East German designer found freedom in fashion

Thu May 21, 2009 6:48am EDT
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By Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Designer Sabine von Oettingen, who stars in a new documentary about East Berlin fashionistas, says the fantasy world of fashion gave her a sense of freedom while trapped in communist East Germany.

Von Oettingen, the brains behind underground fashion movement Chic, Charming and Durable, used anything from shower curtains to strawberry foil -- a durable, black plastic used on East German farms -- to make extravagant clothes and stage flamboyant shows.

As the political atmosphere darkened in the German Democratic Republic and many of the designer's friends were arrested, she tied the knot with an American friend in a marriage of convenience to emigrate and escape the repressive system.

Von Oettingen continued to be a successful designer in countries beyond the Berlin Wall and now sells her designs at fashion fairs and art markets across Germany and Austria.

The 46-year-old stars in the recently released film "Ein Traum in Erdbeerfolie" ("A Dream in Strawberry Foil"), about East Berlin fashionistas and directed by Marco Wilms, a former model for the GDR's fashion institute.

Q: Was there any variety of clothes in the GDR?

A: There were clothes shops, but it was gruesome stuff, really terrible ... you just couldn't wear it, it itched.

Q: So what did you wear?   Continued...