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Achtung, Europe! LIM College Goes to Berlin and London

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Despite getting off to a (literally) bumpy start with a turbulent flight and some delayed luggage, LIM College’s 2015 Cross-Cultural Analysis trip to Berlin and London was a tremendous success. Our group of 24, which included both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty leaders, alumnae and administrators, had a fantastic time and learned a great deal about the history, culture and fashion in two of Europe’s most vibrant cities.

Following are just some of the highlights from our 11-day journey.

We began our adventure in Berlin, where we stayed in East Berlin’s Mitte district. Our first field trip took us to KKLD, a creative marketing agency whose clients include BMW, Swarovski and Panasonic. Samantha Garfield, KKLD’s Director of Strategy, was kind enough to open the office on a Saturday, and she talked to us about what her job entails and the kinds of work the agency does for the leading brands it services.

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The next day we embarked upon a walking tour of Mitte and saw a number of significant historical sites, including Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Brandenburg Gate. Our morning also included a guided tour of the art and architecture in the Reichstag Building, at the top of which we took numerous photos.

Our next fashion field trip was to MYKITA, a Berlin-based eyewear manufacturer. Known internationally for its unique, hand-assembled prescription frames and sunglasses, MYKITA also has a store here in New York City. We toured their manufacturing facility and met with MYKITA’s engaging founder and Design Director, Philipp Haffmans.

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We continued to explore Berlin’s fashion and retail scene with a stop at KaDeWe, the world’s second largest department store. (Harrods in London is the largest.) According to our guide, prior to reunification in 1990, fashion was used as an expression of the longing for freedom in East Germany, and KaDeWe embodied that.

In addition to housing Germany's biggest luxury shoe department, two of KaDeWe’s floors are entirely devoted to food – an area roughly equivalent in size to two American football fields. Their food hall, called "Delicatessen," employs approximately 110 cooks and 40 bakers and confectioners who supply more than 30 gourmet counters that offer everything from meat, fish, cheese and produce to wine, Champagne and caviar.

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The next day we were off to London, where we started off with a panoramic bus tour of some of the city’s most well-known sites, including Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial, Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square, the River Thames and the London Eye.

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We were introduced to the London fashion scene with a visit to the WGSN Group, which, with their recent acquisition of Stylesight, is the world’s largest trend forecasting and analysis service. Anjalee Patel, a client services executive, was our delightful host. Anjalee’s presentation was especially relevant to our students, as they can access WGSN/Stylesight’s comprehensive digital resources through LIM College’s Adrian G. Marcuse Library for use in their own class projects.

Of course, we had to make time for a few requisite London tourist photos…

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Another high point in London was our field trip to Burberry. We were given a tour of their offices, showroom and design studio and had the opportunity to meet with Elizabeth Binder, Senior Vice President of Merchandising and Paul Graham, Vice President of Engagement and Marketing, for a presentation on the Burberry brand. Then, much to everyone’s delight, we were chauffeured over to their flagship store on Regent St. for a tour of the space where that brand comes to life

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We also visited the “Women Fashion Power” exhibition at the London Design Museum. It provided a compelling look at how well-known women have used fashion to define and enhance their position in the world throughout the years.

We delved deeper into London’s thriving retail scene with a guided tour through the luxury department store Selfridges. Did you know that the store’s founder - Harry Gordon Selfridge - was actually born in Wisconsin?

Our final full day in London included a tour of Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London (where we resisted the urge to try and make off with the crown jewels, despite our tour guide’s half-serious urging for us to do so), and time at the Victoria & Albert Museum to view an exhibition on the evolution of the white wedding dress over the past three centuries.

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We ended things on a high note at a farewell dinner where our students shared their perspectives on the trip and recounted their most meaningful lessons learned.

Although everyone looked forward to getting home to their friends and family back in the States, the mood was somewhat somber on the bus back to Heathrow, as we were a little sad that this amazing trip had to come to an end. We were also very grateful to Professors Grailing King and Nancy Miller for all the planning and coordination they did to make it a success.

While Berlin and London each have distinct and unique personalities, both cities hold a special significance in world history and today’s global fashion industry. Like New York, London has a special magic and doesn’t ever seem to sleep – and, incredibly transformed over the past 25 years, Berlin is a cutting-edge cultural hub with an endlessly fascinating history. I think I can speak for our entire group when I say that we were very fortunate to share this amazing European experience.

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