Berlin Romance: Sabrina Dehoff

Berlin is well known for its youth-driven expatriate bohemians and generic urban architecture. But one of the most anticipated shows for Mercedes Benz’s Spring/ Summer 2010 Berlin Fashion Week is Sabrina Dehoff’s homage to gardens and romance. (LEFT: DEHOFF, PHOTO BY MAXIME BALLESTEROS)

“I named this collection ‘Sweet Surrender,'” Dehoff explains while posing for a portrait by photographer Maxime Ballesteros in the designer’s husband’s painting studio, which is attached to her own design atelier. “I wanted this collection to have a strong kitsch element. I wanted it to be able pastel colors, kissing, hugging and love. It is a very emotional collection.”

The title and inspiration for Dehoff’s collection deliberately escapes emotional intensity, and the subsequent results are calming, pretty and charming. The effect is more about surrendering to sweetness, than sweet surrender. In the past, Dehoff cut the inherent cuteness of her aesthetic with dashes of irony and acidic humor. But the current collection of loose silk dresses, printed rompers and nature-inspired accessories by the graduate of the prestigious Lette Verein in Berlin and London’s Royal College of Arts indulges in simple pleasures without being saccharine, because Dehoff’s craftsmanship is strong and her style is sophisticated.

A vetern womenswear designer for Guy Laroche and Lanvin, Dehoff launched her the Vonrot partners efashion consultancy and her eponymous accessories brand in 2005. “Little Helpers,” a range of sassy little charm-line patent leather, wood and Lucite or pendants of ghosts, guns, snakes and theatrical masks, established her as a favorite for young Berliners. Yet her later lines of pendants, rings and pins shunned the dark ironic flavour that got her started, as she turned totally towards sunny imagery with small silver chicks, wood rings adorned with a single gold flower and the word “nature” carved from wood but with the “N” cast in gold. This cute but scrappy range and her brightly hued-rope necklaces and elegant scarves gained fans for the Berlin-based designer. Gathered at the throat by gold or silver napkin-ring like clasps, the richly coloured silk scarves and strands of different bright coloured rope are strong yet simple visual statements that carry a distinctive look.

Dehoff’s current collection is also appealingly intimate. The strongest pieces in “Sweet Surrender” are silk jumpers and scarves featuring a print produced from a black-and-white photograph that Dehoff took of her garden at home. Tiny spots of hot pink enliven the design and the jumper’s flowing, flattering cut makes it an obviously ideal item for the chic working mothers seen throughout the green café-lined streets in Berlin’s fecund Prinzlauerberg part of the city, where emerging designers desire to attract clients.

At first, Dehoff designed clothes as support for her strong accessories. Her 2008 lookbook depicted a party scene where girls in simple pastel flowing dresses wore Biba inspired head-wraps and theatrical eye make-up to match their charming garments. But the real stars were the large animal shaped pins and pendants. “When I started producing clothes,” she said, “the clothes were just a frame for the jewelery and a surface where I could place my scarves and accessories. But now I think of them all as the same. There is no hierarchy for me. I think of the scarves as jewellery and the clothes like the scarves. The clothes and accessories are all ways to bejewel, decorate and flatter the body.”