We live in an age of migration. Travel movements, resettlement, and expeditions to distant countries and foreign cultures have existed since antiquity. Trade routes at sea and in the countryside (keyword: Silk Road) have continuously and with increasing intensity promoted the exchange between cultures. However, the intensity of globalization and the simultaneous scarcity of global resources in our present time have assumed previously unknown proportions. Since 2015, the migratory movements forced as a result have also been spreading to Europe with unprecedented force. 

The research project “Fashion & Migration” by Olga Blumhardt and Prof. Dipl. Des. Antje Drinkuth uses this new situation as an opportunity to highlight not only the risks but also the chances for the creative sector. Creatively active people are now coming to Germany, through whom a new form of mutual exchange is taking place, because the place where artists and designers act is now a different one.  

For Germany as a business location, the issue was of the utmost topicality, because, especially in Berlin, the most recent fashion development of the last ten years has been decisively influenced by migration. On the one hand, this concerns the global movement of fashion designers themselves, but on the other it also refers to the migration of fashion styles, for which Berlin serves as a kind of melting pot. 

With the immigrant designers working in Germany, the external perception of Berlin/Germany as a fashion location increased, making it attractive for young and creative people. The underlying thesis of the project was that the protagonists are so unique and successful because bringing cultures together is an essential feature of their creative concepts.  

The main aim was to highlight the backgrounds of experience as a vocabulary for the formation of an authentic creative language. The investigation was intended to identify the differences between an intuitive creative process of designers with a migration background and a conscious work with traditional clothing of their original culture. In addition, the study focused on the impact on and reception by society, whose trend-setting actors are theoreticians and young migrants. Particularly in the disciplines of postcolonial fashion and design theory, this focus was still lacking. 

The research project was divided into three parts: 

  • Applied research within the study programs Fashion Design (B.A.) and Fashion Journalism / Media Communication at AMD’s Berlin location. The topic “Fashion & Migration” was brought into focus in creative projects. In summer 2016, the results were presented in the SATELLIT gallery at Fashion Week. 
  • The publication “TRACES – Fashion & Migration”, a hybrid of scientific texts, journalistic formats and sophisticated photo series. 
  • A fashion show in the foyer of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, in which selected works by students on the subject as well as an exquisite selection of designers with a migration background were allowed to present their collections.

At the fashion show, fashion designers with a migration background were collected thematically and in person for the first time and their works presented. The thematic focus generated a new format of fashion presentation in which different designers work on a single theme – comparable to formats of art exhibitions curated with a thematic focus. 

The aim of the project was to make these synergies fruitful by bringing together the contents of the publication and the fashion show in order to present them to a broad and, above all, global audience. At a time when migration is perceived as a threat by many people in Germany as well, the initiators of the project were keen to set progressive signals. This includes showing positive examples from the fashion scene of the recent past and present in photo series that are witness to successful integration and its enriching influences on our society. For it cannot be emphasized clearly enough that (fashion) design is not only a mirror of society, but rather in a position to give its society the impetus for creative change and a changed foundation of meaning. 

Fashion connects, regardless of origin, gender, and ethnicity. Fashion is political. It is based on the idea of tolerance and therefore contributes significantly to emancipation and freedom. 

The aim was to show that migration promotes diversity, and that diversity is an enrichment. 

The results of the project have been published: 

TRACES – Fashion & Migration. Edited by Olga Blumhardt and Antje Drinkuth. Berlin: Distance Publishing House 2017. 

With photographs by a.o.: Horst Dierkgerdes, Hans Feurer, Benjamin Alexander Huseby, Inez & Vinoodh, Ralph Mecke, Mario Sorrenti, Wolfgang Tillmans 

With texts from a.o.: Manuel Almeida Vergara, Dr. Burcu Dogramaci, Jan Kedves, Jina Khayyer, Dr. Mahret Ifeoma Kupka, Marlene Sorensen, Silke Wichert