Deutsches Haus at NYU to Open Retrospective on Underground Fashion Designer Sabine von Oettingen with a Fashion Show - Sept. 30

Deutsches Haus plans a comprehensive exhibit on one of the most extravagant and deeply transgressive fashion designers of the former GDR, starting with a live fashion show.

New York University’s Deutsches Haus will kick off a comprehensive exhibition about Sabine von Oettingen, one of the most extravagant underground fashion designers of the former German Democratic Republic, with a live fashion show Friday, September 30, at 6:30 p.m.

The retrospective – at Deutsches Haus, 42 Washington Mews near University Place, New York, N.Y.– will remain on display through October 30.

In a society defined by desperate shortages, stifling design restrictions, as well as rigidly enforced homogeneity through the illegalization of alternative social identities, GDR costume designer Sabine von Oettingen fearlessly forged a path of excess. More than a decade before DIY (do it yourself) became a style buzz word and up-cycling in fashion became sustainable chic, East Berlin’s von Oettingen was using trash bags, shower curtains, diapers, foil from fruit containers and notably leftover colostomy bags from Berlin’s Charite Hospital to craft elaborate gender-bending “comrade couture.”

Her deeply transgressive work, which is reminiscent of NYC’s No Wave movement, is best appreciated when one considers the Stasi’s definition of the aims of design (supply with consumer goods) and their patronizing derision of von Oettingen (decadent young adult). The brilliance of von Oettingen’s playful yet political spirit is not only visible in the design of her garmemts, but in her brave non-conformity that garnered the disapproval of the East German Secret police’s popular culture division.

The launch of the Deutsches Haus exhibition will be accompanied by a fashion show in the Haus’s courtyard as well as a photo exhibition by Jurgen Hohmuth. On Friday, October 7, at 6:30 p.m., Maro Wilms’s 2009 documentary, “Comrade Courtuere: Stawberry Foil Dreaming” will be screened. Wilms is a member of the fashion/perfomance art group CCD – chic charmant und dauerhat (chic, charming and durable), of which von Oettingen is the founding member.

For more information, please visit the Deutsches Haus website at, or call 212.998.8660.

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Robert Polner
Robert Polner
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