Fashioning a bright future

The Local’s series Made in Germany presents the best the country has to offer, including the Berlin fashion label c.neeon.

Fashioning a bright future
Photo: c-neeon

From luxury cars to precision machinery, “Made in Germany” still means quality craftsmanship around the world. But the Teutonic attention to detail goes far beyond engineering. This series will feature a diverse array of products from both well-known German brands and less famous firms. But no matter big or small, all of them are focused on being the best at what they do.

The young Berlin-based designers behind the c.neeon have attracted lots of attention since establishing the fashion label in 2004.

Clara Leskovar and Doreen Schulz had no sooner finished their degrees (Leskovar in textiles, Schulz in fashion) at the Berlin’s Weissensee School of Art than they were showing their first pieces on the runway at the city’s Fashion Week held that same year. They’ve been busy ever since, putting out two collections a year each year from their office in a former kindergarten in Berlin’s Lichtenberg district.

The two designers, who have teamed up with big names like Topshop and H&M, are known for their bold patterns. These are drawn from a number of sources: “One collection was based on a book, Jeff Noon’s ‘Automated Alice,’” says Leskovar. “So it was a kind of cyberspace Alice in Wonderland. Another time, Doreen was in a flea market in Japan and found a belt. All the patterns were based on this belt.”

Other inspirations include the song “Do You Remember the First Time,” by the band Pulp, which they used for their first solo collection, hosted by the British Fashion Council. “We thought the song fit the circumstance,” says Leskovar. “So we thought of all the things you can do for the first time: flying in a airplane alone, swimming, riding a bike without training wheels. Then we thought of what you could wear to do that.” Their current collection, ‘Flamingos,’ is based on the poem of the same name by Rainer Maria Rilke.

Their collection is 80 percent women’s clothing, and 20 percent menswear, and includes everything from dresses to accessories to hoodie sweatshirts and tees. A dress might set you back nearly €400, while striped leggings cost €119. The label’s collection is sold online, as well as in stores in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Japan, and the United States.

C.neeon features lots of knitwear, and everything is produced in Saxony, where Schulz hails from. “Saxony has a strong tradition of producing knits,” says Leskovar. “And it’s really practical that it’s so close by. Our clothes are not simple, so the process requires really good communication. We can drive down and oversee things.”

The two women don’t just make clothing, either: they have work in parallel on art installations and other design projects. In addition to designing bags, tee shirts and pillows for the H&M store at Berlin’s Hackescher Markt, they also designed a large, colored mirror for the store’s interior. This year, both women started teaching third and fourth year design students at their old art school.

“Eventually, we’d really like to keep growing. But maybe now is not the time for it,” says Leskovar.


‘Harryhandel’: Is the return of cross-border shopping in Norway really a good thing? 

The pandemic cut-off Norway from its neighbours, putting a temporary end to border shopping. Now ‘harryhandel’ trips are allowed again businesses in the country fear they will lose out as shoppers look abroad for cheaper groceries. 

Pictured is Norway and Sweden's border on the old Svinesund bridge.
Will the return of border shopping have a negative affect on the country? Pictured is Norway and Sweden's border on the old Svinesund bridge. Photo by Petter Bernsten/AFP.

In eastern Norway, particularly along the border with Sweden, cross-border shopping has long been common for residents looking for cheaper groceries and a better selection of products. 

Norway’s Covid-19 rules effectively put a stop to that until this summer. The closed border meant a record year for food and beverage sales in Norway. 

“Due to the fact that there was little action and that people did not travel, we noticed that our sales increased greatly during the entire period,” Øyvind Berg, production manager at Norwegian dairy firm Synnøve Finden, explained to public broadcaster NRK.

Now producers and supermarkets fear the impact of cross-border shopping being up and running again. 

“Our challenge is that we see that more than half of the food and beverage producers, i.e. the industrial companies, fear that they will lose market share because cross-border trade will return in full,” Petter Brubakk, director of food and beverage at the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), informed NRK. 

The majority of those who go shopping across borders in Norway will do so in Sweden. However, in the north, some will also venture into Finland or Russia.

Further south people will also travel to Germany or Denmark. 

Why do people go to other countries for shopping? 

Overall the main appeal of cross-border shopping is that its much better for consumers than shopping domestically. 

Norway’s EEA agreement with the EU means that most foods, drinks, tobacco products, alcohol and other agricultural products are more expensive than they are within the EU as custom duties are required to import them into Norwegian supermarkets. 

Not just that, but there is a much wider selection of products than in Norway due to laws that protect Norwegian products. For example, cheeses such as Cheddar are more readily available, cheaper and generally of better quality in other countries than those found in Norway. 

READ MORE: What is ‘harryhandel’, and why do Norwegians love it so much?

Is border shopping a bad thing for Norway?

Norwegian businesses argue that crossing the border to shop affects the whole value chain, negatively impacting everyone from Norwegian farms and producers to supermarket employees, not just companies profit margins. 

“My advice is to encourage Norwegians to buy Norwegian food, and help secure Norwegian jobs throughout the value chain,” food and agriculture minister Sandra Borch told NRK. 

In addition, shopping domestically means more tax revenue for the Norwegian system to use to fund its generous welfare state. 

While shopping domestically protects domestic jobs, shopping abroad protects jobs there, which rely on people hopping the border to get their groceries. 

Coronavirus pandemic restrictions left a black hole in some of these economies reliant on shoppers from the Norwegian side of the border. For example, in Strömstad, a Swedish town close to the border where many travel to shop, unemployment rose by around 75 percent after Norway closed its borders with Sweden.