Coming up on two years, Shio on the corner of Weichselstraße and Sonnenallee has become a neighborhood staple. With its white walls and thoughtful decor including DIY hanging rope clothing racks, large drums as side tables and other second hand and trödel-shop finds, the shop is an oasis of beautifully altered vintage and second hand fashion as well as garments and accessories by local designers.
Still in her early twenties, the sole owner and creative force behind Shio, Kate Pinkstone is quite the entrepreneur. As many of the designers and shop owners we have talked to, she also started out by selling second hand, vintage and altered fashion at weekend markets, but when it came time to decide whether or not to stay in Berlin, owning a store gave her the reasons and motivation she needed to linger. Also working on her own fashion brand and collaborating with a handful of other designers and makers, Kate never gets bored in the shop by herself, but enjoys the space to create in peace, interrupted by welcome visits from customers, friends and designers who come to drop off their consignment and have a coffee and a chat.
How has the first two years with Shio been going?
It’s been really great! The neighborhood is developing quickly and new places keep popping up all the time, so you can literally feel it getting better everyday.
Running a shop and designing along side it is quite the endeavor, how do you manage to do this all alone?
I have a lot of really good friends who have helped me a lot. My best friend is German and she’s been amazing throughout the whole bureaucratic process and I basically wouldn’t have had this place if it wasn’t for her.
What can customers expect to find in the shop?
Besides my own vintage, second hand, and altered fashion, I sell things from many different local designers. One of them is Mika Modiggård who I did an internship with when I first moved here. She is into sustainable and organic fashion, and being from Sweden her design aesthetic is very clean and rigorous. She was a great inspiration to me, and now I have her designs in the shop.
Behind me is a project I’m working on with a print designer called Maya Ben Natan, who also has her hand printed purses in the shop. I have long been wanting to print on fabrics, but don’t have time to do it on my own. She does the printing and I do the patterning and sewing. We are starting with skirts, printed with colorful Rorschach tests onto two different types of fabric, both raw natural fibers. A lot of testing has gone into the project to find the right dye and make it colorfast.
New places keep popping up all the time, so you can literally feel it getting better everyday.
How did you start designing and sewing?
I studied fashion design. I was actually first in farming studies because a friend of me had told me it was really nice and you got to sit out in the sun all day. But I got kicked out because I wasn’t doing anything… except sitting in the sun [laughter]. So they placed me in the fashion program instead, and I ended up really loving it. When I graduated from the Sydney Fashion Design institute with a degree in fashion and technology, my final project involved transforming a selection of old dresses and garments into new pieces using embroidery and various other techniques.
The concept of remaking really stuck and I started noticing how much clothing was going to waste and how much amazing material and fabric could be found in piles at markets. Many times they just need a bit of help. I can’t tell you how many shoulder pads I’ve cut out!
We should think of a way to upcycle shoulder pads…
(We all start suggesting things along the line of push up bras and pillow stuffing are some of the suggestions that surface.)
With your altered and upcycled pieces, do you start out with a plan, or does the material and original shapes of the clothes guide you?
I mostly chose the clothes based on their fabrics and go from there. Other times I start with a set idea. With the pullovers for example, there’s a lot of turtlenecks out there that no one wants, so with them, I take the neck off and give them a new neckline, and use the cut off necks to make ear-warmer headbands. With things like coats and jackets, I take collars off to simplify and make them more wearable. Other times I don’t do anything to the clothes, as they are perfect the way they are.
I was first in farming studies because a friend of me had told me that you got to sit out in the sun all day. But I got kicked out because I wasn’t doing anything… except sitting in the sun [laughter]. So they placed me in the fashion program instead, and I ended up really loving it!
Many times they [the clothes] just need a bit of help. I can’t tell you how many shoulder pads I’ve cut out!
Where do you find your second hand?
Mostly around Berlin. But I work with these girls from Schuhtutehemd who are from Poland. They have an online store and also consign with me. Most of their second hand comes from Poland.
You talked earlier about the neighborhood changing and more stores with similar premises are opening up. How do you find the vintage and independent community in the area?
I really love that everyone here are working together to support one another. No one is in competition or working against each other. I just did the Neukölln Shopping Night with other fashion and vintage brands like Rag and Bone Man, Down by Retro, Let Them East Cake, Wesen and Treches. Events like these give you the feeling that the area is really starting to become a destination for independent shopping. Because we are all so spread out and tucked away in back allies, these events help people discover the hidden treasures and increases the amount of customers who seek us out because they know we’re here, as opposed to just stumbling upon the shop by accident, which still happens every single day. The collaboration is benefitting all of us!
I really love that everyone here are working together to support one another. No one is in competition or working against each other.
What are your plans for Shio in the new year?
I will focus more on the shio label as opposed to mostly doing alterations. I’m hoping to be able to split my time evenly between the two. I will also be working hard on the collaboration project with Maya. It has been really good working with someone who’s into colors, because the stuff I usually make end up being black or grey. Her artistic input has been invaluable.
What kind of brand will this project be? And where will you be able to find it in the future?
When we launch we will have a website and catalogs, as well as an online store. We will also take the label to other stores around Berlin, since the pieces are quite special and deserve a larger audience. Our collections will not follow seasonal trends, but instead we aim to create wardrobe staples that will last a long time.
Our focus will not be on huge showcases like Fashion Week. I’ve worked for a couple of small labels for fashion week, and they’ve been great experiences, but so much work goes into it without enough return. Especially for small brands, all the money goes into participating and producing for the showcase, and often designers can’t afford to meet the production demands after the event.
The concept for the brand as well as for the store in general is to give customers a chance to find something really special, that is made well and that they can keep for a really long time. I want to offer other wardrobe options. Most of us follow the big brand, mass produced stuff, but it won’t last, so at the end of the day it’s not such a great deal after all.
Very often, buying the alternative to mass produced fashion is also a matter of money, which is why I try to keep prices fair and affordable, so that it can be available to more people. I don’t want anyone to come in and look at the price tags and be totally bummed out.
Events like the Neukölln Shopping Night give you the feeling that the area is really starting to become a destination for independent shopping. Because we are all so spread out and tucked away in back allies, these events help people discover the hidden treasures.
Our collections will not follow seasonal trends, but instead we aim to create wardrobe staples that will last a long time.
I try to keep prices fair and affordable, so that it can be available to more people. I don’t want anyone to come in and look at the price tags and be bummed out.
We are definitely not bummed out as we’re stuffing our backpacks with newly purchased treasures from Shio and thank Kate for the interview — and the coffee!