You can’t cover Berlin Fashion Week without talking about Esther Perbandt, Berlin cool girl and the “Queen of Black.” She started her eponymous label in 2004 and was a cult favorite for her androgynous, all black aesthetic before winning the hearts of the audience and judges in the first season of Making the Cut, hosted by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. Though narrowly missing the grand prize due to her integrity of vision and lack of artistic compromise, she gained an international following through the Amazon Prime show in the first year of the pandemic, when everybody was at home binge watching television. It was a great learning and growing experience for Esther and her brand, not only opening up a world market to her, but also inspiring her and giving her the financial means to explore the realm of couture. In fact, the 16 looks from this outing are couture pieces that are only available to order. (Rest easy, die-hard fans, there will also be a corresponding “Easy Access” collection available through her online store and boutique in Berlin.)
Esther Perbandt is the best spokesmodel for her brand, a Berlin fashion icon in her own right with her signature look, instantly recognizable yet ever evolving – occupying that sweet spot of staying relevant and yet somehow timeless at the same time.
A consummate artist, Esther has exhibited at art fairs and collaborated with long-time friend Sven Marquardt, King of Berlin nightlife and keeper of the gate at Berghain – to which Elon Musk infamously was denied access – on photography projects and a jewelry capsule collection with Adidas. Her fashion shows always involve some kind of performance, historically at the Volksbühne Theater, this time featuring mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo, touted by the New York Times as “one of the best young singers in the world.” Not an unimportant side note: The addition of plus sizes to her offering is also a result of her experience on Making the Cut, where she had been constricted before financially, but then was so excited to see that her designs also look amazing on other body types and received the positive affirmation thereof from models and clients alike.
Esther Perbandt is so cutting edge, she has now gone post-meta in making the virtual a reality.
She was at the forefront of digital fashion when she livestreamed her virtual collection entitled Astro Noir in July 2021, developed with the Berlin start-up company for artificial intelligence, Yoona.ai. In September of that same year, she enabled visitors of the Positions Art Fair to virtually try the designs on through augmented reality. For this Berlin Fashion Week, she put on an immersive mixed reality presentation at the Berlin Art Library, which now also holds three of her works. Live models wore the avant garde designs while their digital counterparts were projected on 8 holographic screens throughout the dark space.
The garments integrated new blockchain technology by German RegTech “Fashion for Biodiversity Solutions,” FFBS-ID chips which tell the story of the item’s origin and value chains and provide a comprehensive assessment of its impact on the environment. This transparency is a part of Esther’s commitment to sustainability, as is the development of virtual collections that are only made to order. In fact, sustainability is so much a part of Berlin’s ideological DNA that it barely even gets mentioned because it is the assumption rather than the exception. For all that Copenhagen gets touted for being the capital of sustainability in the fashion world, NEONYT and Fashionsustain are German B2B platforms operating at the cross section of fashion, sustainability and technology to share learning and best practices over the last two decades.
Above all, Esther creates statement pieces that are empowering and make you feel 3 inches taller – and that’s not just the Trippen platforms she collaborated on and her personal footwear of choice.
They exist in that “the future is now” space of good science fiction and forward thinking fashion.