The twilight starts sneaking in from the rectangular windows of this five-floor-high parallel universe, stuffed inside an abandoned electronic powerhouse, exposing even more of all the ruggedness and rawness of the interior. Looking up, the church-like windows extend almost limitlessly to the sky, mixing and reflecting with colours of bizarre red and steel blue, giving me a sense of stability and comfort. It makes me doubt my sensibility as the base is hitting harder than ever in my ears, the fog is covering my eyes, and I can feel the sweat, the heat and the flames coming off from every person around me. As the day arrives, the people dance harder than the long long, endless night, as if a brutal war has reached a new peak. Regardless of gender, sexual orientation, physical disabilities, race, height, body type, containing all the abnormality of today’s human society. Some fully naked, some covered in leather, the banging of the iron doors in the toilet, the staircases that leads to mystical destinations, all of these fragmented moments all construct in my head a whole new surreality. What is reality? I couldn’t remember.
It looked like hell, but felt like heaven.
Not only a post cold war symbol and the cultural, political capital of Germany, Berlin is also the home of all restless, sleepless youth of the world. It is an near anarchist society, but also a society where good governing has the most obvious effect.
It is far less delicate compared to Paris, or can’t even come close to the glamour of New York. The constructive bauhaus seen everywhere in the city screams post-soviet. People are not rich, nor do they have a life in extreme poverty. But thanks to these preconditions, it is a city where people are not judged, where subculture can prosper to the fullest, where class stratification is less extreme and where almost any culture has a space to breathe.
Why has this city become the Mecca of all the avant-garde youth of today?
First, Berlin is not a pretty place. She’s like an orphan who looks damaged outside, but is incredibly powerful inside. Even before the mauerfall, West Berlin was always a unique island buried inside Russian-ruled East Germany. It had the culture freedom of the West, but had less control from the authorities with regards to social order. People go out until 9, 10 in the morning, and the nights were infinitely long. It was possible to live next to nothing in the city, and those typical 4 meters high ceiling gigantic space were all up for gab. After the country reunified, there were even more abandoned facilities and empty space that were free to occupy by the youth. Thus, a new wave of experimental raves and parties kicked off. From art, performance, punk, post-punk, drugs, electronic, techno and extreme sex culture all exploded in this city, and became the normal consistence of people’s daily lives. This is perhaps the only places in the world where sub-culture has in fact become more dominant and understood by the mainstream society. Unlike other highly developed West German cities, Berlin has thus attracted all the young people to come and live, create, and embrace their youth to the fullest.
It is my third time in the city, and I can always find a brand new perspective in life when I am here. And these inspirations makes me love this place even more each time. But who are these people living in Berlin, really?
They are a young couple who just got pregnant, and rationally decides to raise the child unmarried, then goes to Bargain on a Sunday afternoon to celebrate the birth of their baby in 10 months. They are three men and a woman who are currently madly in love together in a platonic relationship. He is a Polish artist who eventually settled back in Berlin after living in the craziest cities in the world. She is a young girl who quitted her job and studies in China to pursue her DJ dream. This is a land where non-conformists rule, and irrationality seems to have its way around. Inexpensive cost of living, well-rounded social security system, student scholarships and a less-material driven culture enabled the such social norms.
再谈到柏林的时装文化，这里不仅存在着一个世界上都极其独特的衣着文化，也同时在影响着世界许多不同的设计师们创作。贫穷，作为这里时尚的发源理念，深深充斥在每一个人的造型选择中。人们似乎不约而同地遵循和一个秘密，却又众所周知的时装信条。用极具故事感，随机感和不刻意却有十分刻意的古旧衣物，打造比例、色调都和这个城市冲突又协调的个人形象。似乎没有什么限制，却有充满着潜藏规则。如今在巴黎兴起的Gosha Rubchinsky, Vetements等以亚文化和后苏主义贫穷放荡少年为灵感的流行，正是抽离其意，却有深深符合其宗旨的延展。
Speaking of fashion in Berlin, the city has an extremely unique creed of attire, and also extends its influence to inspirational mood boards of designers across the globe. “Poor but sexy”, as a core value that Berlin fashion grew on, can be found in almost everyone’s way of dressing. This dress code is an open secret that takes some time to get hold on. Berliners like to have random yet carefully thought out matching between new pieces and vintage clothing, creating coordinated and curated colour palettes and silhouettes that contrast with the city blandish background, but still perfectly mashing in. It seems limitless, yet this dress code is filled with rules and faux-pas. The poor, post-soviet, communist suburban style, perfectly illustrated by Gosha Rubchinsky and Vetements, that is sweeping through street style of fashion week in Europe, is exactly using such Berliner dress code standards to create this nouveau high-street sensation. Nothing fitted, looking like you found a Russian Grandpa’s ankle long jacket with shoulder pads that drop till your mid-arms, but still wore it with a perfectly effortless “I threw on this randomly and came out” spirit, is what’s causing mainstream fashion to rethink street style today. Indeed, Berlin is about looking somewhat poor, random and not following what mainstream is telling you to wear, while actually spending a lot of effort into building such image of your own.
However, what we are also discussing is how such unique fashion taste is difficult to apply in other cities in the world. Perhaps it’s the vast blandness and minimalist constructions of the city that makes it seem like a piece of white paper with a rare texture. Compared to other more glamorous cities like Hong Kong, Paris or London, such way of dressing would seem a bit too out of place. But of course, feeling the pulse of every city’s fashion scene is something fashion workers are always passionate in discovering. But is there a certain style that can blend into the magic aura of each city, yet not drowning into the general crowd?
而另外一点让我不断感到十分有趣的是，在柏林这个城市里“活在过去”的简易性。一个朋友对我说，他常常觉得自己被困在了过去的时光中。他无法接受现代科技的不断更新，而总是在缅怀过去不久的文化、音乐、服装和生活方式。这种”Golden Age Syndromne” 是当今人类社会对过快发展和信息爆炸的现代文化所产生的一种抵触和自我反击。他们永远觉得过去的政治信仰，新闻准则，甚至是电子游戏，卡通动漫，都远比现在层出不穷的新鲜版本要好得多。而柏林的许多带有浓浓后共产主义的街区，以及城市随处可见的历史沉淀感，都让这种生活方式变得可能，变得理性。
Another thing that interests me very much is the easiness of “living in the past” in this city. A friend said to me that he always feels very trapped in the past eras. He finds it very difficult in accepting the speeding development of technology, and is always reminiscing about the culture, music and fashion scene in the past. Such “Gold Age Syndrome” is a self defence mechanism against the over capacity of development, and the accelerated explosion of modern day information. They always find the old political beliefs, news standards, even video games and cartoon animations much better than the ones today. And it seems possible and achievable to live such a lifestyle in Berlin with neighbourhoods combined with that sexy post-soviet feel and classical historical heritage.
恰逢我从柏林回到香港，Alessandro Michele的新Gucci 2016 春夏广告，就将拍摄地点选择在了柏林。也许这座城市外表上那股恬淡的悲伤沉重感，以及它充斥着空白和石灰感的城市建筑，恰好和Gucci极繁主义的文艺浪漫格调创造出的强烈对比感，更加突出了这种视觉和感官冲击。不过，在柏林街头穿这一整套Gucci华丽的蕾丝缎面刺绣男装，还真的是一丝疯呢。
Right when I returned to Hong Kong from Berlin, the 2016 Spring Summer Campaign of Gucci was launched. And coincidentally, Berlin is the background. The heavy grey concrete and the enjoyable sense of voidness really make the maximal Gucci romanticism by Alessandro Michele stand out perfectly.
2015, Dec 24th, in the air.