Working in a high-end concept store requires much more than simply scanning items and taking stock. The team members on the sales floor are chosen representatives of the store itself, embodying the brand in both ethos and aesthetic. Whilst we can often recall the decor and stock in our favourite stores, we’re often guilty of overlooking the people who are responsible for making such retail experiences so pleasurable. So who are the trendsetters committed to these immersive roles, the ones who ensure our favourite shops stay up and running? We here at SLEEK wanted to get to know the friendly faces serving looks at Berlin’s fashion hot-spots. We asked team members from Voo Store, Darklands, Andreas Murkudis, BLESS Home and The Store to tell us about their experiences working as the shop boys and girls at Berlin’s best concept stores.
Voo Store: Mi
Mi is a co-manager at Voo Store, one of the city’s most famous and celebrated shopping destinations. Everything about the store— its industrial atmosphere, its Oranienstrasse address, its killer playlists and of course, its killer stock — screams Berlin. Its unique ability to embody Berlin’s aesthetic makes it both a tourist destination and a cherished favourite of city residents. Its partnership with Companion Coffee (who dare we say make some of the best coffee in Berlin) ensures the space is warm and welcoming, despite its formidable street cred. Mi says that the Voo Store crowd is consistently diverse. “That might sound like one of those tacky clichés… but in this case it’s actually true, and something we personally value a lot. I’ve been working in retail for a long time, and have never come across such a diverse customer base”. The diversity of their customers is mirrored in the diversity of their carried designers; in Voo, a single rack packs looks from Prada, Levi’s, Gosha and Acne side-by-side. This curation is not haphazard; their carefully selected pieces comprise a unified style, which is edgy, fun and functional. Mi gravitates toward the pieces which fit most into the “fun” category, like a yellow faux fur coat from Marni AW17 and mirror-heeled slingbacks from Proenza Schouler. Voo is a high-end store with a unpretentious attitude, thanks to its team members who create an atmosphere of genuinity. “To maintain that, you need good and strong personalities as representatives on the shop floor, which we are lucky to have.”
Darklands is a store with its own mythology. Often referred to as the “Berghain of shopping”, the nomadic, avant-garde store is notoriously difficult to find, often tucked away in unexpected and semi-abandoned locations throughout Berlin. Their strict no-photo policy is part of the allure, mandating those curious about Darklands to actually visit, rather than scroll through pictures online. The Darklands experience has more in common with visiting an art gallery than visiting a standard clothing store. Its blacker-than-black colour palette and disdain for mainstream and trendy garments has made it a destination for Berlin’s most popular techno DJs. Their beyond edgy selection is matched with attentive customer service, who consider themselves ambassadors of the city as much as the store. Livio, an employee of Darklands for three years, is originally from Erfurt, a “city characterised by its historical architecture and eco-intellectual attitude”. Livio’s interest in high-end fashion and inter-cultural exchange landed him a spot amongst the Darklands team, which according to him is “full of individuals and characters whose opinions, experiences and styles are always appreciated”. Livio says his current wardrobe is the product of a Darklands “education” (rather than influence). “Years ago I was wearing only black, distressed, deconstructed edgy clothes. Today I mix up my existing wardrobe with handmade shirts and artistinal jackets.” Livio says it’s impossible to identify Darkland’s most “popular” brands because Darklands stocks underground designers. He counts Geoffrey B. Small, Carol Christian Poell and Deepti as the three most worthy of respect and recognition. His favourite pieces twist “artisanal craftsmanship” and “geek charm” — most notably, he picks out a dark double-breasted coat from Geoffrey B. Small, which was made of handwoven alpaca and wool fabric on an 18th century hand loom. When not at Darklands, Livio spends quite a bit of time at the theatre. “I rather prefer a stage performance to a techno party. But this is Berlin and sometimes an evening ends up in a unexpected way… and you get both”.
Andreas Murkudis: Claudia
Claudia has worked at Andreas Murkudis for 6 years. A visit to the storefront on Potsdamer Strasse is an aesthetic and spatial indulgence. Murkudis is an ideal destination for those seeking an escape from the somewhat grim qualities of city life; the tranquil, gallery-like superstore is an ode to clean aesthetics and high-quality craftsmanship. Claudia says, “Our customers are people who take their time and allow themselves to be immersed in our environment and space. I’ve always thought that we invite customer in, and then engage with them in a kind of individual dance”. The store is known for its ability to elegantly balance major fashion labels (including Céline, The Row, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyak and Comme des Garçons) with beautiful objects by unknown brands and craftsmen. One of Claudia’s favourite aspects of the job is interacting with Murkudis customers, “who are multi-dimensional with a discerning eye, and often come from a diverse international background. They are well-travelled, refined and extremely curious.” As the manager and buyer, Claudia lives and breathes the Murkudis vision, and her personal style is no exception. A self described “Célinist”, Claudia enjoys mixing high end pieces with those from “smaller individual brands, who push fashion to the max, with passion and fun”. She says her style has become sportier since working at Murkudis. “We have no work uniform or rules for clothing, there’s a lot of flexibility. Amongst colleagues, we personally advise each other, and give ideas and tips. I think that creates a unique atmosphere that reflects the members of the Murkudis team. It’s instinctive and subtle.” Claudia’s favorite items in stock are a Lutz Huelle bomber jacket, a toothpaste by Selahatin and a candle by IIUVO titled “Bullshit”. Claudia considers “open-mindedness” to be the most essential quality of character for members of the Murkudis team.
BLESS Home: Bert
Saying that Bert and high-concept brand BLESS’ styles are aligned is an understatement. The French-German label by Ines Kaag and Desiree Heiss doesn’t identify as a brand, but rather as “a project that presents ideas and artistic values by products to the public”. Their mono-brand store, BLESS Home, is located on the 3rd floor of an altbau apartment on the border between Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg. Those “in the know” about BLESS and its hidden delight of a storefront are greeted by Bert, the BLESS home resident since August 2016. Every item in BLESS Home (and Bert’s home) is a BLESS product for sale — with the exception of Bert’s shoes, which are lined up neatly against the bedroom wall. Literally everything, right down to the wallpaper (properly titled n.29 Wallscapes) and bedsheets, is functional in Bert’s daily life — and also for sale. The BLESS home is filled with curious wonders, like hair brushes made of actual hair, a bike helmet made from a pillow and the BLESS Home staple: a hammock made of fur, titled n.28 “Climate Confusion Assistance”. Bert, an avid collector of “ flea market finds”, thinks the aesthetic of the store matches well with his “affinity for cleanliness and fascination for curious objects”. His style has changed since living and working at BLESS. “My personal style ranges from military or worker’s jackets to GDR knits and tartan shirts with eccentric collars. Since working with BLESS, I’ve enjoyed mixing my personal pieces with theirs, like the Bless Padded Jeans or the Prince Charles Jacket.” You can visit Bert at BLESS between 4 and 8pm, where he’ll greet you with a cup of tea, before encouraging you to snoop around his home.
The Store: Aaron
The Store at Soho House Berlin is the kind of place you can spend all day in. It’s a harmonious combination of design and concept, equal parts cafe, co-working space and high-end retail. Although these kinds of hybrid spaces are becoming more and more popular, The Store is exceptional because each of these pillars is taken equally seriously. The 2800 sq meter space is a hub of creativity, it caters to freelancers as much as those searching for an innovative retail experience in a city notorious for its shopping void. The atmosphere is warehouse-meets-library, one which is edgy enough to reel you in and cosy enough to keep you there. Aaron, a fresh-faced staff member, says “The Store is a place where people from different professions of the creative industry come together. It’s more than just a shopping experience, it’s really a brand in itself.” Brutalist concrete columns are broken up with hoards of plants; the best of Raf Simons and Martine Rose are arranged in the space between. Their knockout selection is creative and fearless; The Store is one of the few places in Berlin which embraces completely impractical fashion, stocking statement pieces from the likes of Balenciaga,Vetements and GmbH. Aaron says that he and the other team members at the Store pride themselves on being extremely knowledgeable about the variety of products in stock, an essential component of their approach to customer service. Though The Store’s prices range into the four-digit category, their ensemble of fun and fresh objects (publications, knick-knacks, records, etc.) ensures that they cater to a broader audience. Aaron feels his personal style is certainly inspired by the store, though he also enjoys putting together looks which inspire The Store’s clientele. Aaron named Balenciaga and Vetements as his favorite brands in stock, though he gravitates mostly toward streetwear. His prime streetwear looks have landed him modelling gigs for High Snobiety and most recently, Tommy Hilfger.