Handmade in Berlin: A Loja
It was a sunny day in Berlin, we were walking around Falckensteinstrasse, Kreuzberg, and we were in an explorer mood going in to all the shops that could caught our attention. And that’s how we get to know A loja. Yes it caught our eye from the outside, and once inside, we were even more surprised. It’s a shop and an atelier at the same time, which made us thought that they produce all the clothes right there. We could notice the uniqueness of all the pieces, the differences of styles of different designers. We agreed to have an interview with two of the designers working there and that’s how we discovered more about this inspiring project. We get to know that most of the products are handmade by Berlin based designers. They don’t believe in mass production, so most of the pieces are unique or only available in a small edition. They believe in a sustainable system with social responsibility and this along with the creative style of all their designs is what gives a special value to A loja.
What is A loja?
It’s portuguese and its means a shop.
What kind of clothes can we find here? What is the shop about?
We only make handmade stuff. We produce everything in the store, so no mass production… All are unique pieces, nearly everything, from different designers. We try to not work in the system of using people for making everything really cheap and stuff. So, we believe in a sustainable system.
The shop is located in Kreuzberg. Is that for any special reason?
That’s for Cátia. Cátia founded the shop, she is from Portugal, and that’s why it’s called A loja. And I think is why she lived near around, so she just get the chance to get the shop here. And also I guess very much cheaper than having a shop in Prenzlauer Berg. The area is really nice so Kreuzberg is really the place for people like us.
And since when is it open?
I think now it’s 4 years already, 3 to 4 years now.
How many designers design here?
Five designers design here, then we have other designers from Berlin. So in total it might be around 10-11.
Are all Berlin based designers?
Most of them. We have some stuff from Munich, but the rest is from Berlin. Well the necklaces are from a city in the West of city.
And how do you usually work? Are all designers working at the same time here or…?
Now we just split, so everybody has to be in the shop twice a week, and the rest of the time you can choose when you are coming, so, sometimes it’s like everybody is here, I have to go home again because I can’t work like this, sometimes you are all alone, so it’s getting boring maybe…
Have you all studied Fashion Design? Or how did you became fashion designers?
Yes we have studied together Fashion Design, and Claudia is also studying, the designer that is renting the place behind. Cátia learnt from her parents mostly, that were both designers, she was just always knitting, then she got the machine and she has just been doing it all her life…
Do the designers have something in common?
I think is everything different, everybody has it’s own way, own style, but everybody is inspired by Berlin, is working in the same space, we also get inspired by each other… But you can still find for sure… yes this is from Cátia and this is her style.
Is there any certain style that defines them all?
No, I guess it’s just that we do what we want to do, changes very often. Other designers have similar stuff from collection to collection but, me personally, I like to change my style very often. But I think that you can say A loja is always colourful and it’s not as classic as other small ateliers. Most of the time artist like our stuff very much because it’s not like normal stuff that you can buy everywhere, it’s more like unique.
What kind of customers come here?
Most of them are tourists. Young people, also older people is coming, a lot of neighbours, or people from around Berlin… Older people is most of the time really focused on the stuff which is made responsibly. In the beginning it was really hard cause people didn’t see why the clothes are more expensive than in H&M, but when you explain them, they really get quite quick that we do something different. People learn with us that our work has our worth and you have to pay for it.
So do they come for the unique pieces, for the fact is handmade…?
Yes most of the people. Some other people they don’t care, they just like it and buy it, specially tourists, are not like “yes I buy it because it’s really good”. Sometimes they just buy it because they like it, of course. We are also quite in the middle, cause we are not as cheap as H&M but also we are not that expensive that you can’t afford. We offer something unique and you don’t have to pay like 200€. So we try to offer our work to everybody.
Do you think that that this kind of concept, uniqueness and handmade, is really suitable for Berlin? Or do you know any other city that could also work that?
I think that in Berlin is quite usual, there are quite a lot of little shops of everything, like vegetable shops or groceries… and in other cities you see bigger companies. So I think that is a Berlin specific thing, but I guess that for the future is really important to go local again, cause we all see that all this global stuff is taking a lot of energy and a lot of resources. We try to go like eco fashion, which is not looking like eco fashion. I guess also that in Berlin is also working more because the rents are not that high, so that’s why people can create like little companies, but we will see, rents are going up so…
Text by Sílvia Cabra and picture by Silvia Conde.