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, who can look back on a long tradition – and who are currently on the stage of the fashion weeks in Milan and Paris are 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 returned to Germany only for money matters. And in recent years Wolfgang Joop has attracted more attention with his concise statements than with his designs. At least he remains 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 have not really caught on internationally.

The success of German fashion is not in haute couture and not in the cheap segment, but in the middle market. This is exactly what brands like Marc O’Polo, Closed, Drykorn and Opus strive for. They all stand for modern and wearable fashion that appeals to many people. A new wool sweater from Marc O’Polo costs about 179 euros, pants 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 turnover of EUR 592 million in the 2021/22 financial year. That is 35 percent more than a year earlier. The younger Marc O’Polo Denim line in particular contributed to the growth with an increase of almost 80 percent. “Of course, the topic of sustainability and the pandemic played with the trend towards casual fashion in our hands,” says CEO Maximilian Böck. “But sustainability has been our focus since the company was founded. We have charted the course for 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, as early as 1968. The first part of the collection was a patchwork shirt made from hand-woven Indian cotton. The first advertising campaign was decorated with a strawberry – the advertising motifs caused a stir. Werner Böck brought the brand to Germany and set up a subsidiary in Stephanskirchen near Rosenheim. In the 80s, sweatshirts with the oversized Marc O’Polo lettering on the back gained cult status. In the late 1990s, Böck took over most of the brand and moved its 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 province. An example of this was the Strenesse brand (from “Strehle” and “Jeunesse”) from beautiful Nördlingen, which has since been discontinued.

“For beautiful people”

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

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