By no means an exhaustive list, here is a brief selection of Berlin’s best designers, and where to find them.
Maybe it’s the cheap rent and big spaces to work in, the layers of history to provide inspiration, or the vibrant art scenes to pick and choose from, but it seems Berliners have always been preternaturally creative. In the last decade or so, as the city’s economy has picked up steam, attracting ambitious artists from around the globe, the worlds of fashion and design have produced some true luminaries.
Founded by Tehran-born Leyla Piedayesh in 2004, this cult Berlin brand was one of the first to open in the area north of Hackescher Markt that has since become the center of the city’s fashion scene. At first concentrating on playful, chunky knits—and signature patterned scarves—Lala Berlin has since moved on to offer a range of dresses and separates with a punk-rock vibe and an urban edge, perfect for hopping around to the many galleries that surround her store, or sipping drinks in a nearby hidden cocktail bar.
Where to buy: lala Berlin Flagship Store, Alte Schönhauser Str. 3
Founded in 2004 by Berlin fashion students Alexandra Fischer-Roehler and Johanna Kühl, this brand has made a name for itself with exceedingly elegant yet playful gowns that hug the body, or swirl around it in a fanciful, fairytale-like cloud. Just a glimpse through the window of their Linienstrasse shop could make even the most grounded woman want to grab someone off the street to marry, just so she could wear one of their gorgeous pieces. No worries if you can’t: the label has a line of bags and shoes that could easily work for the everyday.
Where to buy: Kaviar Gauche, Linienstraße 44
This Romanian-born designer made quite a splash with her recent guerilla fashion show in a Paris metro station, and indeed, her clothes feel a bit rebellious, with bright colors, oversized pieces, slouchy cuts, and fetish-inspired details that hark back to 1990s Berlin, when the city’s techno clubbing scene was just beginning. Indeed, these are clothes to go out in, but they’re also clothes that would work just as well in the newer, more grown-up Berlin of 2018, perfect for making a splash at an upscale Mitte restaurant or sleek cocktail bar.
Where to buy: Sal Bazaar, Mulackstraße 34
This German-born designer offers a bit of feminine whimsy, with silk print tops, smartly tailored dresses incorporating delicate lace and Japanese fabrics, and short jackets with a bit of Spanish flair. Her pieces have color and grace, and an elegance and playfulness that means they work just as well on the streets of London or Paris as they do in the German capital. They also work just as well paired with jeans for a casual day about town as they would on a party or a date, and their versatility is no doubt what has made them a favorite among Berlin fashionistas.
A Polish-born designer who came into fame the American way (winning reality TV show competitions), Dawid Tomaszewski has become a favorite among Berliners for his chic but moody designs, marked by dark colors, subdued patterns, and slouchy or slinky wearability. His clothes are perfect for the transition from office to nightlife (a changeover which, until recently, notoriously underemployed Berliners didn’t really have to worry about), with a tuck here, a drape there, or a surprising detail that shepherd these pieces into glamorous territory.
With her feminine yet understated ready-to-wear designs, Malaika Raiss (the label is a composite of her first and last names), has addressed a glaring gap within the Berlin fashion scene. For ages, it was easy to find pieces that were either street tough or high-end glam, but nothing in between. Raiss fixed that with flirty tops and dresses with simple patterns and only one or two ruffles (nothing overwhelming). She’s also recently added elegant jewelry to the mix, with stunning earrings fashioned from gold-plated brass into abstract elephant shapes.
Born in Iran, educated in Italy, and incorporated in Germany, Sepideh Ahadi is a true melting pot of a brand, and it shows in her clothes. Her aesthetic, although hard to pin down, is something along the lines of “upscale hunter-gatherer” or “elegant nomad”, with lots of draped, unprocessed fabrics that somehow come together into an impossibly chic dress, or layers of cotton and wool that would take you across the Central Asian steppe. Her dedication to sustainable fashion is yet one more reason to fall in love with this brand.
René Talmon L'Armée
There are plenty of Berlin souvenirs that everyone has, so why not return with a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry, direct from this Linienstrasse store and workshop? Born in Berlin, the designer lived in London and Paris, and his pieces have a distinctly grown-up aesthetic, with molded metal rings, printed leather cuffs, and chunky earrings with dramatic stones. He also makes one-off pieces in discussion with clients, so perhaps this is the perfect time to get that black diamond ring you always dreamed about.
Where to buy: René Talmon L’Armee, Linienstraße 109
What does Berlin Summer smell like? What about a whiff of Hamburg or Munich? The scents at this Mitte shop go far beyond the traditional flowery or fruity notes to capture a whiff of a certain place or time: literally your favorite city in a bottle. Founded in 2009 and named after the owner’s grandmother, Frau Tonis is adept at crafting nostalgia, but keeping things sleek, modern, and surprising. Drop in on any weekday to make your own customized scent at a workshop. That way, you’ll be coming home with something entirely unique.
Where to buy: Frau Tonis Parfum, Zimmerstraße 13
Claudia Schoemig’s Prenzlauer Berg shop is full of sleek, simple ceramic pieces, some unpainted, with delicate lines traced to form an irregular grid over a white background, others showing off subdued pastel glazes that will easily make them the focal point of a room. Trained in Augsburg, one of the country’s oldest cities in the south of Germany, Schoemig brings expert craftsmanship and a sunny disposition to each bit of porcelain. One of her light round cups feels beautifully natural in the hand, and is sure to brighten up your morning coffee routine.
Where to buy: Schoemig Porzellan, Raumerstraße 35