WHAT’S HOT NOW: BERLIN
Byline: Melissa Drier
BERLIN — The reunification of Berlin did anything but consolidate this city’s youth scene. While Berlin’s clubgoers initially shifted their focus to the new uncharted territory of the East, to be “in” in today’s Berlin requires mobility. Five years after the fall of the Wall, the scene meets everywhere.
The same teens and twens, as they’re called here, can be found drinking coffee at the long-established Schwarzes Cafe in Charlottenberg (West) or Fresco Bar in Mitte (East), buying shoes on Ku’damm (West) or way, way, way across town in the Hackescher Hoff (East), scouting the clubwear shops of SchUneberg (West) or the more rag-tag avenues of Prenzlauer Berg (East) and the side streets of Kreuzberg (West). And when it comes to late-night action, the topography is even more dispersed, techno-temples in the outer reaches of Pankow (East), drawing a clientele that sometimes hips in Schoneberg (West), hops in Kreuzberg (West), grooves in Treptow (East) and is always on the prowl in Mitte (East).
Overall, business has been anything but good here, as elsewhere in Germany. If anyone’s doing any enthusiastic buying, however, it’s the younger fashion customers, who somehow manage to eke money out of the taxed-stressed pockets of their parents, who are reluctant to spend money on themselves. Many of the hipper apparel stores have sprung up in the last year and a half.
Here, a roundup of some of the latest young favorites and finds in greater Berlin.
BAG A DEEJAY:
They’re the longest-playing bags in town, large enough to hold two dozen LPs, or for the young men and women who’ve traded their backpacks for a deejay bag, just the thing for school books, hair brushes, club guides and assorted teen necessities. Priced at $49 to $92 (69 to 129 DM), the bags are currently selling out in vividly toned patent-look vinyl and emblem-adorned nylon in a primary-to-basic-black palette. Most clubber shops have a bag or two in stock, but the New Noise record stores in Kreuzberg and Schoneberg have the best selection and do the briskest business — even with deejays.
Oranienburgerstrasse is one of the most mixed-up and popular stretches in the city’s new center district, Mitte. This is where you’ll find Tacheles, a multi-arts/club/events center housed in the partially demolished remains of one of Berlin’s most elegant prewar shopping galleries, a mostly junk flea market, the beautiful golden dome of the recently restored synagogue, the famous G-strings and high boots of the street’s working girls, plump tourists checking out the scene and kids hell-bent on living it. Finding a decent bite to eat, however, was always something of a problem, until Fresco opened its tile-covered walls just beyond the fumes of Burger King and assorted snack bar stands. Something of a food bar, the no-table Fresco offers an appetizing multicultural selection of tapas; antipasti; soups; interesting sandwiches (a real novelty in Berlin!); calzone; their famous rice balls, arancini; desserts, and one of the best street level views of all the action.
The threatened closure of one of Berlin’s Techno sanctums, E-Werk, brought the plight — and to quote Spiegel Magazine — the “cultural importance” of Berlin’s clubs to national attention. The ongoing game of real-estate roulette in this city of cranes and unpredictable property values has seen some of Berlin’s best-loved clubs go under in the name of metropolitan progress. But some, like, WMF, have managed to rise again. Having been pushed out of the abandoned WMF cutlery brand headquarters from which it took its name, WMF has moved to some equally dark premises in Hackescher Hoff, where it acts as one of the area’s primary youth magnets after the witching hour. But even the most devoted WMF fans will admit to frequenting other clubs, E-Werk, Delicious Doughnuts, Strike, Suicide, Tresor and, for the very young, Boogaloo Groove Station — all high up on the favored Mitte club list. Where to go and when depends on one’s music of choice, and the only way to figure out who’s playing what and when is to check Flyer, Guide or 030 — three weekly Berlin guides.
THE SPANISH CONNECTION
The rise of the club fashion scene in Berlin brought a much-needed infusion of British style into the city’s ho-hum retail assortment, followed by a tentative resampling of French junior labels and Paris Sentier duds. And now, thanks to Viviana Pereiro Lillo, Barcelona fashion makers are also getting a turn at her two-month-old Mi Onda boutique in Schoneberg. Just 23 years old, Pereiro Lillo’s already had six years’ retail experience, working at H&M, a Swedish retail chain that was the first in Germany to address funky, young fashion, and various Berlin boutiques while pursuing her studies in journalism and Latin American culture. The decision to open her own shop, she says, was a “spontaneous” reaction to a “for rent” sign in the window of a health-food bakery now turned Jetson’s style hub.
“Berlin has too little real fashion for young people. It’s either too crazy or just plain bad, and I wanted to go the middle way,” she said, with hip, affordable Barcelona labels like Malgo or Sara that nobody knows, plus no-name Spanish goods. And to satisfy the label-conscious, her shops of “groovy clothing for brothers and sisters” also stocks a few choice items from England’s Hysteric Glamour, Japan’s Pile of Trash and American Golden Fleece basics, which she says are moving quite well with both guys and gals.
In her first year, she expects to do about $78,600 (110,000 DM).
THE SECOND TIME AROUND
Novelty is one of clubwear’s driving forces, but as many silver Lurex and vinyl-sated PYTs know, the novelty can wear off pretty quickly. This, combined with the notoriously short-of-cash state of most young Berlin fashion fans, has led three clubwear outposts to go into secondhand partygear. Tesco in Prenzlauer Berg, which normally sells British labels such as Addict, Ho-Ha, Hooch, Ministry of Sounds, Timbuk2 and Berlin designer and Tesco co-owner Irene Sang’s own playful creations, is just waiting for the racks to arrive to go into secondhand back-room sales.
“We asked our friends and customers if they had stuff in their closets that they didn’t wear anymore, and there’s been good response,” Sang said. Tesco will sell the second-hand items, which can also include CDs, LPs, mixed tapes, videos and “anything people might offer” on commission, which is a long-established practice in Berlin.
They predict they’ll do $107,000 (150,000 DM) in their first year.
Meanwhile, over in Schoneberg, Berlin’s first serious clubwear store, Wicked Garden and friendly competitor Groopie Deluxe have also decided to join forces in a secondhand shop. Just opened, it’s next door to the popular sushi hangout, Bar Mutter. The new joint enterprise will also feature less-expensive firsthand collections for budget trendies.
It looks like a cross between a student living room and a large walk-in closet, but for Eisdieler’s four young designers, 20 square meters (or 215 square feet) can house a world of fashion. Two years out of design school Lette Verein, graduates Stefan Dietzelt, Till Fuhrmann, Olef Grutzner and Ove Jepsen opened their boutique atelier in Mitte in early September. They offer a mixed bag of often one-of-a-kind sportswear and party pieces (designed by Dietzelt, as well as Jepsen), snowboarder styles (designed by Grutzner) and wooden and steel unisex jewelry (created by Fuhrmann). They sell their own creations off the rack, or they can fill special orders. Typical of the neighborhood, the shop has no telephone. Although Auguststrasse can appear forlorn and forgotten during the day, it’s another story at night. And thanks to the official “tourist district status” of this corner of Mitte, Eisdieler can keep its doors open ’til 10 p.m., contrary to normal shopping hour regulations, which force German retailers to close at 6:30 p.m. They couldn’t project their sales volume.
Everyone calls them the Groupies, and they’ve become a welcome fashion fixture at every hot club, bar, shop and trendy event around town. Best friends for the last five of their 17 years, Susanna, Julia, Jenny, Jana and Sweeny (last names are besides the point, they say) go everywhere and do everything — down to getting their hair cut, one after another, at Sassoon together. There’s Abitur, college entrance exams, clouding their horizons, but more important in their high school lives is “to get dressed to go out on the weekend. Every weekend is a new battle.”
What do they wear? “Every time another style,” remarked Jana. “The major thing is style and to express your own personality,” said Jenny. “And that it’s sexy,” said Susanna. “But to wear short skirts in winter just to look sexy is crazy,” added Sweeny. “And I can’t dance in a skirt,” countered Julia.
Where do they shop? There isn’t an awful lot in Berlin, they said, but the best bets are H&M, secondhand shops like Made in Berlin, Foot Locker for sneakers and “sometimes when we have money, Wicked Garden or Groopie Deluxe,” said Susanna.
“Or we just went to London together and went shopping from morning to night,” she added.
Where do they go dancing? WMF, E-Werk, 90 Grad and, in summer, YAMM, an outdoor club, every Sunday.
Where do they meet? Cafe M, Mutter Bar or in the Sushi Bar on Pariserstrasse because “it’s the cheapest sushi in town,” according to Sweeny.
What do they live for? “The beautiful things,” said Susanna. “Having fun, but that might change,” said Jenny. “The moment,” responded Sweeny.
And boys? “Men are important, but only for love affairs. We’re more important,” said Susanna.
What do they hate? “The girlie cliche. We’re definitely NOT girlies,” said Susanna. “And we hate the hippie look. It had a meaning in the Sixties, but that’s all over.”
And whom do they love? “Al Pacino,” they screamed. And Harvey Keitel.