Text Ilona Marx Photos Tinka Zimmer
What springs to mind when the city of Cologne is mentioned? No doubt the cathedral, carnival, football and beer – and of course the eternal feud with its neighbouring city of Duesseldorf. But if you drop the stereotypes and clichés, you’ll soon find that there’s a lot more to Cologne. Such as a flourishing art and music scene, a number of first-rate museums and a booming media industry. But fashion?
Many of you may remember that for many years Cologne played a leading role on the German fashion scene. The tradeshows Herren-Mode-Woche (Men's Fashion Week) and Interjeans might sound outdated today, but until the turn of the century they were still relevant meeting points for the industry. However, there’s been a lot of water under the bridges of the Rhine in the past 15 years and Cologne ended up disappearing off the radar for international fashion buyers. The real turning point was the departure of the Bread & Butter tradeshow to Berlin, a bold step that Karl-Heinz Mu?ller, who also used to be based by the Rhine, took together with his entire entourage in 2003.
Cologne has missed out to Berlin on a number of occasions and has had to take several blows. Big galleries, tradeshows, music events like Popkomm, record labels and music magazines all turned their backs on the city. For quite a while the German capital had such a gravitational pull that people interested in art and culture were seriously worried about the future of the Rhine metropolis. But the Cologne locals took it all on the chin: ‘Et kuett wie et kuett’ (‘What will be, will be’) has always been the motto of the easy-going Rhinelanders. The people here prefer to put their faith in the laws of physics, along the lines of: ‘What goes up must come down’, which explains why they simply continued going about their daily business, confident in the knowledge that things would eventually turn around again.
And indeed, the successes of the recovering Art Cologne and the steady growth of the imm cologne furniture fair suggest that Cologne’s appeal has been given a boost in the last few years. Some galleries have even moved back to the city from the capital because western Germany is turning out to be an extremely profitable market after all. The reality check on the city’s streets is proving that Cologne still boasts all the merits of a metropolis and is well-equipped for any challenges the future may hold. The winds of change have been blowing in the city’s Belgisches Viertel (Belgian Quarter) in particular. Small, independent stores, which in the past would have taken up residence on the Ehrenstrasse and its side streets, have now settled beyond the Kölner Ring (Cologne’s ring road). A cosy, very closeknit neighbourhood is still emerging here. Important reference points are the Bruesseler, Brabanter, Maastrichter and Antwerpener streets, but to the south of the lively gastro mile, Aachener Strasse, the area is also developing around the Engelbert, Linden and Beethoven streets where there is still lots of potential for creative ideas.
Bruesseler Platz in the heart of the Belgian Quarter has been a hub of the city’s nightlife scene for a long time now and in the last few years it has gained massively in popularity as an outdoor meeting place for young Colognians who flock to this square in their droves on warm summer nights, drinking bottles of the local beer, Kölsch, and socialising. Due to noise disturbance to the local residents the authorities have had to clear the area on occasion – a problem much less likely to occur in the no less popular restaurants and bars on the Rathenauplatz square or in the south of Cologne. Despite the rail strike, J’N’C’s editor-in-chief Ilona Marx and photographer Tinka Zimmer, both from Du?sseldorf, embarked on the trip to their rival city every morning for a week, completely free of any preconceived notions, to discover the very best that Cologne has to offer.