“Poor but sexy” is one of many cliché catch phrases that describe Berlin. In 2003, when the city’s former mayor Klaus Wowereit came up with the phrase, it still rung true. Berlin was just awakening to the overwhelming effects of reunification. Living space was still cheap and abundant, but the hype had already spread, investors were flocking in and changing the city’s business landscape as well as housing market. Berlin had been a magnet for creative talent and for globetrotting nomads in search of a new playground for a while.
Leyla Piedayesh was one of those talents arriving in Berlin in the early 2000’s. Her fashion label La La Berlin was to thrive and be one of the most distinctive brands - straight outta Berlin. Within a couple of seasons La La Berlin grew from Berlin’s best kept secret into an internationally renowned fashion label. To Stefan Franzke from Berlin Partner, a business developer in the tech and creative sector, La La Berlin is a dream come true. It’s personalities like Leyla Piedayesh and her success story that make Berlin attractive for other similarly ambitious and talented founders.
Stefan Franzke explained that Lifestyle is an industry in Berlin. He advised founders to find their own DNA in their company and then take advantage of the creativity and startup ecosystem in Berlin. Here Jörg Rohleder, from Focus Magazine and host of the panel, questioned Stefan Franzke on how sustainable Berlin’s creative ecosystem is? Stefan Franzke acknowledged the challenges that come with the fast pace of Berlin’s change. But he pointed to the positives: “After the wall came down there was space and low costs, which attracted the talent, but there was also 20% unemployment, today there’s only 9%.”
A member of the newer wave of talents, also sat on stage - Brock Cardiner from the online publication Highsnobiety. He moved to Berlin from LA and found his home in the editorial team of the fashion magazine that covers forthcoming trends for an international audience. Brock Cardiner thinks that Berlin needs to grow to be able to pay wages according to the increased living costs and rent. To him Berlin is a reflection of an urban, trendy crowd that can be found from New York to Kazakhstan. The online lives of this mutually interested crowd make it possible.
Leyla Piedayesh remained more critical about the city’s development. She remembers her Berlin of the early 2000’s and sees the space and capacity for creative talents diminished. But Stefan Franzke pointed out that the immigration from young Southern Europeans is unprecedented and will foster Berlin’s cosmopolitan character. Leyla Piedayesh puts her hope, among other things, into the newly founded German Fashion Council to save the Berlin Fashion Week and keep the city on the global radar of creativity.