And they’re off. Berlin Fashion Week opened for the Fall/Winter 2013-14 season on Tuesday with an art-influenced collection by young Laotian, Berlin-based designer Hien Le. Moving away from the boldly contrasted color that has trademarked previous collections, Hien softens his palette this season — midnight blue, cream, and burnt gold are hallmarks — turning to monochrome blocks of material instead for visual texture. Single bands of crochet or faux fur break up blouses and sweaters in what the designer claims is a reference to abstract expressionist master Mark Rothko.
It’s a formal reference at best. The material shifts do imitate the subtle vibration found in the artist’s more monochrome works. However, the collection’s signature print, which features in blouses, men’s shirts, and a tea-length, loose dress and is Hien’s second ever, the colors dissipate into one another rather too gradually to be truly Rothko-esque.
That conceptual reaching doesn’t disqualify F/W 2013 from being Hien’s most successful yet. The womenwear especially is a mature step forward for the designer. Rather than referencing a well-established trend such as the deluge of color-blocking seen in numerous Berlin collections for more than two years, Le is innovating a look that is forward-looking and sophisticated rather than hipster trendy.