is really odd. Also the stereotypes of models, it’s still really homogenic. That’s why I tend to like the smaller and emerging brands best, because they are exciting, they have beliefs, they see a need in the industry, they take responsibility, and they do all this even though they might loose some customers.

Gösta von Platen, 25

How do you feel getting started in fashion?
Generally I feel ready but maybe not in terms of how the industry is working. I imagine it will be very different to how you work in university, because you work on such a personal level. It will definitely be a challenge to adjust to this without losing your own personality in the work.

What do you view as the most interesting development right now?
I think it’s interesting how it is going a bit more out of this traditional concept of the runway show. That’s why I chose to show my graduate collection as a performance. That for me is the most interesting development, how people choose to present their designs.

If you could choose any brand to work for which would you choose?
Right now it would be Loewe. I’m focusing on menswear so I’m mostly interested in their menswear line. They have a very playful touch on these classic garments, it’s an interesting combination of tailoring and workwear.

What do you think about the current discussions of menswear, masculinity, and gender?
I think at some brands you really see an honest representation of this movement. I don’t really like to apply labels to it however, like “feminine”, “masculine”, or “gender neutral”. I think you shouldn’t make it neutral but combine and exaggerate it from both sides.

Why is Berlin a good place for a young person interested in fashion?
If you are interested in fashion it’s an excellent place I think. It’s a bit more difficult to actually make fashion here, because people are interested but often they are too busy with other things that are part of broader culture. If you would want success however, you would need to go beyond Berlin even if you are based here, to establish yourself.

Larissa Besch, 23

What is the most important thing you learned during your studies?
Team spirit and to support each other.

How do you feel getting started in fashion?
I definitely learned a lot, got a lot of contacts, and tried a lot. I do feel ready to start into the fashion industry now, but I think I will never have learned enough. Of course the industry itself also is intimidating. You need to be able to really stand up for yourself.

What do you see as the most interesting development right now?
Everything that has to do with art and performance I find especially interesting. It’s just great that the audience is integrated more and is able to be really close to the performance. It just connects you on a more personal level, triggers so many emotions and makes the show, the garments, and the whole atmosphere so much more exciting. It really is a happening. Catwalk shows on the other hand often are very repetitive.

If you could change anything about the fashion industry what would that be?
I would like to see more collaborations. Not just between fashion designers, but artists in general. It makes each person so much stronger as well as the outcome itself. I just enjoy team work. Also, with my graduate collection, I of course made that myself and it was an extremely shaping experience, but I think it’s better for your health and your psyche to work in a team. And it’s just more fun.

Was Berlin a good place for you as a young person interested in fashion?
To be honest I did not see that much of Berlin as I was so occupied with my studies.

Vivien Adrian, 21

What is the most important thing you learned during your studies?
For me personally it’s taking care of details and really looking at the finishing to heighten the overall quality of the final garment, and really making sure that there is a coherent red line throughout every single garment that correlates to the collection.

How would you describe your own collection?
Quite minimalistic I would say, very clean cuts, sleek and tailored.

What do you view as the most interesting development right now?
For me that’s a very controversial question because there are so many aspects of fashion that can be looked at. There is a lot of unisex coming up right now that really breaks the gender roles and that’s non-binary. But at the same time there are these intricate details and minimalism that still are up to date and coherent with everyone’s style. For me personally the progression with unisex and non-binary is the most interesting, even though it’s not my personal aesthetic I think it’s very intriguing as to how different designers are breaking these gender norms and often say “there is no gender for this collection, I’m making it for everyone”.

Why is Berlin a good place for a young person interested in fashion?
I don’t think it’s a good city for that because I think people generally forget about Berlin and don’t think about it as a fashion capital. Which is very sad because there are so many students that are creating these amazing garments and really learn a lot. These developments could benefit and also increase the demand in Berlin fashion, but at the same time a lot of these designers are planning to leave and are applying to go to Paris or London or New York.

Is it possible to be a successful fashion designer in Berlin?
I think it’s possible to build you own brand, because it’s way cheaper than in other cities, but to really attract demand and people in general it’s quite hard.

Vivian Mönch, 25

What are your plans for after uni?
I think starting your own label kind of is the goal of every designer, but I would want to work at another brand first. The risk is just too high. In the current state of fashion I’d need to be quite careful, especially because my studies were really time- and money consuming. It also is even harder to start your own label in Germany because the fashion industry here just isn’t as strong as in other countries.

Why is Berlin a good place for someone interested in fashion?
Because Berlin has so many faces. There are all these different parts of the city you can explore and get inspired from. But still, you also really quickly get a lot of opportunities. You just need to be at the right place at the right time, and then you really have a chance of making it.

If you could change anything about the fashion industry what would that be?
I would support young designers more, there should be more support from the government, money wise. So you actually have the opportunity as a young person to create, to build something.

With all the crucial developments currently happening, why is it valid to surround yourself with fashion?
If we would only surround ourselves with bad stuff, everything would be even more miserable. Of course, there are more important things than fashion, but it still is very important to also have a bit of beautiful distraction.

Should fashion be more political and address these issues more?
I’m not quite sure. If so, it should be done in a certain way. There already are a few labels especially designing garments or tools for refugees. I think if you would like to address political developments with fashion, the people that are actually affected by these developments should also be the ones benefiting from the fashion addressing them. If you only use these issues for marketing, or only for the runway, that just doesn’t work for me.

Photography by Isabel O’Toole