I’m posting this editorial in late May, a week after returning from Berlin, where what I think was probably the best German Fetish Ball Weekend in the 15-year life of this event just took place.
But to me, the way all the various elements combined this year, whether by chance or design, felt uniquely successful in the German weekend’s history.
Since 2018’s five-day programme underwent some late changes following the closure of DarkSide club, there was understandably some uncertainty about how the alternative arrangements would work out.
How would people react to having both Thursday’s VIP Reception/Opening Party (now rechristened Sonic Boom) and Friday’s Sweet Surrender play night relocated to the part of Matrix used for last year’s ‘one-off’ party on Sunday?
If anecdotal reports of people increasingly tending to regard Friday’s FetishGuerilla Revolution party at KitKat as the weekend’s ‘main event’ were reliable, would Saturday’s Ball suffer a drop in attendance?
And how would opener Kinky Cocktails — which relocated to new venue Baderhaus only last year — fare after moving forward to Wednesday to avoid clashing with the newly configured official meet ’n’ greet?
But as it turned out, not only was there nothing to worry about, but these changes seemed to bring positive benefit to all the individual party nights.
There was an atmosphere of palpable excitement in the air from day one, pumped-up in no small part by the presence of many first-timers who’d clearly taken the GFB Weekend’s reputation as the world’s premier international fetish weekend seriously.
Among this year’s many international newbies (though an old hand in his homeland), John C from Australia almost certainly travelled the longest distance to join the celebrations. But, he assured me, when you consider the fetish options available in Melbourne, it was a journey well worth taking.
Closer to home, the increase in new faces from London and beyond seemed auspicious. Since we Brits are notoriously spoilt for choice on the fetish partying front, when you get a British invasion of the size enjoyed by Berlin this year, you must be doing something right.
Saddled with Brexit we may be — but there’s little sign of anyone wanting to do a Fexit. Quite the reverse.
Thursday’s VIP Reception/Sonic Boom night at Matrix provided the first opportunity for The Fetishistas’ video crew (just Nikdesign and Peter Monochrome this year, with a little help from me) to attempt some interviews.
The noise levels weren’t ideal, but it certainly felt to me like we got some good stuff in the can. People we talked to at Sonic Boom included DutchDame, Sinteque, Iris Thespider and the inimitable Eric Masters, all the way from the States but a familiar figure to many European partygoers.
The video interview clips we released this year in the two-week run-up to GFB 2018 seemed to go down very well, but the plan this year is to release the material much, much sooner, and spread over a longer period.
And for those who noticed that in our previous interviews, the microphone sometimes appeared to be thrust downwards at our subjects by the hand of God, that’s because interviewer Peter Monochrome is very, very, very tall.
But we fixed that this year: whenever possible, we made him crouch or sit down to talk to everyone. We felt it was either that or have them stand on a box.
Friday’s FetishGuerilla Revolution night benefited once again from the opening up of KitKat’s large basement with its play area, bar and dancefloor. This takes pressure off the main floor and quite a few people remarked that the venue was not as hot, smoky or loud as they had feared.
The pool room (as in water, not bastardised snooker) is KitKat’s prime chilling space, both literally and metaphorically. However, some brave souls in the model/photography fraternity decided this year to take cooling-off to new heights/lows.
They decided to break the unwritten rule of KitKat and enter the actual water.
Normally this is regarded as a fairly serious health risk. But after cavorting in the pool with her pals, Dutch model Lotte LaVey pronounced the experience most refreshing, and swore that the water didn’t taste of anything, er, untoward…
To many Berlin visitors, the Revolution night has, for some years now, offered peak partying potential within the GFB Weekend. It certainly tends to attract the most ‘party people’ — those most heavily into the clubbing side of fetish clubbing.
But this year, a wondrous thing occurred the next night. Rather than the Ball crowd being dominated by smartly-dressed but conservative German fetish couples, this year much more colour and general outfit whackiness was in evidence.
The predominant audience ‘look’ this time was more than ever about dressing up to have fun. It was almost as if the clubbable vibe of the KitKat party had simply transferred itself to the banks of the River Spree for a second night.
And it wasn’t just the audience that looked more playful — the Ball’s fashion shows had evidently tapped into the same spirit too.
The shows were relatively short and mostly bristling with energy, with the designers (who choose their own
Oh for the days when a single label’s appearance on the Ball catwalk could last 20 minutes and the models had to pretend to be trees. Not.
But it was not just the spirit of FG Revolution at work here. For two days, the German Fetish Fair had also been experiencing heightened energy levels that seemed to feed into Friday and Saturday nights’ vibes.
This might be explained by the change the Fair underwent this year — transitioning from what was previously a mixed fetish and BDSM market to an event totally dominated by fetish fashion and accessories.
Accessories were prominent among new exhibitors, with club/rave style much in evidence. The fetishy headgear and harnesswear in translucent and/or fluorescent plastics pioneered at the Fair by Jaded Jewall were joined this year by brands new to Berlin such as London’s Ada Zanditon.
Ada was sharing her stand with another London designer, Ana Kostina, whose Figure of A label specialises in shibari-influenced wearables. Both women are regular vendors at London’s Le Boutique Bazaar, which has long been ahead of the curve in featuring fetishy accessory brands of this kind.
Such accessories are increasingly popular in London for pimping up either straight eveningwear or a plainish clubbing outfit like a latex catsuit.
Even a year ago I would have said that the German fetish scene probably wasn’t ready yet for what people such as these two women were offering (even though Germany has a massive rave scene). But from the amount of interest both were enjoying at the Fair this year, that is clearly not the case.
With its new emphasis, this year’s German Fetish Fair finally moved into near-perfect harmony with the fashion focus of the Ball’s shows, giving these two sister events a stronger-than-ever USP for the future.
And it may not be a coincidence that this has happened in the wake of the launch of two new internationally-orientated German weekends — the Avantgardista fashion weekend in Munich and the Passion BDSM fair in Hamburg.
Perhaps the dedicated focus of these two new events has helped designers, vendors and partygoers to see the strengths and weaknesses of long-established international events like the GFB Weekend more clearly.
Alongside the newbies, there was also some welcome high-profile UK involvement in Berlin this year.
For example it was great to see Amentium from Liverpool, a young label I’ve been rooting for, not only delivering a proper high-energy fashion show on the Ball catwalk, but also reporting doing really good business at the Fair.
It was also a real pleasure to see two established designers from the London scene — Florence of Torture Garden Latex and model/performer Marie Devilreux — in a solid catwalk collaboration presenting the latter’s ornate headdresses with the former’s clothing designs.
And last but not least, what a buzz it was to see the lads from Latex 101, subject of The Fetishistas’ current cover story, up on stage receiving this year’s European Fetish Award. We can pick ’em!
Sunday — primarily a recovery day for many Berlin partygoers — was topped-off for me by the international crowd’s now-traditional goodbye dinner at Amrit in Kreuzberg, followed by a visit to the models’ (unofficial) Karaoke Night.
There were some really great stage performances there this year, and the audience excelled itself by doing an impromptu conga around the venue that earned its three ringleaders free shots from the bar.
“If they’d given out free drinks like that in Sweden,” Peter Monochrome observed, “they would have been arrested immediately!” Really? And you wonder why so many Swedes come to Berlin to have fun.
If, as I suspect, this editorial has read like an account of nose-to-tail partying by yours truly, then may I assure you that some proper journalistic work was also done.
On the very first night, at Kinky Cocktails — before I had downed more than half the eight or nine Cuba Libres I apparently consumed in total — three significant fetish stories landed in my lap just through chatting with friends.
Unfortunately I have to sit on all of them for a bit, but it did actually make me feel like a real journalist for a while.
And on the last night, at the Ball, I was handed another exclusive — this time via a photo opp with fetish queen Anna Rose, after her stage performance with Amarantha LaBlanche.
Anna was wearing a leather open-face hood, and told me I had just taken the first photograph ever of her in leather, which you can find in the Ball gallery at the end of this article.
Hah! They don’t call me Scoop Mitchell for nothing — though admittedly it’s usually more to do with my fondness for ice cream. – TM
Next year’s German Fetish Ball Weekend will take place in Berlin from May 29 to June 2.
Published May 21, 2018