Berlin Closets: The Australian Stylist Who Makes Her Own Lingerie and Hates Wearing All Black

In a new series, SLEEK takes a peek into the wardrobes of Berlin’s subcultural style icons.

Katie Kuiper turns heads in Berlin — and not just because she’s a 6”0 blonde with a healthy glow. Katie’s looks epitomise Berlin club chic at its most unique; her fearless combination of bold patterns and statement accessories mean she’s constantly pulling off the outfits you always wished you could. The Australian model-turned-stylist studied Fashion Design and Marketing in Sydney before relocating to Berlin, which explains both the tan and her memorable personal style. Katie was gracious enough to let us into her home, to rummage through her veritable treasure trove of a closet.

Fashion has always been a staple value in the Kuiper home. Katie learned how to sew from her mother, who made her bespoke pieces for her dance performances. “I remember her making these intricate tutu overlays and doing hours of hand-beading,” Kuiper recalls. When not pouring herself into ballet, Katie spent her high school years repurposing vintage clothes. “I was always selling clothes online,” she tells us. “I was thrifting and would find interesting pieces and them alter them to make them cooler. You know like adding a slit to a dress, things like that”. Katie has always had an eagle eye for what “could be,” and uses her technical skills to infuse edge into every item of her wardrobe.

With the rise of social media, it didn’t take long for Kuiper’s style to start garnering attention. Enviably, she took a very laissez-faire approach to getting noticed online: “I would make my own outfits for festivals and share them online, and they would just go viral”. A quick glance at her Instagram reveals the viral appeal. Her striking festival looks combined her inclination towards whatever stands out, and her history of being decked out in gaudy dance costumes.

Years later in Berlin, her style is still hugely shaped by what’s dancefloor ready. Kuiper’s current style clearly draws influence from the Berlin club scene, which celebrates the kinds of outfits that aren’t acceptable anywhere else. However, as with every city and scene, Berlin has its uncodified rules and prescriptive modes of dress; most obviously, many young Berliners have a serious aversion to incorporating colour into their wardrobe. Indeed, it’s common practice for many of the city’s top clubs to turn away potential guests who are wearing anything too gaudy or colourful (we’re not naming any names). Kuiper balks at such prescriptive trends; she remembers making a conscious decision not to adhere to the the city’s unstoppable adoration for black. “You can tell so much about someone’s personality by what they’re wearing. So I’ll never dull myself down to try to fit a mold, particularly the mold of a city”.

Given the city’s commitment to black clothes, it’s little surprise that Kuiper finds most of her vibrant finds abroad: “I haven’t bought something in Berlin in so long.” She named one vintage store as a standout in the city: Ironic Gallery. In hearing her lovingly describe the atmosphere of the store, it seemed apparent that Kuiper might one day own such a space herself. When we asked if this was a fair assumption, Katie enthusiastically replied: “I would love that more than anything. I’ve always wanted to do it and I think eventually will”.

Up until recently, Kuiper had a very different kind of professional pursuit in mind: “I was making lingerie for a while! I actually wanted to start a line, but because I was doing it by hand, it was heaps of work and super time consuming”. Though Kuiper spends more of her professional time styling rather than designing these days, a visit to her Instagram proves her innovative approach to intimates in fashion. She incorporates lingerie and festishwear into many of her looks, but they’re rarely the whole visual narrative. For somebody whose early years were spent in two equally brutal industries (dancing and modelling), Katie’s uninhibited style choices are a staunch reclamation of appearance.

“I grew up always being told: You need to be better, you need to be thinner, you need to be taller,” she recalls. Her looks take on an added dimension in light of her background; Kuiper’s celebration of her appearance and sexuality now is clearly on her own terms. Disregarding the critical gaze — whether that gaze is your own or someone else’s — might just be the essential ingredient for boundary-pushing dressing.

 

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