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With Wiz Khalifa, Hugo Goes Big in Berlin

For Spring 2019, Hugo staged a blowout show in the German capital

Thursday night at Berlin fashion week, Hugo, the youthful, streetwear-leaning line from German brand Hugo Boss, staged a Spring 2019 show that transported guests back to the ’90s when the city was the epicenter of rave culture in all its techno-thumping, strobe light-shooting glory. But, this being 2018, there were some modern twists thrown into the men’s and women’s collections and the event, which was punctuated by an all-out performance from Wiz Khalifa, who performed hits like “Black and Yellow” to a screaming, largely Hugo-clad crowd that included models Winnie Harlow and Lucky Blue Smith.

Dubbed “Modern-Day Mixmasters: Reimagining Eras Past,” the collection, which debuted at Motorwerk, the former home of some of the city’s wildest techno parties, played off fashion’s ongoing ’90s obsession and was inspired in part by senior head of design for menswear Bart de Backer’s nephew. Apparently, the 18-year-old has been rocking his father’s ’90s jacket of late. “He started to wear the ’90s how he interpreted it and mixed old pieces with pieces from today,” relayed de Backer.

In that spirit, de Backer dug into the brand’s archives and modernized his findings, pulling linings out of suits, chopping off hems, and, quite successfully, adding toggled drawstrings to trousers and jackets to create a fresh hybrid—one part tracksuit, one part dapper two-piece. Neon abounded, naturally, as did performance materials and plays on transparency, while an allover text print derived from ’90s rave graphics found in Berlin comprised German words for house and techno. Oversized backpacks were carried by men and women and were new interpretations of styles de Backer found in the archive. When asked why he thought so many designers were gravitating toward the ’90s rave aesthetic, de Backer could only speak for himself, offering, “It’s because I was there.”

Womenswear designer Jenny Swank-Krasteva admitted she was not there, but de Backer made her a techno-heavy playlist to get her in the raver mood. While many of the looks, like jumpsuits and exaggerated overcoats, had a gender-fluid feel, Swank-Krasteva injected a certain femininity with a semi-sheer, floral-print, asymmetrical maxi dress, a fluid skirt-and-crop-top combo, worn over leggings by none other than Binx Walton, and little bralettes layered beneath see-through tops, bodysuits, or dresses. “It’s really important to have that balance of super feminine with hypermasculine. [Hugo] is a menswear brand, and that’s what we’re known for,” said Swank-Krasteva. “So for me, it’s important to have that element of surprise, and the feminine pieces just kind of worked. The minute you put it with a sneaker, it’s still a cool girl that’s wearing it.” Elsewhere, she embraced the theme and athleticism via nylon raver pants with snaps, a bustier with utilitarian buckles, and easeful, brightly-hued wares made for dancing all night. A short, boxy, cherry-red jacket with matching pants, worn by Natalie Westling (the casting was top notch, if you hadn’t already gathered—Teddy Quinlivan and Presley Gerber walked, too) was a standout.

De Backer noted that Hugo has been courting a younger customer of late, and this vibrant, streetwise collection is certainly on the right track. “As a brand, we have to go forward, and [a few years ago] we started with Instagram and recognized that we can start a conversation with that younger customer,” he said. But that doesn’t mean Hugo plans to abandon its past—after all, showing in Berlin was a nod to its German roots. “Hugo Boss is a brand with a heritage, and what I try to do is [determine] what is important in that heritage and how we can look at it in a different way. I really dove into our old material from the ’90s because, all of a sudden, it feels very relevant again.”

Following the show, models lined up on seemingly endless steps atop a huge stage as Wiz Khalifa (dressed in a red-and-white Hugo look, of course) appeared. His performance, during which he dutifully encouraged guests to smoke a lot of weed, kicked off a riotous party that poured out into a graffitied courtyard and raged until the wee hours. Some guests bounced to techno inside Motorwerk, while others swilled drinks while reclining on stacked white mattresses outside. It wasn’t exactly a ’90s warehouse rave, what with the mini bottles of champagne, gourmet food trucks, and well-heeled, jet-setting attendees, but it may very well be as close as a modern fashion show has ever come. And the kids are responding—Winnie Harlow’s Instagrams from the event garnered a collective 953,216 likes. How’s that for targeted marketing?

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