Berlin’s recent spate of shop-opening activity continues unabated, and nowhere more energetically than in streets veering off Hackesche Markt in Berlin Mitte. Often called Berlin’s Soho, this trendy neighborhood of galleries, bars, restaurants and boutiques also is beginning to witness some of the commercialization that transformed New York’s offbeat mecca to the downtown home of megabrands. But if international players are increasingly charting new retail territory here, the German capital still has room for smaller, independent entrepreneurs — especially if they’re willing to move up the block, or around the corner.
Berliners know how to “make a virtue out of necessity,” as designer Regina Tiedeken puts it. When she and former partner Friederike von Wedel decided go their separate ways after eight years of creating the women’s collection Von Wedel & Tiedeken, Tiedeken suddenly had a dormant space and empty racks in front of her well-situated atelier in Mitte. And much in the spirit of Mickey Rooney’s oft quoted “Let’s put on a show,” she called on some other favorite labels to help animate the place. She didn’t have to ask twice. Rob-ert, Bo van Melskins, Presque Fini, Julia & Ben, Don’t Shoot the Messengers, and A.D. Deertz sent over selected wares just before A7’s pre-Christmas opening, and for spring, Penkov, Awareness & Consciousness, and Anouschka Hoevener will join the A7 ranks. “This is no pop-up,” said Tiedeken, though she added in typically laid-back Berlin style: “We’ll just have to see how it goes.” 7 Almstadtstrasse, 10119 Berlin (Mitte); +49-179-322-5267; a7berlin.de
The established British brand set out for its European and U.S. expansion a year ago and arrived in Berlin Mitte last fall. With AllSaints’ unexpected cuts, unfinished seams and semitransparent fabrics, the label is in stride with the city’s zeitgeist. Symmetric and layered clothes are the Berlin hipster’s standard uniform, which could well expand to include a number of AllSaints pieces in no time, given the brand’s relatively friendly price tags. Looking strong from a Berlin point of view were AllSaints’ party dresses, crushed plaid shirts, studded leather jackets and jodhpur trousers — the jodhpurs are the store’s bestsellers. The AllSaints interior is also in tune with the brand’s known rock ’n’ roll vibe. Three darkly lit floors filled with loud music, exposed-brick walls, bronze metal accents and dozens of old-fashioned Singer sewing machines in the window help the space stand out on this well-shopped street. 52 Rosenthaler Strasse, 10119 Berlin (Mitte); +49-30-2009-5230; allsaints.com
American Apparel Kids
It’s not only the first one on the block, but the first one, period. And as luck — and local demographics — would have it, American Apparel couldn’t have found a more suitable venue for its children’s wear debut than the former Berlin site of its now-defunct California Vintage retail concept. While this part of Mitte is not quite as stroller infested as nearby Prenzlauer Berg, many of the area’s young fashionistas have started families. And the 829-square-foot store offers just what you’d expect parentally inclined AA fans to be looking for: teeny cotton T-shirts and tiny hoodies; mini leggings; pint-size skirts and T-shirt dresses; baby stuff like bibs and one-pieces; some items for teens like headbands, scrunchies and weekend bags, plus a concise range for expectant moms. As children’s apparel is one of the Los Angels-based company’s largest projected growth areas, Berlin may be the first AA Kids in town, but certainly not the last. 41Alte Schönhauser Strasse, 10119 Berlin (Mitte); +49-30-2408-5982
Butterfly Soulfire is preparing to open its first flagship in Berlin during Mercedes-Benz Berlin Fashion Week, much to the chagrin of those who treasure the label as their personal best-kept secret. The brand hosted a temporary pop-up store in a shop space at the back of Mitte’s Seven Star Gallery for a couple of months last year, so it is well practiced for the grand opening. The new store also will sell a few pieces by emerging designers Jenzgenau and Piro Marx as well as a selection of vintage jewelry. The designer couple, Maria Thomas and Thoas Lindner, began the label in 2002, when they made florid, punk-style T-shirts for their artistic friends. Nearly a decade later, their designs have matured to include covetable knitwear and masterful tailoring. Gone are the bright colors — both the men’s wear and women’s wear collections are available almost exclusively in black, dark blues, grays and rich chocolate browns. The store will showcase their talents for deconstructed tailoring and playful detailing, such as a pullover with gloves stitched on the sleeves and a coat with an oversize funnel neck. The pair have been operating out of their atelier in the quiet Berlin suburb of Weissensee for the past few years, but after selling well in France and Japan, decided to take the retail plunge in their native city. 11 Mulackstrasse, 10119 Berlin (Mitte); +49-30-9488-9181; btfsf.com
While troubled times have brought about a burgeoning number of outlets, Berlin’s upscale retail maverick, Quartier 206 Departmentstore, has taken the opposite tack, converting its downstairs, second-season shop into a contemporary fashion haven aptly called Cabinet. A celebration of curios for the stylistically curious, Cabinet presents an edgy, unusual array of men’s and women’s apparel and accessories as boldly eclectic as its interior mix of flea market paintings, Moroccan textiles and furniture, trompe l’oeil trellises, vintage Villeroy & Boch tiles, tasseled divans and plush, animal-patterned throw rugs. For spring, Cabinet has added Eyedoll, Grai, Grypthon, Heimstone, Jasmine di Milo, Sass & Bide, T Bags, Visvim, Yvonne Sporre, Creative Growth, Cobrasnake for Rvca, Tillmann Lauterbach, Ceremony, House of Harlow, Jeffrey Campbell, Uslu Airlines/Reebok, Kenneth Jay Lane, Low Luv, Jade Tribe, Velvetine and Apothia to its handpicked assortment of 80 fashion-forward labels. Quartier 206 (basement), 71 Friedrichstrasse, 10117 Berlin (Mitte); +49-30-2094-6800; departmentstore-cabi.net
A little sliver of a perfumery, Frau Tonis has lent a new note to the boutique-filled Alt Schönhauser Strasse. Uniting generations — in this instance, the shop’s founding grandmother and granddaughter — Frau Tonis also has a link to the Berlin scent legend Harry Lehmann, a purveyor of perfumes sold by weight since 1926. It is Lehmann that has mixed Frau Tonis’ 20 house perfumes, five eau de colognes and two aftershaves, sold by the milliliter from classic glass vats with spigots. Customers can take their juice pure, opting for sugar, orange, tulip, valerian, acacia, red poppy, jasmine, organic rose or perhaps bahia, cochabamba, sminta, bandarabas or habanera. Or, they can mix several at will. Perfume prices start at 7 euros, or $10, for 7 ml.; 39 euros, or $56, for 50 ml., and 79 euros, or $113, for 100 ml., with eau de cologne and aftershave ranging from 12 euros to 18 euros, or $17 to $25, and the bottles, 5 euros to 12 euros, or $7 to $17, extra. There are private courses for two at 99 euros, or $142, a person, including a 50-ml. bottle of one’s personal perfume, a glass of Crémant and canapes. 60 Alkte Schönhauser Strasse, 10119 Berlin (Mitte); +49-30-2021-5310; frau-tonis-parfum.com
As a child, Uta Geyer always wanted to wear glasses like her sister — so much so that she tried to lie while taking her eye exams. Finally, she strained her eyes as a student of film studies enough to get a pair — and her search for the perfect frame launched a new career. After hunting down vintage eyewear for herself, she happened upon a gold mine of unworn retro glasses from an optician in the region. Geyer opened her tiny store, Lunettes, on a sweet little street in Berlin’s gentrifying Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood in 2006. The popularity spread, with Lunettes soon supplying eyewear not just to Berlin hipsters but also film, television and theater productions in Germany and beyond. With cramped quarters starting to limit her display space and imagination, she planned a new location on Berlin’s Torstrasse, near a string of galleries and restaurants, and started designing her own line. The Lunettes Selection brand is a mix of revised styles and reincarnations, each carrying a name like Jean-Claude. Then there’s the Kevin, an early-Eighties look that carries what Geyer says is considered one of the least cool male names in Germany. Also on offer are newly made classic designs from Oliver Goldsmith London, Moscot New York and François Pinton Paris. 172 Torstrasse, 10115 Berlin (Mitte); +49-30-2021-5216; lunettes-selection.de
In case you’re not exactly after a vintage interior investment, the newly opened Möebelkombinat is the place to rummage through furniture from the Fifties through the Eighties. Lucky treasure hunters might find a coffee table for less than 100 euros, or $143, to schlepp home. A single Knoll armchair is a rarity in the store, which rather tends to feature pieces dating back to the former GDR years, like a geometric red-and-black corduroy couch with matching chairs. Owner Juliane Schneider is also the founder of the nearby Stiefelkombinat, which has turned into a tourist destination, given its selection of its namesake boots (or Stiefeln), plus vintage apparel, accessories and playful souvenirs in the heart of Prenzlauer Berg. Möebelkombinat however, is strategically hidden between the flea markets of Mauerpark and Arkonaplatz, attracting a growing customer base that keeps coming back for Saturday browsing. 18-19 Wolliner Strasse, 10435 Berlin (Prenzlauer Berg); +49-30-7545-7280; stiefelkombinat.de
Spanish designers Silvia Salvador Kopp and Nando Cornejo have been providing Berliners with colorful alternatives to monochrome urbanwear for eight years now, and have finally branched out from a shared shop space to open their own store in the heart of Mitte. It is full of the designs the Potipoti brand is known for, such as vibrant graphic print T-shirts and leggings, chunky knitted hoodies and slinky silk bomber jackets. They also have welcomed other burgeoning European brands to sell in their new shop, such as London label Beyond the Valley and fellow Spanish brands El Delgado Buic and Martin Lamothe. Potipoti is a hit with Berlin’s young clubbers, but Kopp and Cornejo are also in great demand in their native Spain, where their clothes are still produced and where they were initially commissioned as young designers to make clothes for a TV show. Their trademark bold graphic prints are also to be found on scarves and notebooks in the Berlin shop. 66 Rosenthalerstrasse, 10119 Berlin (Mitte); +49-30-8876-0321; potipoti.com
Talk about niche marketing: Berlin’s newest shoe store, Sanctum, is exclusively high fashion. That is, there are only high heels on offer here, whether they are boots or pumps for winter, or towering sandals and other sun-primed footwear for summer. The tiny shoe box of a shop, designed along the lines of a private jet or yacht, features lofty looks from John Galliano, Viktor & Rolf, Nina Ricci, Alexander McQueen, Michael Kors and Gianni Barbato, as well as soaring footwear from lesser-known brands such as Gianmarco Lorenz, LaRare, Nando Muzi, Nicole Brundage or Flower.
For those not yet steady on their high heels, Sanctum also offers the how-to book “Fabulous in High Heels” and the video “Legwork.” And in keeping with its location near many of Mitte’s art galleries, there will be sculpturelike shoes in the assortment come spring. 5 Sophienstrasse, 10178 Berlin (Mitte); +49-30-2404-8244; sanctum-shoes.com
This 1,800-square-foot boutique opened in November with the aim of bringing niche designers from Italy to Berlin and now houses Atos Lombardini, Hox, Fairly and Blue Deep, among others. While the store won’t stay young forever, it plans to keep its stock this way: A brand that sells well one season won’t necessarily be bought again for the next. Instead, Storia would prefer to give another new Italian designer space under the spotlight of the shop’s industrial lamps, originally found in a dilapidated Eastern German factory. The high ceilings and large gallerylike space permit art to be spotlighted, too. From a chair installation in the middle of the store, designed by Fuori Biennale art director Cristiano Seganfreddo, to photographs from the nearby Seven Star Gallery, the program will change monthly. The beyond-fashion focus also continues upstairs in a corner dedicated to displaying the work of up-and-coming Berlin creatives. 13 Rosenthaler Strasse, 10119 Berlin (Mitte); +49-30-2758-2554; beautifulbrands.de
20th Century Interior
Having avidly collected vintage furniture for 15 years, Tobias Allen Fahrein made the move from his graphic design agency day job to opening 20th Century Interior three months ago. Set in a back courtyard off the busy shopping street Münzstrasse, the store stocks original pieces from the Forties to the Seventies. Among these lifelong investments, there’s a black wooden Knoll sideboard, one Mies van der Rohe cognac leather couch, classic china from KPM, Meissen and Rosenthal, plus a small wooden Eames storage unit, one of only a handful to be had in Europe. Quick buying decisions are recommended because the space’s decor changes monthly. However, should any of the above pieces disappear by the time you stop by, mark your calendar for Design Day on the first Saturday each month, when Fahrein moves the entire stock from his storage space to the shop. 19 Münzstrasse, 10178 Berlin (Mitte); +49-30-8540-5141; 20thcenturyinterior.com
Stylist Mauro Gagliardini worked with the Italian fashion company IES for three years before he was asked to open a shop in Berlin, providing a platform for the company’s lines and an opportunity for the upbeat store manager to create his own space. Named for Gagliardini’s birthday, he decorated 2701 with vintage lamps brought over from his old apartment in Rome, renovated the windows, but left the tiles on the walls. The latter provide a hint of the space’s former purpose as the kitchen of a Burger King.
If anything is being grilled nowadays, it is shoppers’ credit cards in exchange for Ethic’s wearable knits or the more playful line Piccimorra with its silks, velvets and graphic prints. IES’ third brand, Emma Ethic Little Girl, will arrive in the store this spring, but prior to that, Gagliardini will present the other two IES lines for fall in 2701 during Bread & Butter. 72 Rosenthaler Strasse, 10119 Berlin (Mitte); +49-30-2888-3320