This month, as Berlin Fashion Week draws thousands of fashion fans from around the world, Mitte’s trendiest designer district will be humming with action. Hilda Hoy and Solveig Steinhardt set out to explore the streets filled with boutiques.
Berlin's trendiest designer district gets ready for Fashion Week. BY HILDA HOY AND SOLVEIG STEINHARDT
Berliners often say that their city is more like a conglomeration of villages than one cohesive metropolis. If that’s the case, then the web of winding streets in the heart of the Mitte district, sandwiched between Hackescher Markt and Rosenthaler Platz, is the village where fashion addicts and passionate shoppers go to feel at home.
It wasn’t always this way: In the 1600s, this area was named the Scheunenviertel, or "barn quarter," used for storing hay to supply the cattle market at nearby Alexanderplatz. Not one hint of this agricultural past remains, however. Today, these streets are a design destination, an inviting maze of trendy shops, restaurants, and cafés, housing boutiques from both independent designers and wellknown labels. With a quaint and close-knit yet chic feel like Paris’s Marais neighborhood, this is the area for trend seekers to spend a day or two exploring.
SHOP ‘TIL YOU DROP
You needn’t go as far back as the 1600s to discover a very different side to the neighborhood: Just 20-some years ago, in the wild, heady period after the Berlin Wall came down, punk attire, not designer labels, was the uniform here, and squat houses and empty lots, not boutiques, owned the streets. This had been part of East Berlin, and in the early 1990s, the area was gray, run-down, and very rough around the edges, still bearing the scars of both World War II and the Cold War. Step out of the U8 Weinmeisterstraße station today and it doesn’t take long to see proof of the recent commercial transformation.
Start at Mulackstraße, a small, somewhat hidden street off Alte Schönhauser Straße that is filled with fashion boutiques. Experimental designer Claudia Skoda (n. 8) is best known for her avant-garde
knitwear creations, while Baerck (n. 12) carries a carefully curated mix of local and international names, providing a glimpse of cutting-edge fashion and interior design. A few doors down, luxurious kids’ boutique Walking The Cat presents little Scandinavian garments for fashion-crazy children (and parents), from colorful stockings to mini bow ties and even lamps and stationery. For high fashion of the vintage variety, don’t miss boutique Das
Neue Schwarz (n. 38), where owner David Ramirez handpicks select secondhand garments from top labels for his demanding clientele. Other popular brands on the block include A.P.C. (n. 35) and Filippa K (Alte Schönhauser Straße 11), French and Swedish respectively, in-demand purveyors of trendy looks for the hipster crowds. For a look that is truly local, add Esther Perbandt (Almstadtstr. 3) to your itinerary. The Berlinborn-and-raised designer creates and sells her dark, edgy, androgynous pieces in her studio cum shop.
MORE TO LOVE
But Mitte shopping is about more than clothes. With the area’s many small shops stocking unusual and creative objects, window-shopping in these streets feels a bit like visiting a cabinet of curiosities. Which is probably why the me Collectors Room museum (Auguststr. 68) fits so well in this picture: the wonderment of the museum’s Wunderkammer cabinet of curiosities is captured in the museum’s shop, which sells mysterious and magical objects including little skulls, insects, and exotic books, all arranged amid mounted deer and giraffes. Across the road,
Do You Read Me?!
(Auguststr. 28) stocks rare, independent magazines, literary and art publications, as well as some books and cards.
RSVP (Mulackstr. 14) looks more like a museum than a shop, stocking a small selection of exquisite stationery items. At nearby P&T (Alte Schönhauser Str. 50), browse a selection of the finest, purest teas from all around the world.
Don’t miss the quirky o.k. Versand (Alte Schönhauser Str. 36), where you’re certain
“Mitte has changed a lot but it’s still very heterogeneous. The side streets are full of interesting shops,” says Lukas Plum, owner of o.k. Versand.
to find a must-have knick-knack. The diverse world-sourced paraphernalia on offer includes tea glasses from India, enameled dishes from China, or candles from Mexico. There’s another reason to visit: Owner Lukas Plum has had his shop here for 13 years, making him one of the neighborhood forerunners. “Mitte has changed a lot but it’s still very heterogeneous,” he says. “Bigger streets are perhaps only affordable for the chain stores, but the side streets are still full of interesting shops.” It’s this mix that makes the area more exciting than Berlin’s other trendy districts, he believes.
When you’ve worn yourself out with all the browsing and shopping, pick a local culinary spot to refuel and recharge.
District Mot (Rosenthaler Str. 62) is styled from top to bottom like a Vietnamese street market, and accordingly, the menu features a wide variety of fresh, tasty Southeast Asian offerings. The Zeit für Brot (Alte Schönhauser Str. 4) bakery and café specializes in traditional German breads, making it a perfect stop for breakfast, lunch, or a well-deserved coffee break. Stop by before mid-afternoon if you want to snag one of their famous Zimtschnecke cinnamon buns! If tea, not coffee, is your thing, Mamecha is a must. This Japanese café right on Mulackstraße serves a variety of Japanese tea including traditional matcha, a foamy drink whipped up from powdered green tea, as well as lunch specials and snacks. If you’ve not yet exhausted your shopping budget by day’s end, head a bit further along the road and spend the rest of your funds on a gourmet meal at Pauly Saal (Auguststr. 11), a Michelin-starred locale specializing in regional meat and game. Housed in a former school gymnasium, this hip hotspot is the perfect example of the Mitte transformation that has enchanted so many of the neighborhood’s visitors.
Filippa K is a popular destination among Berlin's trend seekers.
Designer Esther Perbandt has her atelier in Mitte.
District Mot is the perfect spot for a quick Vietnamese street food lunch.
P&T poetically combines select tea blends with paper items.
Das Neue Schwarz sells top- designer vintage items.
Outfits for fashionable kids at Walking the Cat.