Whether it's the Sunday street flea markets, the plethora of Humana chain stores, or the abundance of vintage shops across the city, Berlin is a treasure trove of second-hand and vintage gems. The German capital is known for its freedom of creative expression, effortlessly cool style and innate fusion of culture and history that seems to permeate everything about it, including its vintage shopping scene.
Until recently, Berlin — and Germany for that matter — was never considered a leading European fashion hub, yet the Berliner style is distinct and often echoed in other parts of the world. The city is infamous for its clubbing scene, laidback lifestyle, and “cool” edge, all of which feed into its unique sartorial aesthetic. It’s perhaps best described as vintage meets streetwear meets off-duty raver with—more or less subtly—elements of the city’s unique persona such as fetish- and industrial-inspired pieces.
This recognizable style is the result of Berlin’s chequered post-war history, which is unlike that of any other city. After the war, Berlin was divided in two, and the East became a state of control and scarcity while the West was contrastingly vibrant, artistic and unrestrained, and fashion in both parts reflected the conditions. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of East and West, the aesthetics merged into the famous Berlin rave style that still lives on in the city's vintage shops.
While vintage shops are plentiful and widely spread across the city, it is in the bustling districts of Kreuzberg, Neukölln, Prenzlauer Berg, and Mitte where you'll find shop after shop, each filled with one-of-a-kind, pre-loved pieces, and their own individual character. Shops range from overfilled and cluttered to carefully curated, but unique pieces from local and international designers of the past decades can be found in all.
Brands like Woolrich, with their durable jackets, wool flannels, and utilitarian elements are often spotted not only on the streets of Berlin but also in the vintage shops. Founded nearly 200 years ago, Woolrich is America's oldest outdoor apparel brand and has become an iconic heritage name over time. The brand’s strong focus on durable and purposeful design, authenticity, practical style and consistent quality has made Woolrich a timeless wardrobe staple.
We took a trip with Berlin-based, photographer and collector Massimo Iannone and Highsnobiety’s collaboration and flagship manager Anders Schans to explore a couple of the city's vintage spots and hunt down some classic Woolrich gems.
Repeater / Vintage Shop: Repeater is a small, well-organized shop located in Neukölln in what was formerly a pharmacy built in the ‘40s. The store is named after one of the owner's favorite records from the American band Fugazi, and the Americana inspiration is definitely evident in the store's flag-decorated walls and JFK posters. Overflowing with a wide collection of handpicked pieces, Repeater's selection ranges from band shirts, baseball caps, and leather jackets to coats and knitwear. While browsing the store, we found various Woolrich flannels and jackets and a super rare pair of red tartan Woolrich hunting pants.
Vintage Wholesale Berlin: If you’re looking to really stock up on your vintage, this is the place to go. Located in a warehouse in the city’s Eastern district of Lichtenberg, Vintage Wholesale Berlin is a one-of-a-kind store that offers a huge selection of carefully chosen, unique vintage apparel. While there is a minimum order of 50 pieces, that number becomes less of a challenge considering the racks and piles of goods available. Oliver Helbig, the owner of Vintage Wholesale, provides guided tours of the warehouse (that’s how big it is) and assistance with finding the right items, customers can also book an appointment to select items via video chat or place a mixed batch order with specific requirements. Digging through the warehouse, we came across exceptionally well preserved Woolrich knits and fleece, a 160th anniversary tee and an early ‘80s plaid utility vest.
If you're not one for treasure hunting though, you can always head straight to the source. Woolrich's Berlin flagship store in the Fasanenstrasse 74 is huge and will set you up with all the Woolrich goods you need, which you can turn into tomorrow's vintage.