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When he showcased his first collect at Berlin Fashion Week nearly ten years ago, Simon Barth realized he didn’t quite fit in with the minimalist aesthetic of the German fashion scene. The fact is Barth lives for creating intricate embroidered haute couture dresses and, in 2013, the German-born designer moved to Vienna, Austria where today he is handcrafting exquisite floor-length evening dresses for the women of the Viennese ball.
Steeped with aristocratic tradition and home to the most extravagant and romantic balls you will find anywhere in the world, Vienna is one of Europe’s oldest capital cities. During ball season, which begins each winter and runs until Ash Wednesday, Vienna’s grand palaces, opera houses and even embassies play host to over 400 balls attended by over 300,000 dancers.
As you can imagine, formal eveningwear is a requirement for the Viennese Ball. Women wear floor-length evening dress with long opera gloves. Dresses come in all colors but white is traditionally reserved for debutantes and younger ladies. Men must wear tails with white bow ties, tuxes with black bow ties or military dress uniforms.
Even with all this formality, there is a carnival atmosphere to the dance floors of Vienna which can be traced back to the 18th century when members of the nobility wore costumes and masks at private parties. Today, the Viennese ball allows commoners to live out the courtly customs of these aristocratic celebrations, from the entrance of debutants and debutantes to the use of dance cards to the quadrille – a midnight music interlude. Given the opulence of the grand balls, is it any wonder that Simon Barth, with his passion for beautiful gowns, is perfectly at home in Vienna?
Simon Barth honed his tailoring skills in a Munich couture studio and his experience there sealed his desire to become a fashion designer. Soon afterwards, he studied at the internationally famous ESMOD School in Munich where his final couture show was honored with the “Prix de Jury.”
From his workshop in Vienna, Simon Barth creates collections of exclusive bridal wear and elegant evening gowns. All of his design process takes place in his head without him ever picking up a pencil to sketch before crafting his pieces – a truly truly amazing feat.
What drives his creativity is an obsession with the fantasy of what a women can be when wearing one of his outfits. A Barth woman is always feminine and definitely sensual. Crafting one of his evening ball gowns can take up to six months from start to finish and it is not unusual for clients to wear his dresses only once before locking them away.
In 1956, the Viennese Opera House was transformed into a brilliant ballroom where, today, you will find European royalty, heads of state and the wealthy and well-to-do seated in a semicircle around the dance floor, sipping from glasses of champagne while being serenaded by a 70 piece orchestra. Several chandeliers glow high above the hundreds of dancers performing the waltz. These exquisitely attired men and women, each playing their respective roll, hold hands while executing brilliant swirls and twirls in waltz’s ¾ time.
Here in Vienna’s stunning Opera House, Simon Barth’s sumptuous embroidery and exquisite tailoring do not seem so out of place and it must be said that Berlin’s loss is truly Vienna’s gain.