Mode : The breakthrough

In 2003 Bread & Butter took a bold step: it moved to Berlin, and in an atmospheric old industrial building it thrilled its new audience

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Bigger, better, Bread & Butter. Foto: promo
Bigger, better, Bread & Butter.Foto: promo

It was exactly what Bread & Butter needed: a no man’s land. Huge old factory halls on what was an industrial estate in Spandau, in north east Berlin. A few weeks before it all began in January 2003, you could see a short film online, in which Karl-Heinz Mueller, Kristian Geyr and Wolfgang Ahlers climbed out of a car outside the old factory, then roamed through the huge, empty halls like kids searching for a place to play football.

The decision to return to Berlin was the right choice at the right time. And to show jeans and streetwear where nobody had shown them before, would make Bread & Butter a unique brand among international fashion trade shows.

Berlin was poor on real infrastructure but rich in ideas. And the city already had a reputation: something was happening there and you needed to see it. In fact, Berlin was a little like those three trade fair organisers marching through the winter in their thick parkas: rough and ready but interesting, a little worse for wear but welcoming and somehow friendly.

Nobody knew quite what to expect in Berlin. But anticipation and surprise were part of the Bread & Butter package. And when a thousand people arrived the next morning, streaming into the halls, it became apparent: the location could work. A few hours after the opening the streets around the trade fair were jammed. Ever since then Berlin’s taxi drivers have known exactly where Bread & Butter is located.

After a long absence major brands like Levi’s, Nike and G-Star returned, 250 exhibitors showed their wares and 20,000 visitors saw them. And hardly anyone could contain their enthusiasm. In fact, the old halls, still smelling charmingly of hard labour and dirty work, only seemed to add to the thrill for those attending.

The younger designers also found a place for themselves in the central Mitte district. This “Offshow” gave many young designers a chance to meet for the first time as well as to discover the city.

In the next couple of years there was only one way Bread & Butter could go and that was up. In the winter of 2005, there were more then 650 exhibitors and 42,000 visitors. The speedy growth of the event also caused concerns: local infrastructure was ill prepared for such an onslaught. At every ensuing Bread & Butter there were problems with the traffic, there was not enough room for all the exhibitors and the building inspectors always had something to complain about.

In January 2005, Karl-Heinz Müller announced that he would be taking Bread & Butter to Barcelona in the summer – to the perfect premises for a trade fair, where you only needed to flick the light switches on.

The parallel Bread & Butter took place three times. As exploding visitor numbers showed, the Spanish location was far more attractive to them. Which is why in 2007 Karl-Heinz Müller gave up on Berlin. Only the trade fair actually left the city, though. Müller, and his 100 colleagues, would still live and work in Berlin.

Grit Thönnissen

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