This year’s German Fetish Ball Weekend, taking place in Berlin over the Whitsun holiday (June 6-9), looks set to build on the very positive response from industry and punters to last year’s major venue changes.
After staging the Ball with its spectacular fetish fashion shows at Matrix every year since its inception (except for the two years the event decamped to Hamburg), organiser Xklusiv Events decided that enough was enough after 2012’s GFB was rather shabbily treated by the Matrix management.
It decided to look for somewhere better, and in alighting on the Spindler & Klatt complex in trendy Kreuzberg on the banks of the River Spree, found not only a great new Ball venue but also, in another part of the same complex, some very suitable exhibition space for fetish fashion labels and other kinky vendors.
So, after years of people having to hop between different locations for the two main GFB events — the German Fetish Fair on Saturday and Sunday, and the German Fetish Ball on Sunday — suddenly, both were taking place at opposite ends of the same building, more or less. Result!
If you read any of our Berlin 2013 reports by Heidi Patterson, Irresistible Iris or Dave ‘Darcy’ Edmond, you’ll be aware that post-event approval ratings for both new venues were high.
Their location on the opposite site of the Spree, but still quite near the old Matrix venue in adjoining Friedrichs- hain, meant that they were also close to the same hotels and hostels many GFB visitors had tried out for the first time when the event returned to Berlin in 2012 after its Hamburg sojourn.
So people didn’t have to start again from scratch in 2013, looking for yet more places to stay that were convenient for the relocated Ball and Fair.
The fact that KitKatClub — the setting for Saturday night’s big FetishGuerilla Revolution party, renowned for its audience’s enthusiastic embrace of fetish fashion — is also just a short hop away from the new venues is not exactly a disadvantage either. It means that the three principal events of the weekend now take place in close proximity.
So if you sorted yourself out with a nice place to stay in 2012, chances are you’ll be staying there again this year — if you booked in time, that is.
Whitsun is a big holiday weekend in Germany, and Berlin has lots of Whitsun tourist attractions including a big multi-stranded street festival. That puts a lot of pressure on hotel rooms — as well as tending to push up prices.
It was in 2012 that I and a few other curious GFB folk discovered the newly opened nhow hotel overlooking the Spree, a mere ten minutes’ walk from Matrix.
The nhow — part of the big NH hotel group — markets itself as a musician-friendly establishment (gay-friendly too, to judge by the amount of pink décor). So it seemed from the start like a place that would also be comfortable with kinksters — which certainly turned out to be the case.
After a great experience in 2012, I’d intended to stay there again last year. But due to a misunderstanding, I found myself staying at the Ibis Ostbahnhof just down the road instead.
But at the time I was trying to book, rooms in the nhow were only £10 a night more than the Ibis, yet were offering style, comfort and facilities of a different class altogether. No contest, really, if one had the funds.
Anyway, I’m back at the nhow this year — by the skin of my teeth. The place was ostensibly fully-booked from very early this year, and I can‘t imagine that situation will change in the future, other than for the worse.
So, frankly, it would be better if everyone who’s been thinking about trying the nhow were to stay somewhere else next year. On reflection, you probably wouldn’t like the place that much. Not with all that pink and everything. Just forget I mentioned it.
From the nhow to the venue complex on the opposite side of the river is a longer walk than to Matrix, but worth considering if the weather in Berlin is as balmy as it traditionally is in early June.
Most visitors are likely to have their first encounter with the complex when the German Fetish Fair opens for business at Magazin in der Heeresbäckerei — the street-facing end with its entrance doors on Köpenicker Straße — on Saturday June 7.
In its time the Fair has been staged in a wide variety of venues — industrial conversions ranging from shabby to luxurious, run-down exhibition halls overshadowed by their modern replacements, and purpose built exhibition centres with every mod con but located way out in the suburbs (of Hamburg).
Like its immediate forerunner Umspannwerk Kreuzberg, the new Magazin location (set in what was once an army bakery) is definitely towards the smarter end of the venue range.
Also like Umspannwerk, it’s a bit smaller than is perhaps ideal. But being light and elegantly proportioned, it does at least foster a less claustrophobic and more relaxed shopping environment.
And the smaller venue size does have its advantages, if last year is anything to go by.
The advantage to the organiser is that, with less overall exhibition space to sell, there is more chance of filling all of it through advance bookings. This gives the whole event a surer economic footing than if lots of bargain-hunters wait until the last minute to try to get big discounts on unsold space.
For fair visitors, the effect of the limited space last year was that though there were less companies than we’ve seen in some previous years, the quality of the brands was high, providing plenty of good shopping choices for fetish fashion and other kinky stuff, making the entrance price worth paying and ensuring that most exhibitors did good business.
To get a better idea of the likely vibe at this year’s fair, check out last year’s images from Magazin in der Heeresbäckerei in the third gallery on the right.
As already mentioned, this year’s GFB and GFF have attracted higher participation from British latex labels — something that is of particular interest here at The Fetishistas.
Among them, our May cover star Amy Statik (aka Amy Day) and her Am Statik label are already GFB veterans, although this year she is doing a fetish fashion show but not taking a stand at the fair.
Joining Am Statik on the GFB catwalk will be two more UK labels: first-timer Eustratia (doing the show only) and returning star Pandora Deluxe (doing the show and exhibiting at the fair).
Other British latex brands appearing in Berlin for the first time are Ectomorph and Yummy Gummy. With fair veteransBondinage and Latex 101, they bring the total of participating UK labels to seven — the largest number since the earliest years of the GFB weekend.
These Brits will join more than two dozen other exhibitors at the 2014 GFF, representing many of Germany’s best known fetish fashion and BDSM businesses, plus a couple of exhibitors from other parts of Europe. The full exhibitor list (correct at mid-April) can be found in the first sidebar on the right.
To get to the German Fetish Ball on Sunday June 8, one must walk (or drive) through the yard at the side of the Fair venue until one gets almost to the river’s edge, where the waterside entrance to Spindler & Klatt reveals itself.
The Ball venue, another warehouse conversion, has a large canopied area outside its main door where people can congregate and smoke, and there is also a river-cruiser moored alongside, offering further outdoor space and seating for guests.
For last year’s GFB from May 17-20, the weather was not as hot as expected for Berlin at that time of year; it was overcast for at least half of the Whit weekend, with some drizzle and chilly breezes too.
This meant that the pleasures of the open, riverside aspect of Spindler & Klatt had to be sampled in modest doses in one’s latex to avoid catching a chill.
With luck though, this year’s later date will mean warmer temperatures outside and ensure that the open air provides a welcome antidote to the heat inside the venue.
In contrast to Matrix’s warren of adjoining arches (reminiscent of London’s much-missed SeOne), the new venue is more of a single large auditorium with a couple of smaller offshoot rooms providing alternative musical environments.
The main space accommodates a decent sized stage and catwalk, but the roof-supports and various internal walls rather limit the sight-lines, meaning last year that fewer people were able to watch the fetish fashion shows than wanted to.
It also meant, for anyone trying to photograph the onstage action, that establishing a decent shooting position without pissing off paying punters by blocking their views was something of a challenge.
I’m never sure why event organisers go to so much trouble to put on shows, invite a bunch of photographers, and then leave the photography of said performances so much to chance on the night itself. More joined-up thinking might be beneficial here, I feel.
As for the show line-up this year, eight designers will be participating in the fetish fashion shows, and there will be some solo performances too.
The participating designers are Am Statik (UK), Eustratia (UK), Fantastic Rubber (Germany), Lacucaracha (Germany), MadRubb (Spain), PandoraDeluxe (UK), Savage-Wear (Germany) and Tatjana Warnecke (Germany).
All are latex labels except for Berlin-based Tatjana Warnecke, but her amazing designs in stretch pu have earned her the right to be considered every bit as kinkily-creative as her peers working with rubber.
We can expect Kari to co-host this year’s European Fetish Awards again with René of Xklusiv, and probably treat us to a song or two as well.
Exhibitors June 7-8
More than 30 companies are due to exhibit at this year’s German Fetish Fair in Berlin on June 7 and 8. The following exhibitor list reflects the last update published in mid-April.
GFF 2014 EXHIBITORS
Masters in Steel
Stefan Beier Fetischdesign
Schedule + Tickets
Above: Map shows German Fetish Fair (yellow pin) and Fetish Ball (blue pin) venues located between Köpenicker Straße and River Spree
The official programme for June 6-9 is shown here. Further information on all official events, a list of recommended hotels and online ticket purchasing can all be found on the German Fetish Ball website (link below).
Friday June 6
20:00 Rooster Berlin
Grünberger Strasse 23, 10243 Berlin
Entry free; dresscode optional
GFB KICK-OFF PARTY
Alt-Tempelhof 17, 12099 Berlin
Tickets pre and door: €15 women/€20 men/€25 couples
Saturday June 7
GERMAN FETISH FAIR
Noon – 20:00 Magazin in der Heeresbäckerei
Köpenicker Straße 16-17, 10997 Berlin
Tickets pre and door: €20 day/€25 weekend
GFB PLAY NIGHT
21:00 de Sade
Revaler Str 99, 10245 Berlin
Tickets pre €30pp, door €35pp
(Couples and entourage only)
Köpenicker Straße 76, 10179 Berlin
Tickets pre €18, door €20
Sunday June 8
GERMAN FETISH FAIR
Noon – 22:00 Magazin in der Heeresbäckerei
Köpenicker Straße 16-17, 10997 Berlin
Tickets pre and door: €20 day/€25 weekend
GERMAN FETISH BALL
21:00 Spindler & Klatt
Köpenicker Straße 16-17, 10997 Berlin
Tickets pre €50, door €55
Monday June 9
GFB BREAKFAST & FAREWELL
Simon-Dach Str 14 (corner of Kopernikusstr), 10245 Berlin
(Breakfast is served 10:00 – 15:00. No prices quoted)
In addition to individual event tickets, VIP tickets (including GFB lanyard) are available to cover the whole weekend of paid events from Friday’s Kick-Off to Sunday’s Ball. Price is €120 (advance only) — a typical saving, if you attend every event, of @20 on individual pre-sale prices and @35 on door prices.
Tickets can be bought in advance online from the GFB website (link below) and in person from the following outlets in Germany:
Seelower Straße 5, 10439 Berlin
Uhlandstraße 170, 10719 Berlin
GERMAN FETISH FAIR
Sales desk open Sat-Sun June 7-8 only, at Magazin in der Heeresbäckerei, Köpenicker Straße 16-17, 10997 Berlin
LINES & DOTS + INNER SANCTUM
Stresemannstrasse 132a (through the gate), 22769 Hamburg
Since this article was first published there have been a number of changes to the original schedule. Two more events — CABARET BIZARRE and ALTER EGO — have been added to Friday’s schedule and the venue for Saturday’s GFB PLAY-NIGHT has changed,. In addition a non-smoking room has been allocated at KitKatClub for Saturday’s FETISHGUERILLA REVOLUTION, and NINA DE LIANIN will perform at Sunday’s Ball.
Because of the amount of addtional information that has now been made available, we have put all these changes into a separate GFB update article, which you can find in our News section or by using the GFB Update link below.
Fetishistas: GFB Update
Dave ‘Darcy’ Edmond/The Fetishistas: Things to do in Berlin
Our May cover image (above) is a self-portrait by fetish fashion designer and model Amy Statik. Amy is modelling her amazing Am Statik Android latex outfit, inspired by the robot in Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis, which she unveiled at her Fetish Guerrilla Revolution show in Berlin last year.
We hear that in June, Amy is resting the robot and unharnessing the unicorn also famously shown in Berlin, in order to debut a “more ethereal and consistent” fetish fashion collection on the GFB catwalk this year.
Entirely made using just four latex colours — a rather tight brief for this colour-obsessed designer — the new outfits prominently feature white, baby pink and transparent hues.
Taking ideas from current fashion trends as well as inspiration from mythical creatures, Amy’s Empress show promises “light, elegance and more tuned latex pieces” — although in true Am Statik style we can expect “twists on the norm”.
Hot tip: Am Statik’s Etsy shop is currently hosting a sample sale, offering the chance to buy unique fetish fashion pieces from the previous collection shown at TG and last year’s GFB!
In addition, the entertainment bill at the year’s Ball promises solo performances from Swiss burlesque artist Roxy Diamond, and from Berlin-based fire-show specialist/guitarist/Savage-Wear designer HayDee Sparks.
For many Berlin visitors, the party that completes the weekend’s hat-trick of unmissable events is the one taking place on Saturday June 7 at KitKatClub: FetishGuerilla Revolution.
Photographer and club promoter Martin Pelzer hosts an evening that caters more than do any of the weekend’s other parties for the hardcore clubbing aspects of fetish nightlife. Unsurprisingly it has proved a big hit with those clubbers who judge a good time by how well it compares to a Torture Garden night.
Theoretically, Revolution clashes with Saturday’s GFB Play-Night, hosted this year at de Sade. But with the Play-Night being the weekend’s obligatory event for public BDSM aficionados, in practice these events attract very different types of clientèle.
And the long KitKat night means that those who want to try out some couples-play can do so at de Sade and still let their hair down later at KitKat in different ways.
DJ’s lined up for this year’s Revolution are Michael Nielebock (Mangue Rec/Deep Circus); Mitja Prinz (watergate); Christopher Lawrenz b2b David Faust (own/sisyphos); Faray (voltage musique); Jimmy Mofo (Torture Garden/Beat Assassins/Mofo Records), Taktgeber (Kitkatclub); and Green (Kitkatclub).
There will also be performances by Evilyn Frantic, Calida Del Sol and London’s very own Mad Alan.
These Revolution parties have always made me feel like they’re effortlessly transplanting the best aspects of London clubbing style, with its focus on fetish fashion and partying attitude, into the heart of Berlin — with just one exception, really amplified by last year’s event with its record-busting 1,400 attendees.
I’m referring to KitKat’s lax attitude towards cigarette smoking — indulged in every part of the venue, to the surprise of many, and much-remarked upon in reports.
It is a shock, when you’re accustomed to most venues providing carefully delineated smoking areas, to suddenly find yourself in a place where flouting smoking rules is cool and still a badge of rebellion. Complain and you’ll be told: “That’s Berlin.” Ho hum.
Traditionally, Martin Pelzer also organised Friday night’s Kinky Cocktails launch parties. These now-much-copied, relaxed-dresscode affairs would take place at some reasonably priced, friendly bar where people, assured of a warm Berlin evening, could spill out onto the pavement in a way that just feels so right in this city.
Then, at one of the last GFB Weekends before the event decamped to Hamburg in 2010, Kinky Cocktails was suddenly annexed by the main fair venue, in order, if I remember correctly, to give the venue management the additional revenue-earner it was looking for.
Since then, this party has been something of a movable feast, hosted by different people in different styles.
This year it is doubling as the tenth anniversary party of Berlin latex label Savage-Wear, and is being held at Rooster Berlin, which may be familiar to GFB veterans as the scene of earlier Berlin Fetish Weekend gatherings organised by Savage-Wear partner and Bohème-Noir promoter Alex Heim.
The 8pm start time is designed to make it easier for those with the desire to head off later to Friday’s GFB Kick-Off Party at Insomnia. Many do take up this option, but usually quite a few people also find that after a few cocktails of the kinky variety, the line of least resistance is to stay where you are and just carry on drinking.
The equivalent to the Kinky Cocktails opener that closes the German Fetish Ball Weekend is Monday 9’s GFB Breakfast and Farewell, which is either a four- or five-hour brunch slot, depending on which start time you believe. It’s hosted at eaterie Cayetano, again not far from the main venues.
I did manage to get to a Sunday fetish brunch in 2102, the one year when the GFB co-existed in the same city with Alex Heim’s Berlin Fetish Weekend.
However, in all my years attending the the GFB Weekend, I have never made it to Monday’s farewell breakfast. Because breakfast is generally the last thing on my mind after, as a rule, partying well into that same morning following the previous night’s Ball.
Tuesday seems like the more sensible day for a farewell breakfast, which, for the record, is how they do it at Fetish Evolution.
So I can’t really tell you what this last event in the programme is like — though, being in Berlin and involving food, I’m sure it doesn’t disappoint those who have been abstemious enough to fit it into their schedules.
This brings me, finally, to the other attractions of Berlin that have the potential to make visiting the city for the GFB such an all-round life-affirming experience.
Much has been written in previous Fetishistas articles about the delights of the city — notably by Dave ‘Darcy’ Edmond — and rather than trying to regurgitate his words, I’ll simply refer you his most recent piece, for which you can find a link in the second sidebar, above right.
But I do just want to emphasise that eating out in Berlin is still one of the city’s great pleasures, available to be enjoyed at prices Londoners can hardly believe. And in this respect I have two recommendations — one general and one specific.
If white asparagus is still in season during GFB weekend (which it might just be), then do try it. Almost every restaurant in Berlin seems to have this delicacy on the menu when it’s in season, and they usually advertise the fact on the specials board outside. Don’t miss out if it’s available!
And if you like Asian food of any kind, try to find time for a lunch or dinner at Mirchi at Oranienstraße 204, 10999 Berlin. Its combination of inexpensive Singapore/Indian fusion dishes and cocktails, served on the sizable outdoor terrace under a canopy of palm trees, is just unbeatable.
Failing that, check out any of the other Mirchi or Amrit restaurants in this thriving Berlin chain.
Aside from eating out, the city has other tourist attractions too numerous to mention, most of which bear repeat visits. But for those of a pervy sensibility, one that should certainly not be missed is the Helmut Newton Foundation at Jebensstraße 2, 10623 Berlin.
Here you can see everything from Newton’s remarkable collection of vintage cameras to a concept car that was built especially for him to drive around Monaco, where he lived. And, of course, on the walls there are scores of fabulous prints representing a long and illustrious photographic career that has influenced many current photographers of fetish fashion.
So, if you haven’t yet made up your mind about Berlin this year, don’t delay — book today. Considering all the changes it has gone through and the other big events that compete for your patronage each year, I’d say the GFB has done well to maintain its status as the most prestigious international fetish event in the world.
René and the small team at Xklusiv who organise it are entitled to a lot of the credit for that, of course. But — as Xklusiv found after trying to move it to Hamburg — the pulling power of Berlin itself is a really important factor that should never be underestimated.
Sunday, 4 May 2014