Fair trade

The owner of the famed Bread & Butter tradeshow opens a second 14 oz. retail store in Berlin

Well, I could be a rich, but I created a fair,» laughs Karl-Heinz Muller, V owner of the Bread & Butter trade fair, a semi-annual fashion and denim blow-out heard round the world, and held in Berlins historic Tempelhof Airport (a shuttered space with iconic canopied roofs that easily shelter 500 exhibitors and more than 80,000 attendees twice a year).

In addition to his Bread & Butter fame, Muller also is the owner of two retail stores in Berlin named 14 oz., both of which are at the top of their milieu for premium denim, and high-end street and urban wear. For the 14 oz. customer, the stores deliver spellbinding originality in de­sign and a goldmine of international labels. This is a brand intended to make a shopper swoon.

The first 14 oz. store opened in 2008, in Mine, Berlin, near the Hackescher Markt — a crowded maze of old buildings and secret courtyards that is popular for avant-garde and street fashion stores. The latest 14 oz. store opened in October 2012, in the dramatically different Charlottenburg district in West Berlin. Along Charlottenburg’s grand boulevard, Kurfurstendamm, there are examples of architecture from the decades of grandeur before the first world war, when wealthy residents lived in high-ceilinged, ornate buildings, and planned their outings around the essential shops and services, including dressmakers, tailors and florists.

A continuing evolution of retail following the fall of the Berlin Wall has brought an obvious revitalization to the city and, particularly, Kurfurstendamm. First, was the arrival of mainstay luxury, with such labels as Gucci, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent and other international designers that lined the most architecturally distinctive blocks of Kurfurstendamm. Now, however, the area is staring to glow with the personalities of boutique hotels, restaurants and art galleries.

The new 14 oz. store is housed in the land-marked Haus Cumberland — named for the third Duke of Cumberland Ernst August — which was built as a luxury apartment/hotel in 1911-1912 and was designed by the architect Robert Adlon Leibniz. The six-story French Revivalist building has nearly completed a full restoration, including its courtyards, luxury apartments and ground floor of shops facing Kurfurstendamm.

Muller leased a space of nearly 9,000 sq. ft. and hired Berlin-based sl architektur, led by Ansgar Schmidt and Henning Ziepkc. They also brought in Luis Mock, who seems to have an eerie handle on where ever)’ mind-blowing fixture and decorative item is slashed in Europe.

‘[Muller] leads with his feelings about how the design and habitus of the store could or should be,» Schmidt says. «We often work on historical buildings where we look for the contrast between those elements and new, clear ones, so this comes natural to us: keeping and refining the materials surfaces in their natural characteristics. Its much like the philosophy of the craftsmanship of the merchandise sold at 14 oz.»

The beauty of the details is dazzling at the new 14 oz., where the interior is fully tailored to its historical shell. Driving the palette is the original patina of a 100-year-old building. «That character, enhanced by the good bones of the room, drove the aesthetic,» Schmidt explains.

The ceiling bows were refurbished with care, while the existing walls of brick and plaster were restored respectively and carefully replenished using materials from demolished areas of the building, guaranteeing near authenticity. The walls were then painted by church painters.

The store forms a «U» shape around the grand entrance, the lobby and staircase of Haus Cumberland. This allows 14 oz. to have two identical entrances about 60 ft. apart, with windows and canopies flanking the buildings center. The interior curves are so natural to the space that the men’s and women’s sides of the store smoothly segue into each other. The store also boasts a large patio in the courtyard of Haus Cumberland, where shoppers can mingle.

The space exudes an Old World glow thanks to design elements like oiled, pale- to medium-colored woods on frames, railings and furnishings, and individually handcrafted cement tiles on the selling floor. Even the cashwrap features a vintage vibe, with antique fronts made of nut-wood paneling that were originally from the office of a train builder in Switzerland (another find of Luis Mock). Antique furniture, such as a French jeweler vitrine and wooden tables from the University of Liege dating from the 70s, adds further charm.

The store’s piece-de-resistance is the former Art Nouveau archive library of Vienna’s Palais Liechtenstein (the library dates back to late 19th century/early 20th century). «This came to us from a Louis Mock connection, and it had been stored in five big containers in Vienna,» Muller explains. «He had only pictures, so I had to take la] risk. Volkmar Penther, with the assistance of Uwe Hoffmann, took over the project and put everything in the big hall of a building in Berlin, assembled the library and engineered it to fit the new store.» The metal work was completed by Martin Locher.

Schmidt says the lighting concept for the store is a mix of technical, atmospheric and architectural light. «Illuminating the fashion with an ERCO LED spotlight allowed us to affix it on the side of the beams,» he adds. «So the focus was on the light output on the product.» Built-in LED strips are controlled in terms of intensity and color, and are interconnected by radio. «This is particularly striking on the big steel shelves,» Schmidt says. «We had new lamps built to replicate the histori­cal lighting for film and TV production.»

The store also features a collection of photo­graphs taken by EC. Gundlach, the foremost fashion photographer of West Germany’s early post-war period. G undlach, who is 84, actually visited the store just before the opening and hung the photographs himself.

Regarding the design of the Kurfurstendamm store, Muller does not balk at the money spent. «I feel like a curator, yes, but more like a smart doorman,» Muller says. «I know that no one pays for a boring club or a boring fair.»

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