Berlin has quietly come to be known as Europe’s cultural innovator in the past couple of decades, and nowhere is that more evident than in its best-known menswear concept stores with their flair for surprise, whether by creating collections in far-flung destinations, moving the store to a completely different location at the drop of a hat or championing the latest crop of young designers. These stores know that to target today’s increasingly discerning clientele, they must create an atmosphere and a sense of excitement about their bricks-and-mortar boutique. As a result, a wave of remarkable concept stores is increasingly appealing to the city’s well-heeled men.
Patrick Hellmann’s Berlin flagship is one such location. The vast store on the tree-lined shopping boulevard of Kurfürstendamm is a testament to impeccable tailoring. Wardrobes of suits in one room, shelf upon shelf of shirts in another: every detail in the boutique pays homage to what Hellmann himself calls ‘the power suit’. With this weapon in his fashion arsenal, the Patrick Hellmann customer will always radiate sophisticated chic. ‘The power suit gives the wearer confidence because of its perfect fit and the image that portrays,’ Hellman explains. ‘The importance of tailoring is what makes a good suit a great suit.’
Hellmann’s tailoring is growing rapidly in popularity outside his home country, the designer himself has been named ‘Germany’s answer to Tom Ford’ and the brand recently opened its first London boutique in the prestigious Mayfair area in late 2012. Hellmann’s focus on fit is something he believes sets him apart from other menswear designers. ‘The attention I put into the fitting of my suits carries all the way to the end result of an extremely pleased customer … We provide in-house tailoring to guarantee all our pieces are made to measure,’ Hellmann says. ‘Not all men have perfect bodies. That is why I must spend time on intelligently choosing my materials. The better the material, the better the suit feels and fits.’
Where Patrick Hellmann is part of what might be termed the ‘old guard’ of Berlin’s menswear concept stores, Temporary Showroom is part of the next generation. Founded in 2006 and catering to both men and women, it offers its designers more than the average stockiest does: PR services, for instance, or organising shows for brands at Berlin Fashion Week. The store’s menswear selection – in the form of tropical-print separates from German designer Raphael Hauber and directional clothing from Scandinavian brands Odeur and Stine Goya – is eye catching and directional.
‘We look for interesting, young designers who have a different approach to fashion compared to established brands,’ says boutique owner Martin Premuzic, who attributes Temporary Showroom’s success to Berlin’s liberal fashion ideology. ‘Berlin is a city with no dress code. It opens the door to creative minds when it comes to men’s fashion.’ Temporary Showroom’s popularity is evident in the store’s current expansion. This season a second floor will open, showcasing the collections of Julian Zigerli and Silent by Damir Doma, alongside a range of shoes and limited-edition trainers.
Heart of darkness
Another innovative concept store is Darklands, a boutique that moves to a new location every two to four fashion seasons. Now in its fourth incarnation on Heidestrasse, the vast menswear emporium owned by Campbell McDougall has become something of an institution among underground fashion enthusiasts, in spite of its wandering tendencies. ‘It keeps it fresh and, for me, interesting,’ says Campbell of the boutique’s nomadic nature. ‘Our clients know that it’s worth it to track us down.’ Showcasing items by Ann Demeulemeester, Rick Owens and Berlin’s own Boris Bidjan Saberi, whom McDougall describes as ‘a mercurial talent’, Darklands offers the shopper a truly memorable experience – a shopping trip with a sense of adventure.
Self-confessed travel addict Wibke Deertz is someone with a larger appetite for adventure than most. Deertz’s menswear store AD Deertz provides her with a space in which to house the timeless ‘neo-classic’ garments she creates while exploring the world. As she says, ‘I travel a lot and many of my designs are made on the road, based on discoveries of local fabrics or colours that I see.’ Often whole collections of AD Deertz products are made overseas, with former ranges being constructed in Vietnam, Portugal and Namibia.
However, it’s Berlin’s open-minded retail environment that allows Wibke to realise her concept-store dream. ‘Berlin’s not eaten up by all the big retailers. Local designers can afford to rent shops, so there’s more innovative design and more of a variety besides the mainstream.’ The city’s catwalk of daringly turned-out dandies is testament to that.