Mitte Magic

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.

Where Berlin - - CONTENTS -

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.

REAL REFRESHMENT

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.

Au­gust­straße

Dis­trict Mot

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.

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