William Fan, Natascha von Hirschhausen and Isabel Vollrath – three German fashion designers who have one thing in common: they all graduated from the Weißensee Academy of Art in Berlin.
The university is located in East Berlin and was founded in 1946, just one year after the end of the Second World War. Today, the building complex is a listed building: It is a small, very individually and artistically designed campus with lots of green space and hidden corners designed by the students themselves.
In addition to sculpture, stage and costume design or visual communication, the state art college also offers a bachelor’s and master’s degree in fashion design. The bachelor’s degree lasts four years. What is special about the course is the interdisciplinary foundation year: “In the first year of study, students from all subject areas receive interdisciplinary instruction in the basics of art and design, and they also get to know our many workshops for the first time,” explains Heike Selmer, Professor of Fashion Design. in an interview with FashionUnited. A total of 13 workshops stretch across the entire campus. Here the students learn manual skills such as knitting, sewing and weaving, work in the computer studio and in the bookbinding workshop and visit the wood and metal workshop.
The fashion design department is located on the third floor of the main building. From the second year, the specialist studies take place there. In the following semesters, the students mainly work on projects, plus there are intensive lessons in pattern making, fashion illustration and theory from costume history to material science.
The projects extend over one semester and have an overarching theme. In recent years, for example, it has been “luxury” or “sustainability and craft,” says Selmer. Within this main topic, the students are very autonomous in the design of their projects: “The project topics that we specify are free and serve as inspiration. The students decide for themselves how they use this input”, explains Selmer, “In Weißensee you have the opportunity to work very artistically and freely – there are few limitations and we try to make a lot possible”.
Students are also free to choose the topics of their theses. As a rule, the graduates design collections, consisting of around 6 outfits for the bachelor’s degree, and also write a theoretical paper. Selmer emphasizes that “the students set individual priorities”. Everything is included in the final work: from a bag collection to embroidery work to a freely draped collection.
“Our task is to recognize the potential of the students, to promote it and to equip them with as many tools as possible to help them to be professionally successful in the end,” says the professor. Once a year, all students show the results of their creative work. At a big fashion show with all semesters, not only the graduation collections of the graduates walk down the catwalk, but also the other project works are presented and demonstrated.
Last year, two students from Weißensee Kunsthochschule won prizes at the European Fashion Awards Fash in the Bachelor category. Idan Yoav took first place with his costume collection “Nomads for love”. His fellow student Lihi Mende came in right behind him with her collection “The Space”.
Interest as a motor and drive
As with many fashion design courses, a portfolio is the ticket to the art school in Weißensee. The application process starts with an online application. Selected applicants are then asked to submit a portfolio, from which around 50 potential students will be invited to the aptitude test in the next step.
“Obviously what we want to see is ideas and creativity, an interest and an energy. Interest in working artistically, interest in fashion,” says Selmer about the portfolios. Those who are lucky enough to be selected can come to the art college for the aptitude test – or rather for the aptitude week. There, “every day one or two new tasks come up to the applicants,” explains Selmer. The tasks cover a wide variety of areas. In addition, each person who is invited conducts a personal interview with the application committee. Selmer cites interest as the most important quality that applicants should have: “I think that’s exactly the driving force that helps to make the best use of this course”.
All facts at a glance:
- Address: Bühringstrasse 20, 13086 Berlin
- site: https://kh-berlin.de/
- Courses: Bachelor and Masters in Fashion Design
- Degrees: Bachelor of Arts / Master of Arts
- Standard period of study Bachelor: 8 semesters
- Tuition fee: None, just a semester fee of 320 euros
- Number of students: about 17 in the first semester
- Maintenance: by four professors, two artistic teachers and employees and teachers in the workshops
joy of fashion
The bachelor’s degree in fashion design “should enable students to carry out a qualified professional activity in the various areas of fashion and to develop their own creative position and design identity. The course promotes independent designers according to creative, aesthetic, social and ecological criteria,” says the website of the art school. But how is this implemented in practice? “On the one hand, we offer the students intensive technical input to accompany the projects, for example deepening topics such as sustainability, practicing different types of design and working in a team,” says Selmer. “Above all, we give the students the freedom to bring their own topics with them and offer a breeding ground on which their own ideas can grow.”
After graduation, all doors of the fashion world are open to graduates. However, many continue to study directly for their master’s degree, especially if they plan to found their own labels later, according to the professor. Brands from alumni of the Weißensee Kunsthochschule are for example Michael Sunday or Perret Schaad. Master’s student Laura Gerte has also ventured into the German fashion industry and presented her collection at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week 2022 in Berlin.
Video: MBFW.berlin via YouTube
“I think what they all have in common is a great deal of curiosity and a strong will, an inquiring mind and a love of fashion. And maybe also a hope to do something better,” says Selmer.