Should you ever need a reminder that Marx’s doctrine of historical materialism does not (just) refer to the love of antique fabrics, try shopping in Berlin.
Decades of communism in the East and the cultivation of alternative lifestyles in the West combined with the more recent economic downturn mean conspicuous consumption is not on the average Berliner’s mind. The international designers and luxury brands are all here, but Berliners go for funky rather than glitzy. If you want to burn some plastic the Berlin way, try the growing number of boutiques around the Hackesche Hoefe.
There are the usual urban suspects like MAC cosmetics, a cutting-edge Adidas store, Tshirts galore in American Apparel and a Camper shoe shop. And that soapy smell in the air is emanating from Berlin’s very own branch of Lush.
In case the international chain gang doesn’t really cut it and you’re looking for something more original, check out the various shoe shops on the Oranienburger and Schoenhauser Strasse. You’ll find anything from faux lizard skin to Birkenstock.
A couple of yards further up on the Rosenthaler Strasse is Calypso, which stocks an interesting selection of vintage shoes. Possibly the best shoe boutique east of London is situated on the corner of Rosenthaler and Schoenhauser Strasse. Orlando’s unusual collection of Italian designers should help you connect with your inner Carrie Bradshaw.
As this is Berlin and not Gotham or L.A., you won’t find much in the way of limo heels, but rather elegant daywear shoes you can actually walk in.
Trippen Shoes, on the other hand, offers footwear that’s not so much elegant as comfortable and ecologically sound. Located inside the Hackesche Hoefe, the shop belongs to award-winning designer couple Michael Oehler and Angela Spieth, who’ve made a name for themselves with simple, high-quality shoes that should fit into any five-year footwear plan.
A little strange but cute is what you’ll find at Hut Up, a boutique that sells handcrafted hats and slippers made from raw wool using the felting method, while Penthesileia is a small leather workshop that peddles its own collection of elegant and beautifully made handbags and purses. Nearby fashion boutique Thatchers has been hyped as proof that Berlin is developing its own style. The shop sells its own collection of edgy designs that might look straight out of fashion college to some but are definitely eyecatching.
Berlin’s mecca for serious haute couture is Tools & Gallery, also on the Rosenthaler Strasse. This boutique for men’s and ladies’ wear is where Germany’s television stars stock up on their Vivienne Westwood, Kenzo, Givenchy and Sonia Rykiel. When Sharon Stone recently came to town to accept an award at the charity gala of Germany’s biggest tabloid, Bild, she stopped by and took a liking to the store’s own line, Angladegies.
Top mainstream German label Strenesse offers topnotch Teutonic tailoring and slick, understated elegance.
Strenesse is available at Quartier 206, on the Friedrichstrasse. It also peddles essentials like Gucci, La Perla, Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche and Moschino.
When you’ve had enough of the fashionistas and your conscience is nagging you to buy presents for someone other than yourself, remember Germany is the home of the Teddy bear. Berlin has some amazing toy shops, and you’ll find beautiful toys of the highest quality both for children and grown-ups. There’s a Steiff shop with the famous stuffed animals on Berlin’s glittering Kurfuerstendamm.
If you want to stay in the city center, look for Viel Spiel in Mitte. The kind of toys you can buy here are meant to last for generations and may make you wish you were 5 years old again.
Check out the dolls by Kaethe Kruse — they might be expensive, but they’re indestructible. Train sets and vintage-style toys made of tin are also great.
And the best thing about this shop is that you can delude yourself that you’re investing in the future and not just