Strenesse Group - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia

German fashion house

Founded: from family clothing company by Gerd Strehle in Nordlingen, 1968. Company History: Joined by wife Gabriele Strehle as designer, from 1973; launched Strehle Collection, 1976; Strenesse Blue, sportswear line debuted, 1993; opened flagship store, Dusseldorf, 1995; launched ready-to-wear in the U.S. at Bergdorf Goodman, 1995; introduced footwear, 1996; took footwear line to U.S., 1997; launched first fragrance Strenesse Gabriele Strehle, 2001; opened New York showroom, 2001; introduced first menswear line, 2002; opened Tokyo flagship, 2002. Awards: European Fashion Diamond for Marketing Excellence (to Gerd Strehle), 1999. Company Address: Eichendorffplatz 3, 8860 Nordlingen, Germany. Company Website: .

Strenesse Group, fall/winter 2001-02 collection. © AP/Wide World Photos.
Strenesse Group, fall/winter 2001-02 collection.
© AP/Wide World Photos.




Drier, Melissa, "Strenesse: Making Marks with Minimalism," in WWD, 2 February 1993.

"Skirmishing in Asia," in WWD, 29 November 1994.

"Shopping Europe," in Footwear News, 30 September 1996.

LoRusso, Maryann, "Feisty Fern…Fern Dembicer Sets Out…to Make German Brand Strenesse an American Staple," in Footwear News, 26 May 1997.

Socha, Miles, "Strenesse Takes Aim at U.S.," in WWD, 19 November 1997.

"Milan Going for Glamour," in WWD, 5 March 1998.

Conti, Samantha, et al., "Connolly, Strenesse Eyed for HDP's Expansion List," in WWD, 30 November 1998.

"Sense and Sensibility," in WWD, 4 March 1999.

Socha, Miles, "The New Gold Rush," in WWD, 21 April 1999.

Ilari, Alessandra, "The Main Event…Accessories are Stealing the Spotlight from the Clothes," in WWD, 1 May 2000.

"New Strenesse USA CEO," in WWD, 21 July 2000.

"Study in Contrasts: Designer Gabriele Strehle," in WWD, 4 October 2000.

Drier, Melissa, "A Classic Turn for German RTW," in WWD, 13 February 2001.

Wilson, Eric, "Strenesse Subsidiary Maps U.S. Growth Plan," in WWD, 28 February 2001.

Drier, Melissa, "Strenesse to Launch First Fragrance," in WWD, 1

June 2001.

Wilson, Eric, "Strenesse, Strehle Open in U.S.," in WWD, 3 August 2001.


The Strenesse group designs clothes aim to show the personality of a woman in a way that suits her own style. It is for this reason that the company promotes its label as a style label rather than a designer label, so often only a platform for the creative personality of the designer. A group collection like Strenesse is concerned with providing the modern woman with a versatile, stylish wardrobe created by a united team of fashion experts.

The company was originally established in 1948 and produced a wearable but unadventurous line of coats and suits. Gerd Strehle took over the company from his parents in 1968 and, with the help of freelance designers and stylists, established it as a popular fashion label. In 1973 a design graduate from the fashion school in Munich became responsible for the collection. Gabriele Strehle eventually married into the company and became its creative director.

Gabriele Strehle established a stylish collection—a mixture of luxury materials, quality workmanship, and a purist, minimalistic look intended to emphasize the aura and personality of its wearer. Strenesse collections became timeless and classic, with a design principle that each new piece could be combined and worn with the previous season's look, to create a harmonious continuity of style. It also emphasizes Gabriele's ecological and cultural sense in for a definitive style that will not date. The clothes themselves are simple and luxurious, sensuous knits, hacking jackets, tailored skirt and trouser suits, and roomy, comfortable coats. Fabrics include tweeds, leathers, chiffons, pinstripe flannels, and cashmeres.

Strenesse Group, fall/winter 2001-02 collection. © AP/Wide World Photos.
Strenesse Group, fall/winter 2001-02 collection.
© AP/Wide World Photos.

Photographers such as Jacques Olivar and Ellen Von Unwerth have been responsible for creating many of the visuals that represent the Strenesse look in both publicity and advertising. Classic tailored, mannish looks and elongated, sexy basque dresses are generally photographed in sharp black and white. Classic movie star references abound: Sophia Loren on a Vespa in Rome, Marlene Dietrich languidly smoking in a darkened railway station, or Ingrid Bergman in a beret from Arch of Triumph. These looks suggest to the customer the many different roles she can adopt with her versatile Strenesse wardrobe.

The ideal Strenesse woman is both erotic and confident in her pared-down chic. She does not use fashion as a means to flaunt her success, wealth or status. Like Gabriele Strehle, she believes in the phrase "Less is more." In a world often taut with recession and environmental constraints, this philosophy has a creative longevity. Fashion gimmicks and short-lived trends are rejected in favor of a forward-looking fashion style that adapts to, but does not radically alter, the personality of its wearer.

Teamwork is very important at Strenesse. Strehle sees her role as catalyst for her design team's many ideas. The company views group work as being the chief motivation for creativity and, ultimately, productivity. Teamwork is a unity of interpersonal relations and common interests with one aim in mind, that being the extended development of new ideas for the evolution of the Strenesse look. Strenesse began in the 1990s to introduce accessory products—belts, shoes, and handbags—to encourage customers to adopt the Strenesse lifestyle. In autumn 1993 the company introduced Strenesse Blue, a more casual holiday and leisurewear collection. By 1995 the firm had approximately 900 worldwide clients, among them new customers in the U.S. after the exporting its ready-to-wear line to Bergdorf Goodman in New York. Acceptance from Americans only further confirmed Strenesse's established popularity and influence on international style.

In the late 1990s while other German design firms had less than stalwart sales, Strenesse continued to sell well both in Germany and abroad. Capitalizing on its name and brand awareness, Strenesse introduced a new footwear line in Germany, Europe, and Asia, then launched the collection in the U.S. in 1997, with the help of consultant Fern Dembicer, president of the Fern Monica marketing company. The Strenesse collection was made up of more than three dozen comfortable yet stylish shoes, footwear Dembicer told Footwear News (September 1997) would "work with a whole wardrobe of stylish looks, from suits to pants to long and short skirts."

"We say Strenesse is an intelligent collection," Gabriele Strehle told Miles Socha of Women's Wear Daily back in 1997. "Our philosophy is that we are a modern luxury brand. Modern means with a much more realistic approach to the market." Apparently, its ever-increasing clientéle agreed; for luxury retailers in the U.S., Strenesse represented what Saks Fifth Avenue called "the gold range" between the highest priced designer collections and bridge lines. At both Saks and Bergdorf Goodman, Strenesse had been achieving record sales since debuting in the U.S., and the Strehles continued to roll out new products from accessories and a new jeans line, to a fragrance launch and Gabriele's first menswear collection. To help with the growing demand, the firm created a new division, Strenesse USA, and hired Deb Maxwell (formerly of Gruppo GFT) as chief executive officer.

In 1998 Women's Wear Daily had praised the enduring elegance of Strenesse, stating, "Classics have always been the backbone of Strenesse, and it's been a formula that has worked for this German powerhouse." The message was the same in February 2001, when Elke Giese, director of the German Fashion Institute, said of Strenesse's newest collection to WWD 's Melissa Drier, "It has a stunning clarity." Drier concurred, stating, "The collection harked back to Strenesse's roots with the kind of streamlined tailoring and rich fabrics with which the label originally made its mark." Such high praise wasn't lost on Europe's luxury conglomerates, as both Gruppo GFT and LVMH had expressed an interest in acquiring the German firm. The Strehles, however, had yet to find the right combination of funds and creative control, and loathed to have Strenesse lose its most valuable asset—excellence in both design and quality.

—Kevin Almond;

updated by Nelly Rhodes

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