Atmosphere, selection, location are all crucial to making a great second-hand clothes store, but the most vital part might be the people who run them. These shop owners and store reps make sure retail experiences are a pleasure rather than a chore. We asked team members from Ironic Gallery, Sing Blackbird, Lena’s Lovely Vintage, Dandy Horse and Chrome Store to tell us about their experiences working as the shop boys and girls at Berlin’s best vintage stores.
Berliner’s conservative, no-frills approach to dress can sometimes feel monotonous. Hanako at Ironic Gallery is on a mission to shake up things up. The Japanese native spent her teenage years fascinated with Punk, and by her early 20s, left for England in pursuit of its cultural legacy. Hanako was a design student in London before she landed a job at Sick Shop on Brick Lane. Although Sick has since closed, it was the well known as “destination for everything BOY”. Hanako quickly moved up in the ranks, becoming a buyer and honing in a curational style of her own. Hanako left London for Berlin to pursue her dreams of owning her own store; dreams which have been realised with vengeance in her dynamic space on Flughafenstr. Shopping there feels like swimming in a Sex Pistols album cover. Inside you can find incredible fetish wear, wild prints and vintage couture in just about every colour of the rainbow. Hanako is still designing and often has items for sale that she’s made. “My dream would be to have more in-house items. I’d love to have a store that was also a design studio”. If you’re feeling bored and want to inject some serious spice into your wardrobe, Ironic Gallery is your ideal destination.
Ironic Gallery, Flughafenstraße 24, 12053 Berlin
Sing Blackbird has become a staple of Berlin vintage. The store first opened its doors in Kreuzköln almost a decade ago, as a vegan breakfast spot. Owner Diana, who remembers scraping the wallpaper off with her bare hands, is a tried and true shop owner, but shop worker Micaela is crucial asset. Berlin was supposed to be a pit stop for store rep Micaela and her girlfriend on their travels, but Micaela, like so many others, decided Berlin was simply unleavable. After working at the notorious vintage store chain Buffalo Exchange in San Francisco, Micaela feels like Sing Blackbird is as good as it gets in terms of vintage stores. Diana and Micela agree, “Berlin is a city that teaches you alternative ways of living. It teaches you how to be happy with who you are and not how much money you get.”
Sing Blackbird, Sanderstraße 11, 12047 Berlin
With seas of cashmere, silk and sequin, this is the place to go if you’re looking for a statement piece— not your run of the mill basics. Lena was a stylist before she was a shop owner, and 15 years on commercial sets left her with an extensive education in Berlin’s shopping possibilities – and deficiencies. When asked about her standout selection, she replied “I wasn’t desperately looking for something that makes me different. But as a stylist I always always aware of what’s difficult to find: good, affordable dresses that have something extra special about them”. The inspiration for the store came from road trips across the American South. On her journey Lena found rare vintage pieces, the likes of which she hadn’t seen in Germany. “I’ve never seen so many beautiful clothes as I did in Nashville. I remember wishing that one day I could own a store filled with clothes just as beautiful”. The result, years later, is a store full of personality pieces, American sportswear and occasion wear, capable of transporting you to another place and time. The space itself has been newly renovated, which gives it a proper boutique feel. Lena’s selection is compliment by her father’s paintings which hang on the walls, adding another layer of interest to the decor. Visit Lena’s if you’re looking for a Wedding guest dress which will be the envy of the bride.
Lena’s Lovely Vintage, Lützowstr. 92, 10785 Berlin
Dandy Horse is a mature and refined take on the Berlin vintage store. It’s owned by a charming couple, who left their past jobs behind to pursue this joint venture. What started as an initiative to sell vintage bikes quickly evolved into a full fledged brand. “Everything goes together”, says Laura, “the clothes, the music, the bicycles”. Though they initial focused on 90s sports and clubwear, they quickly realised designer items were more their niche. Dandy Horse is also proud to sell clothing from new and emerging designers, making their selection an interesting mix of vintage and contemporary. At Dandy Horse you can find hand painted silk shirts next to a rack of eccentric couture. Laura’s primary mission as a curator at Dandy, however, is to remain inclusive. “We really try hard to carry something for everyone”, Laura explains.
Dandy Horse Berlin, Glogauer Straße 4, 10999 Berlin
Chrome Store blends the elegant, contemporary environment of a concept store with a careful vintage selection. Though this is owner Jochen’s first store, it feels more professional than most. Ironically it was his distaste for vintage spots that encouraged him to pursue creating his own. He’s opened a store that eradicates our older associations with vintage stores, which have a reputation for being hectic, dirty and exhausting. “I call it modern vintage”, Jochen explains, “I’m buying things mostly from within the last 10 years, though do have some older things from designers like Jil Sander”. When asked what sets Chrome Store apart, Jochen had two answers. The first is that Chrome isn’t an exclusively vintage store. He consistently stocks Berlin designers, like Ximon Le, Goetze and Friseur, whose collections are often difficult to locate in stores. The other is his keen attention to menswear. It’s true that many of the vintage stores in town are more femme-friendly in their selection. At Chrome, that’s not the case. Guys looking for anything from tracksuits to chic buttons ups will hit the jackpot at Chrome. Jochen, often sporting gold Air Max 97’s, heats up the store’s cool atmosphere with latin dance music.
CHROME STORE, Lenaustr. 10, 12047 Berlin