c.neeon are Berlin-based designers Doreen Schulz and Clara Leskovar. Doreen comes from Thüringen (in the former East) and Clara is from West-Berlin. They met at fashion school, Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee, where Clara studied textile design and Doreen fashion design. They began to collaborate in their third year, and found their label in 2004.
Already in 2005 they received their first fashion award at the Hyères Festival International de Mode et Photographie in southern France. In 2006, the Berlin Kunstgewerbemuseum organized an exhibition of their collection. Since then, they have been invited to present at the Berlin Fashion Week, and both teach as guest professors at Berlin fashion schools. Their collections are available in more than 20 boutiques world-wide: in New York, Tokyo, Osaka, Kuwait, Moscow, Toronto, and Berlin.
Their new Berlin store (est. Dec. 2010) is located in Kastanienallee 55, and is well-frequented by tourists and regular patrons from Munich, Düsseldorf, or from Switzerland. I caught them at work in the middle of re-organizing the window displays for the new summer collection.
The name c.neeon is an amalgamation of the childhood nicknames of Clara and Doreen. Their collections are characterized by striking graphic prints and silhouettes with intriguing volume, architectural and asymmetrical in shape. c.neeon’s designs are defined by extensive prints – always fused with a distinct pattern and accented by strong colour contrasts. The two young designers draw inspiration from their home Berlin, and attempt to reflect the city’s multifaceted energetic character in their creations.
Their concept is fashion produced in Germany (fabrics made in Thüringen, which has a long knitting and manufacturing tradition that survived the reunification), all natural textiles, emphasis on fit, wear-ability, and comfort, and original and hand-made print and textile design.
Their exhibition at the Kunstgewerbemuseum in 2006 took place after the acquisition and display of the grand Kamer/Ruf collection, as a counter position to the haute couture collection (suggested by Martin Kamer himself). At the time, their label was only two years old. It was also the time when I began research on Berlin fashion for what would become our publication Berliner Chic: A Locational History of Berlin Fashion. The concept behind the exhibition design was to show the local, young, environmentally conscious designers at work. To convey the world of c.neeon, they recreated their studio and atelier (a converted kindergarten building in Lichtenberg) through images, video installations, and even the sounds of sewing machines, to show the visitors the creation of fashion in Berlin up-close. Art and craft indeed come together through fashion.
In July 2008, c.neeon organized a fashion show outside the Kunstgewerbemuseum during the Berlin Fashion Week (est. in July 2007) and my co-author Susan Ingram caught their show on camera for our publication.
“People think working with print design is easy and fast,” Clara told me, “but they don’t realize it’s all done by hand, and sometimes even with a toothbrush. Creating a new print design takes at least 3 weeks. It’s not computerized design, it’s all done by hand.” To create a whole collection of anywhere between 25-32 pieces) takes about half a year.
Berlin Fashion Week is early, in July, compared to September and October in Paris, New York, and other fashion capitals. Because Berlin already had established fashion trade shows like Bread and Butter and Premium, which took place in July, Berlin Fashion Week was scheduled for the same time. That creates a lot of pressure for the local designers to have their collections ready two months earlier than usual.
While presenting in the main tent at Berlin Fashion Week at Bebelplatz (moved to Strasse des 17. Juni this year) is prestigious, the story and conception of the collection does not come through and gets lost. Clara and Doreen prefer to find their own exhibition spaces and present the collection in a more creative way, with sounds and installations, to convey more than just the clothes on a catwalk.
I asked Clara and Doreen whether they think Berlin fashion scene changed in the last few years. “Designers used to take their shows to Paris, Copenhagen and Düsseldorf to the trade shows,” Clara replied. “Now the trade shows are in Berlin, and the Fashion Week brings in a lot of people. It’s early but most designers manage to get their collections ready nonetheless.”