CONSCIOUS CITIES 3: BERLIN17 Jun 2015
post by Inés Díaz
Berlin is special in every way. It’s not only different in terms of habits and customs to the rest of Germany, it also doesn’t have anything in common with any of the other major European capitals. Berlin, despite its huge size, is a city of neighborhoods, with its great camaraderie; it has you believe that you’re living in a town. With access to a wealth of entertainment and thousands of opportunities to carry out any project conceivable. I have spent almost two years living here and what strikes me most, besides of how incredibly cheap and relaxed everything is - which I didn’t expect from the capital of a country as organized and industrialized as Germany - is the community spirit that is evident in every corner of the city. A lot of this manifests itself in the reuse of goods to help others. Supermarkets have machines where people carry their bottles to recycle and get money in return, and so many people decide to leave their bags or boxes with bottles outside their home so the homeless can pick them up and earn a few Euros. There are many groups in social networks where people offer furniture, clothing or electro-domestic appliances they no longer want, for others to pick up, and sometimes walking down the street, you can find a TV, a washing machine or a couple of chairs with a note saying “Zu verschenken” (“to give away”). As for conscious fashion, Berliners are not far behind, celebrating the Ethical Fashion Show twice a year. You can find plenty of ethical fashion, as well as secondhand and upcycling shops. There’s even an official tour of the most important ethical fashion shops, which you can access here. I therefore offer you a selection of my personal favorites:
1. Dear Goods (Schivelbeiner Strasse, 35)
picture courtesy of Dear Goods
Located in the lovely neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg, heart of the Berliner start-up scene, Dear Goods is a store that offers clothing and accessories guaranteed to be manufactured without materials that come from animals, as well as ecological and natural fabrics, produced locally, and distributed under fair labour conditions. Dear Goods sells both its own, as well as other brands, which are all GOTS certified, plus you can find pretty casual and comfortable re- and upcycled clothes there. It's my favorite shop for buying organic cotton sweaters, a garment of which I’ve become quite a fan. In addition to that, the store is located next to a vegan supermarket, very much in keeping with the neighbourhood’s spirit.
2. Upcycling Fashion Store (Anklamer Strasse, 17)
picture courtesy of Upcycling Fashion Store
Also in Prenzlauer Berg, very close to the Bernauer Strasse subway station, one of the three parts of Berlin where you can still see original sections of The Wall, is the Upcycling Fashion Store, a hotspot for upcycled clothing. Most of what you can find there is very colorful and sometimes a little bizarre, but certainly very original. There are brands from all over the world, which include womens-, mens-, as well as childrenswear, jewelry and lots of wool scarves, gloves, hats and whatever else you need to survive Berlin’s cold winters in style. There are also real bargains to be found in the shop’s sales. Plus the employees who work there are very friendly and speak perfect English. Some of the brands that can be found there are Ecologina, Kamaleon, Sicalternativa, Antiform, Milch Austria, Global Hope, Sag and Salt and Oh my Jillies.
3. FREITAG (Max-Beer-Strasse, 3)
Going down Prenzlauer Berg to the district of Mitte, in the centre of Berlin, we get to upcycling brand FREITAG, which distinguishes itself through its quality and minimalist design. Here you can find accessories, such as notebooks, tablet covers, purses or backpacks and handbags, which Berliners love. Whenever I take the subway, I see someone with a FREITAG backpack or bag - they are everywhere! The shop’s employees are always ready to help and give advice, and although their prices are higher compared to other shops recommend here, they’re worth it thanks to their great quality. FREITAG has also developed F-ABRIC, its own sustainable fabric/clothing line recently. Touching the F-ABRICs you can really appreciate their softness and comfort. In addition to that, the brand supports fair trade and manufactures all its products in Europe. A small but super cozy and well organized shop space!
4. Supermarché (Wiener Strasse, 16)
Supermarché is the most complete shop in my opinion, because thanks to its size you can find everything from clothing, accessories, hosiery, lingerie, soaps, creams and cutlery to pet products. Along its own brand, Supermarché also sells other brands, being located right next to the Görlitzer Park subway station - a social hive! This is where I recommend you to buy jeans, thanks to its huge choice of different designs in all sizes, shapes and styles, from brands such as Kings of Indigo (KOI), Kuyichi or Living Crafts. Moreover, all the products sold are manufactured and marketed in accordance to fair trade principles and environmentally friendly.
5. Wesen (Weserstrasse, 191)
In the trendy district of Neukölln, you can find plenty of small shops such as Wesen, however there’s something that makes this particular shop unique; they have an in-store workshop, where they make and sew clothing, for customers to see. I think there’s no better example of transparency than this! Wesen is on a street full of bars and restaurants, which really comes alive at night, especially in summer, making it one of the busiest streets in the neighborhood! Wesen offers minimalist clothes in pastel colors (two of my favorite things when dressing!), in addition to comfortable clothes that will keep you warm and cozy. Once again, this shop sells its own brand, Format, as well as shoe and jewelry brands such as Jonny's.
6. Garage (Ahonrstrasse, 2) Colours (Bergmannstrasse, 102)
Both are large thrift stores, which are organized according to the same philosophy as a normal vintage market, offering fixed and kilo prices. A kilo usually goes for € 15, so if you buy shirts and skirts etc., you can get a lot for very little money. Both Garage, next to the Nollendorfplatz subway station (Berlin’s gay area par excellence), and Colours in Kreuzberg, are absolute wonders. I find it super fun to spend a couple of hours rummaging through their kilo section, especially when I put everything on the scale and I realize that I will pay a lot less than I thought!
7. Pick N Weight (Alte Schönhauser Str. 30)
In the same style as mentioned above, Pick N Weight opened shortly before Christmas to the delight of Berlin’s vintage lovers. It is in the central district of Mitte, and although it isn’t as big as the other thrift stores mentioned before, the quality of their garments is outstanding! You can find everything from Heavy Metal band Tees to elegant shoes, 80s prom dresses and 90s blazers.
I also highly recommend you to go to the markets on Sunday morning, especially to the “Maybachufer” in Neukölln or the market of Tiergarten. Mauerpark is also ok, but quite touristy and prices can be quite over the top.