Luka May is the dream boat of our 16-year-old selves. His closet, which is set up and used as a private showroom, drapes across most of his gorgeous flat in Freidrichshain. There, and at markets all over town, he displays selections of his vintage goodies from antique pendants to psychedelic frocks. It seems that everyone in the vintage community in Berlin knows him and you should to!
Saying you have a passion for vintage is an understatement. How/where/when did this all begin?
Well, I come from a small country called Slovenia where the idea of buying and wearing used clothes is not widely popular, so we only had one 2nd hand store in Ljubljana at the time, when I still lived there. I bought myself some 70s style sports tops and some slacks – those were my first vintage clothes. Later on, especially when I started DJing, the spectrum of clothes that I could actually wear broadened, so I bought some tacky 80s & 90s leggings, colorful wind coats etc. But it all reached the level that it is at now since I moved to Berlin, just last year. It really was the first place I lived in where one could actually find a lot of amazing vintage clothing from all eras, especially the fabulous 80s. But I had a passion for vintage things before that, especially lighting, for many years, as I used to buy, fix and sell them in Slovenia.
Later on, especially when I started DJing, the spectrum of clothes that I could actually wear broadened, so I bought some tacky 80s & 90s leggings, colorful wind coats…
What’s the best part about being so mobile with your work?
Honestly, I’m not that crazy about doing markets, especially because one needs to bring everything there, set up and then the worst part – the whole process backwards again. And you need to be very patient as some people expect all old/used clothes to be extremely cheap, which is not always the case with ours because they are carefully selected pieces and most of them need washing, ironing, some also fixing up. It’s a lot of work! But the best part of doing markets is definitely meeting like-minded people who are just as enthusiastic about vintage as I am, which leads to many cool conversations, trying on and considering different clothes, and also new friendships.
Without giving away too many secrets where do you source most of your material? What places are the best for which types of things?
I know a few people who go outside of the city, God knows where (believe me I don’t know) to buy mountains of used clothes that they then sell. Most of those clothes are very basic contemporary pieces, for the average person. I then pick out the few nice vintage pieces. But it always ends up being a lot, since the style that me and my mother (who helps me with everything, especially fixing stuff up) are interested in goes back all the way to the 60s or even later. I buy everything I like, then keep some and sell others. It’s also a good way of keeping my own wardrobe fresh!
It’s hard to say which markets, for example, are good for what. I can always recommend the WMP Fashion Flohmarkt as it is only for fashion. Other markets are full of all sorts of stuff, but if you enjoy spending an early afternoon at a market then it shouldn’t be a problem finding nice pieces for yourself. There are also quite a lot of stores from Humana to very selected high-class stores, too much to name now. Depends on what your budget is.
I buy everything I like, then keep some and sell others. It’s also a good way of keeping my own wardrobe fresh!
You’ve recently opened a kind of underground vintage boutique in your Berlin flat. We’ve seen it and it’s awesome! Why not just rent a shop and do it the old-school way?
We were close to opening a shop twice now, or at least have it for a limited period, but then I decided I am not ready to invest so much of my time into the store and keeping it fresh as I have other things I want to pursue. The home showroom, as we call it, is basically two rooms where we have everything stored and presented so we can pick out selections for certain markets or events. It is open for our friends to visit and people who would like to. I need to stress here that it is not open for everyone and anyone as it is also our home, so anyone interested would need to contact me and ask for a visit.
Can you see vintage as a sustainable career for you? Other than hard work, what else do you think makes you so good at what you do?
It could be. I guess it’s a back-up plan that I hope I will not have to use in the far future. But I guess the reason it is successful is the large amount of planning involved in how to present and sell it. And of course having good stuff and knowing what people are looking for is the most important thing.
Hopefully I will also find more time and motivation to work on my own music, as my biggest aspiration is to sing, write music and perform. Berlin is definitely a fun city and I intend to live here and enjoy it for quite some time to come.
When you’re not collecting or selling what are you up to in Berlin?
Occasionally I am DJing – I organized a party recently which I will continue with in the New Year, when the moving-in stresses and furnishing work is over, as we just moved into the new apartment less than a month ago. Hopefully I will also find more time and motivation to work on my own music, as my biggest aspiration is to sing, write music and perform. Berlin is definitely a fun city and I intend to live here and enjoy it for quite some time to come.