When Coal Mining and Fashion Merge

Picture this: a sponsored show by EuroWings so guests are greeted by flight attendants while holding a boarding pass as their tickets. A room disguised as a coal mining dressing room. The sound of drills, hammers, constructions, and messiness. Minimalist but edgy clothes with splashes of charcoal on white fabrics. The guests sitting on metallic bleachers ready for the catwalk to start. Yes, you are at the right place. Welcome to the Grubenhelden show. A few weeks ago, Fashion Week hit the city of New York. If you thought Manhattan is a non-stop city, you have not been here during Fashion Week. From all the international designers coming to the Big Apple to show their work, Grubenhelden made its way straight from Germany.

Let’s Take Off

Located in the West Village of Manhattan, a brick wall studio is where the show took place. It was a beautiful but windy Friday morning and little did they know, the guests were about to enter in an industrial setting of the coal mining industry. The German brand wanted to keep their show reserved, exclusive, and small therefore, about 100 people were gathered; maybe even less. With Eurowings as a partner, the entrance to the show had flight attendants scanning your “boarding pass” [used as a ticket for the show]. After “boarding”, guests had to wait into the main area, before entering the show room where magic would happen. We were about to take off. Every footstep into the room where the show took place brought in questions, curiosity, and mysteriousness in the guest’s eyes. The space was dark, the lights were dimmed and there was loud noises of drilling, hammering, and coal mining machines. As we took a seat on the cold metallic bleachers, everybody looked at one another in confusion. Where were we? 

The Drilling Noises

Around the brick wall room, a metal stage was built for the show to take place around. Shirts were hung up on these steel bars, suitcases were carefully placed on the floor, and construction equipment was laid in the center of the room. In the middle of the room was also buckets, water, soap, and other products used to get clean. The runway was going to place around a coal miner’s changing room. And then a loud bell rang. In coal mining, a bell rings when the miner’s shift is over. The show was about to start. As the   lights dimmed putting us in total dark, four filthy men introduced the show to the public by screaming something in German. One looked more dirty than the other. Grubenhelden used coal miners in full dirty gear to open the show. As these four men made their way to the center of the room, ready for a clean up, the drilling noises faded and upbeat music started playing.

One by One

The models entered the room one by one, to the rhythm of the music. It was one thing to be in an industrial setting but combined with the clothes, it was the perfect environment to be in at that moment. From black and white hoodies to shiny black leather tights with chunky boots and fitted charcoal grey vests paired with opaque tights, Grubenhelden presented a collection paying tribute to the last coal mining industry that recently shut down in Germany. The details in the clothes was carefully selected: zippers,   hoodies, charcoal splash on white fabrics, rounded collars, and wool, velvet, and cotton. As the models were cat-walking around the room, the four filthy men were now washing themselves with bar soaps in the middle of the room. When they were cleaned, the end of the show was near. The finale runway included all models and clothes but also the-now clean men wearing clean white button downs and pant suits. The cleaning up happened during the show itself so not all guests paid attention to them. This was the twist of the show. They opened the show dirty and are closing it clean. 

Grubenhelden not only brought their culture to New York City, but also a diverse group of models. Ranging from age, ethnicity, and looks, every single model had a different personal stroll but each portrayed the dirty and grey region of where coal mining takes place in Germany – a small area called Ruhr. 

An Emotional Tribute

The show paid tribute to the now-closed coal mining industry in Germany but also left a legacy in an international city; it is not everyday that New York City gets a fashion show with hammers and chisel around us. After all, the collection was called “Hammer & Pick” for a reason. It was genius to display a collection of clean clothes in a setting of dirt, really emphasizing on the history of mining. Closing Germany’s last active coal mine was a very sad moment for Germans. It ended 200 year old history of coal mining situated in the Northwest part of the country.

This not only left people unemployed but also emptiness for the German culture. It was beautiful to see the coal mining process identified through clothes. Once again, fashion with a capital F strikes again. In addition to the fashion show, the coal miners made their way to Times Square to chant the national anthem of the coal mine industry the night of their arrival in New York City. While proudly chanting and honouring their backgrounds, they reunited their history in a place filled with people. Holding back their tears, the coal miners emotionally sang farewell to the mining of hard coal. 

Hammer & Pick

The German brand, founded in 2016, with a clear and distinctive vision behind the clothes, portrayed a collection as a legacy to the coal mining industry in Germany, giving a meaningful story to the brand. Everything was thought of. The sound, the tone, the layout, the setting, the models, the clothes, and most importantly, the message. Grubenhelden, which by translation means “pit heroes”, chose to say thank you to all the miners of Germany and chose New York City to do it in; a city of a worldwide audience with open mind and ears. We hear you Grubenhelden, we hear you.