Berlin’s Secret Fashion Archive

Gabriele Binder of COMME des COSTUMES shows us her favourite pieces

Gabriele Binder at her archive

Hidden in an unsuspecting district of Berlin is a sprawling archive of vintage pieces, rare designer gems and hand-made costumes. COMME des COSTUMES houses rails upon rails of these special garments, catering to (and far beyond) stylists’ and costume designers’ needs.

The woman responsible for the impressive collection is Gabriele Binder. She has spent over 25 years accumulating a variety of incredible garments during her successful career as a stylist and costume designer. A self-confessed hoarder, Gabriele said ‘I found that I didn’t want to get rid of anything, just in case I ever wanted to use it in the future’, and that’s how her archive began. She recalls finding a Balenciaga dress from the late-50s in a local second-hand store for a ‘ very good price’. The style-scholar has now accumulated over 10,000 garments, which she lends out for TV and film productions and photo shoots from her treasure trove in Tempelhof.

Gabriele’s CV is as remarkable as her collection – as a stylist she has worked with iconic photographers such as Helmut Newton and Anton Corbijn. Binder revealed that in the early days of her career not many brands wouldn’t lend her clothes, forcing her to create outfits for shoots. One look that caught our eye involved different hues of pink nylon tights cut into bands and stitched together creating a cut-out striped bodystocking – one of Binder’s early designs that still looks beautiful today.

“I was always very inspired by Margiela’s thinking”

Naturally, Comme des Garçons is one of Binder’s most respected brands. ‘I was always very inspired by Margiela’s thinking. I also love Helmut Lang – when it was real Helmut Lang’. When asked about any new labels, she revealed, ‘of course I follow Vetements, out of interest, but I cannot say I like it’.

The Berliner also knows her stuff when it comes to historical and cultural references, hence a successful stream of TV and film work spanning two and a half decades. As the costume designer behind Oscar winning film The Lives of Others, set in 1984 East Berlin and Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut In The Land of Blood and Honey, Binder was responsible for authentically bringing the characters to life. Gabriele also collects clothing from her travels across the world and labels them, revealing the heritage behind each traditional dress.

SLEEK were luckily enough to explore COMME des COSTUMES and meet Gabriele and her partner Boris Ivandic – a painter who also makes one-off clothing and accessories. Ivandic works in the space, turning the place into a ‘living artwork’ as Binder describes. His DIY punky pieces sit alongside a glamorous Yves Saint Laurent metallic blouse and a wild Yohji Yamamoto expanding skirt – it’s safe to say, the warehouse is a fashion lover’s paradise.

We asked Gabriele to pick out some of her all-time favourite pieces, which we then styled with items from her treasure trove.

Jumper made by Gabriele’s mother. Trousers, Issey Miyake. Woven shoes, made in WW2 Germany during a leather shortage.
Corset, Christian Dior. Trousers, Martine Sitbon. Boots, Boris Ivandic.


Top and leggings, Dolce & Gabbana. Shoes, Julian Hakes. Bag, Maison Martin Margiela.


Dress, Balenciaga. Gloves Maison Martin Margiela. Top and trousers, Helmut Lang. Shoes, Giorgio Armani.


Left: Pink top, Nina Ricci. Right: Top, Comme des Garcons. Jeans, Boris Ivandic. Trainers, Y-3.
Left: Top, Issey Miyake. Skirt, Yohji Yamamoto. Right: Skirt, Issey Miyake. Belt, Maison Martin Margiela.
Left: Dress, Rob Mania. Boots, Martine Sitbon. Right: Dress, Comme des Garcons. Boots, Vintage.
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