REFERENCE FESTIVAL #2: Navigating Parallel Realities

Reference wants to give the city the credit it deserves.

Streaming live this week from the Zeiss Major Planetarium in Prenzlauerberg is the second-ever REFERENCE FESTIVAL, taking place in expanded, hybrid form this year as a phygital antidote to Berlin’s traditional IRL fashion week. Funded by the Berlin Senate and launching this Thursday January 21, the event features a special 032c activation celebrating our new “20 Years” anniversary issue – and, happily, also brings together some of our familiar friends and collaborators for new projects. Queen of club positivity HONEY DIJON chats with contributing editor HANS ULRICH OBRIST following an immersive performance showcase featuring ANNE IMHOF and ELIZA DOUGLAS. Berlin label GMBH uses the platform to beam into Paris Fashion Week to debut their Fassbinder-inspired sci-fi Autumn 2021 collection – exceptionally from their home town. Nigerian-British fashion talent MOWALOLA teams up with left-field furniture design duo Chapel Petrassi. Not to mention a presentation by COLRS (designed by former 032c intern Zec Meiré), TOBIAS SPICHTIG’s sculptures for Balenciaga, a collaboration by 032c contributors ACTE and SUCUK & BRATWURST, and a talk with our fellow HELMUT LANG fanatics ENDYMA.

Reference Studios founder MUMI HAIATI found a moment ahead of the festival to quickly weigh in on Berlin’s changing fashion scene – and navigating the “parallel reality” of a remixed fashion week during the German capital’s winter lockdown.

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How is Berlin’s role in the fashion world evolving?

It’s interesting to see how much influence Berlin-based artists – such as Bill Kouligas and PAN, Tobias Spichtig, or Anne Imhof and Eliza Douglas – have on today’s most relevant designers in the industry, working with creative directors from Demna Gvasalia to Riccardo Tisci. Most of this edition’s artists and designers wouldn’t want to be pigeonholed in just one industry like fashion, design, or art. The evolution is towards cross-disciplinary cultural production. And the most exciting talents leading that shift are living and working in Berlin. It’s good to have this community’s trust, and to be able to bring people together to produce collectively via our platform. I think our format can make the Berlin Fashion Week model a lot more appealing than it ever was before, both for an international audience and for the brilliant local talent.

Will the Reference platform connect Berlin to the global fashion community, beyond just the scope of this week’s activities?

Berlin is a breeding ground for creativity, innovation and an inspiration to so many. The city offers perspectives and that are relevant on a global scale. Reference wants to give the city the credit it deserves. Berlin remains the place to experiment, and recent times have shown us that experimentation pays off: new formats and solutions are required. My overall vision is to create a fluid platform for special projects. Essentially, a carte blanche. We can’t gather, but we can share the same experience via Reference Realities. It’s a singular platform that brings us together regardless of location or any restrictions.

What most excites you about this week’s program?

I am excited about every contribution—from the surprise activation for 032’s 20th anniversary to GmbH’s first show in Berlin, which will premiere exclusively on Reference Realities and Paris Fashion Week platforms. Of course I am also especially looking forward to PAN’s label showcase, presented by CARHARTT WIP and featuring Pan Daijing, Amnesia Scanner, and MJ Harper, as well as art superstars Anne Imhof and Eliza Douglas.

How have you adapted to the challenges of staging a festival while Germany is on lock-down?

None of us expected a pandemic. And now we’re in lockdown, again. Our experience changes every single day. Innovation is how we cope with it all—our approach and the platform we have built is an expression of that.

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