Fashions on the Wörthersee

“A four-day orgy of fashion and luxury”: A symbiosis of high style tourism with cutting edge Austria designers and opening doors

Models take a bow after the finale of the opening show at the Lake’s Fashion Days am Wörthersee in Carinthia, presenting known and new faces in European design | Photo: Elisabeth Kudlicki

The tent’s white curtains were flapping quietly in the wind whispering off the Wörthersee as excited voices mingled with the clink of glasses and water lapping at the dock. It was impossible not to feel the tingle of anticipation that had been mounting throughout the evening.

We had come down to the My Lake Hotel and Spa am Wörthersee to partake in a four-day orgy of fashion and luxury; this would definitely be a break from the usual summer festivals of the young, that seem to mostly involve getting muddy and standing in line for a porta-john.

The My Lake Hotel and Spa am Wörthersee is the height of laid-back luxury and the latest acquisition by JJW Hotels Austria & Eastern Europe, owners of The Grand and Ring Hotels in Vienna. To put their new venue on the map of high-style tourism, Assistant General Manager Carl-Peter Echtermeijer came up with the idea of holding The Lake’s Fashion Days.

“We were thinking a lot about a way of creating a symbiosis of this top location at the lake, different fashion styles and a tingly event as a headliner into the new summer season,” Echtermeijer said, flushed from the humming energy around the tent.

The marathon fashion event provides a platform, explained Echtermeijer. Leading and aspiring designers can meet and exhibit their new summer collections. As it happened, the idea had brought some 30 designers from Austria, Germany, Italy and Slovenia, flocking to the Wörthersee, transforming the traditional charm of this southern Carinthian setting into a Mecca of state-of-the-art Euro chic, abuzz with the breathless talk of the latest look, the hottest designer, and doorways to opportunity waiting to open behind every curtain that caressed the dockside sofas.

The scene at the VIP opening was set with a few lingering Alps to the southeast, abreast the immediate romance of the iridescent glow reflecting on the lake. As the show-lights came on, the crowd spread down the long wooden dock that wrapped around the backside of the hotel, jetting out into the still water, reflecting chiffon, silk and latex on summer toned bodies. A few neighbors peered toward the scene from their waterfront decks, while others had trolled in on their boats for a closer look.

The event was not pure fashion. The first face on stage was not a model but sultry show singer Marla Blumenblatt, who purred up in a sleek motorboat. As her powerful voice echoed across the water, the first show of the event began: a joint venture onto the lake.

Two very different faces of Austrian design shared the stage exhibiting the brands [ep_anoui] and Tiberius. Not like a traditional catwalk show, but more an installation, dramatic pauses let the stark contrast sink in. Good and evil strutted intertwined as the leather and latex burlesque style of Tiberius underlined the innocence of [ep_anoui]’s delicacy.

Designer Eva Poleschinski | Photo: Keplinger and Elisabeth Kudlicki

Designer Eva Poleschinski was there to present her romantic line of evening wear inspired by natural colors and textures, with organic fabrics, silk and pale colors. One after another, the [ep_anoui] models appeared in a potpourri of waif-like dresses. White, grey and gold were dotted with black latex trousers and cocky, lop-sided top hats.

The brain behind Tiberius is Marcos Valenzuela, who has been on the scene since 1992. The oh so steamy under-over-and-evening-wear definitely caters to a specialized niche market – suggestions of fetish designs are interrupted by quite elegant glistening latex and black leather is very Rebel Without a Cause, without being too To Wong Foo.

As the models cascaded off the dock-walk, the collaborative designers took a few bows beaming; it must have been the mountain air or the magic of the Wörthersee.

Poleschinski is more streamline, but also she has the blessing of knowing how to work the rookie potential. Launched in 2008, [ep_anoui] had its first wave of success at the Vienna Fashion Week at the MQ last fall. This, however, was Poleschinski’s first show of its kind and she has continued to climb.

“It’s a great opportunity, especially for me as an up-and-coming designer,” she said, “to be able to show my designs in such a magical place…” Her voice trailed off. But of course there was a lot more to her excitement. A number of boutique owners and privately interested clients had come to take a look at the increasingly attractive work now coming out of Austria – to which Poleschinski was the first to agree. “The exposure and the networking make it all worth while, especially for a new designer.”

A black cross shoulder evening gown by eccentro | Photo: Keplinger and Elisabeth Kudlicki

Throughout the four-day event, there was a wide representation of styles on hand, as well as well-known and underground Vienna-based designs.

The label Callisti, founded four years ago by Martina Mueller, was a huge hit at the 2010 Vienna Fashion Week, where movie star chic meets work-a-day prêt-à-porter. At the lake, Mueller presented a collection of formal dresses in primarily white, black and beige. The Dirndlherz came with examples of more exuberant styles, blended with elements of traditional Austrian wear. The combination of strong reds, greens and yellows burst into life, in high contrast to the subdued elegance chosen by Callisti, upping the ante on diversity for the event.

Alongside other participating designers such as anzüglich, Kayiko, and ulliKo, the established Austrian rag-traders displayed their collections in motion on the catwalk, as well as donning booths along the promenade and adjacent to the hotel’s bar and restaurant, where guests could leisurely peruse and purchase one-of-a-kind pieces and get a feel for Austrian style savvy au bord du lac.

In the afternoons, with the lakeside pier serving as the catwalk, sylph-like models seemed to float over the water, with the pink round-house pavilion in the distance, the folds of their garments caught by the breeze – a black cross-shoulder pleat from eccentro wraps over a silver bodice, falling in overlapping skirts the lightness of wind. Or the simple enduring appeal of daytime slacks and fold-over knits by Erica.

Evening shows inside included highlights from the striking fuchsia satin cocktail dress of Elke Freytag, to the stunning black shells long and short of Anna Kos with overlays of transparent velvet moiré, or a one shoulder floor length shimmer of blue-grey water by Maurizio Giambra.

Guests applauded the designers from casual to luxurious, from traditional to the unexpected, and sometimes for so little actual clothing that the beachwear shows made clear that Austria has its fair share of hot models to boot.

This retreat was a rare opportunity to see the full range of the season’s new ideas in fashion and luxury, lifestyle and party over a warm, sunny extended weekend – it had bit of 19th century indulgence in 21st century garb. This event is one that could make it annual, and if you can, take a long weekend.


Additional reporting by M.T.M. Childs and Dardis McNamee 

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