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The marvellous malls of Berlin


Berlin’s latest mall openings, Bikini Berlin and the Mall of Berlin, are helping to make the city one of Europe’s best shopping locations, says Gwyneth Holland

Gwyneth Holland portrait
Gwyneth Holland,

In a city of diverse neighbourhoods with multiple shopping options, it seems fitting that two of Berlin’s most high-profile retail spaces offer such different shopping experiences. The independent spirit of Bikini Berlin and the glossy spaces of Mall of Berlin showcase the city’s inimitable combination of high fashion and individual style.

Since opening in April 2014, Bikini Berlin has fast become a hub for the city’s famed creative community as well as for fans of contemporary design. The distinctive building on Budapester Strasse, built in 1957, was formerly part of the city’s zoo complex; the glass section between its upper and lower floors gave the building its nickname, Bikinihaus (Bikini House).

It has since been transformed by German developers Bayerische Hausbau and Belgian architects SAQ into a retail, work, hospitality and entertainment centre. With such an unconventional space, the Bikini Berlin team was determined to create an unconventional retail experience. ‘Bikini Berlin sees itself as a concept mall, a compilation of carefully curated and coordinated boutiques, concept and flagship stores,’ says Kai-Uwe Ludwig, CEO of Bayerische Hausbau.

An independent spirit
The ground floor features popular brands such as Carhartt, Vans and Gant, as well as restaurants, design and electronic stores, and 19 ‘boxes’: these small wooden spaces are available as pop-up shops for new designers and entrepreneurs for three months up to one year; recent tenants include a blow-dry salon and eyebrow bar, a puzzle shop, an artisan stationery store and a florist. Well-known labels such as Alessi, Weleda, Laurèl and Bugaboo have also opened pop-ups here, alongside local brands including ethical fashion label Folkdays, Mercy Would eyewear, tie specialist Edsor Berlin and jewellery label Nallik.

With a groundswell of young design talent across the city ‘it’s important that malls and designers work closely with each other,’ says Lisa Schweisselmann, editor of Cropped Magazine, a blog focused on Berlin’s fashion scene. Through its initiatives, Bikini Berlin is bringing the city’s emerging fashion talent to new audiences, which is welcomed by people such as Oyranne Dufour and Maria Ziemann who organise the regular Voodoo Market events which feature products from young designers. The approach taken by Bikini Berlin ‘helps spread the word about the great iconic young fashion style our city has to offer,’ they say.

The shopping experience
As well as helping customers discover new brands, malls must now offer a shopping ‘experience’. ‘We’re seeing a social change in buying behaviour,’ says Ludwig. ‘It is not about need consumerism anymore, but much more about a consumption of experiences. Therefore, shopping becomes an element of leisure time and competes against other leisure activities.’ To cater to the growing need for experiential shopping trips, Bikini Berlin’s complex also includes a cinema, rooftop park, gallery and a hotel, 25hours.

Meanwhile, at the Mall of Berlin, the experience provided is based on the sheer scale of the project, as well as its historical location. Opened in September 2014, the Mall of Berlin is the latest addition to Germany’s roster of shopping centres. Built on the site of Wertheim, once Germany’s largest department store, the new mall is impressively vast, with 270 shops currently spread over 76,000 square metres. It currently houses the country’s largest food court and developer Harald G Huth has announced that 50 stores will be added during 2015, making this Germany’s largest mall, at 135,000 square metres.

Added attractions
Occupying the area around Potsdamer Platz, Leipziger Platz and Wilhelmstrasse, the mall has four floors which are filled with popular fashion labels such as H&M, Mango and Zara, big brands including Nike, Aldi and C&A and a clutch of premium labels; Hugo Boss, Karl Lagerfeld and Strenesse all feature. Huth also recognises the importance of offering additional attractions, and the Mall of Berlin boasts restaurants along its terraced edges, as well as an adjoining lifestyle complex which will include rental apartments, a running track and rooftop garden.

‘These two malls, with their different approaches to labels and designers, make it possible for everybody to realise their own style,’ says Schweisselmann. ‘Because of the wide range of shops, everyone is able to find something that expresses their personality.’

Whether you’re a fan of fast fashion, designer labels or new brands, the two latest additions to Berlin’s mall scene are sure to fit the bill.

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