The two girls behind the vintage clothing shop Veist, were introduced while working for ECO street-wear label Armed Angels in 2008. Soon after they found themselves living together in a shared 80s’ pad in Neukölln, and became inseparable for the next year; living together, working together, and going out together.
Designer behind the handbag and knitwear label Centceize (116), Anna Veit is the crafty, taciturn type who is always full of ideas and smart solutions to any creative challenge. Sandra Diana Troegl on the other hand is a social butterfly with a natural talent for PR, social media and marketing. The pair fulfill each other like butter on toast, both privately and professionally, so when Anna moved back to Stuttgart, the two stayed in touch, knowing that they would love to work together again.
Sandra remained in Berlin and her husband (boyfriend at the time) had been eager to move up to Schillerkiez for a while. Though a slight sceptic, Sandra agreed to give it a try if they could find a café within a few minute walking distance of their new home. Circus Lemke, a bar around the corner, had opened up for daytime business due to popular demand and lack of cafés in the neighborhood, and it was while sitting just there, that she discovered the empty storefront which prompted her to pick up the phone and call her friend. “Anna, I’ve found us a shop”
We wanted to start a fashion blog back in 2009 when blogging was the “new thing”. But then we found this place…
[Anna] We originally wanted to start a blog together.
[Sandra] Yes, we wanted to start a fashion blog back in 2009 when blogging was the “new thing”. But then we found this place…
I already had a huge clothing collection from my mom and grandma. My mom used to be a flight attendant and would bring back a piece of clothing from every place she visited — which was a lot! Her closet is much bigger than this shop and she would give me tours of it, telling me stories of the different garments and the places they were from. Combined with Anna’s knitwear and bags, we already had close to enough inventory to fill the space. In addition, we invited people we knew from flea markets, like Mika Modiggård, Mayflower Vintage and Mies Nobis to sell their vintage and accessories on commission.
After the opening we had a huge restock problem. I remember cleaning up the shop and thinking “Shit, it’s all gone!”
Well that’s the dream, isn’t it?
[A] Yes, it was great. We had so many people, it was amazing really!
[S] It was totally crazy — we did not expect that. The opening was really fun!
It had taken us about two weeks to set up, and we didn’t have to do much to the place. Many of the things in here were handmade by Anna. The jewelry display case by the door was a piece we found at Kunststoffe which used to belong to a stage. As with most of the materials we used to build the shop, we picked it up without knowing what we were going to use it for, but somehow it fit, to the millimeter, into the space next to the door. The whole construction was designed by Anna, and I was blown away with her creativity. She can make anything into something!
To anyone opening a new business in a storefront, we do recommend to put up a huge note in the window telling passersby what you’re up to. We got interrupted by questions about every ten minutes, which slowed us down, but gave us a chance to get to know our neighbors!
After the opening we had a huge restock problem. I remember cleaning up the shop and thinking “Shit, it’s all gone!”
What has changed since then?
[S] We have started a new thing where we rent out clothes and accessories as well. This came about because so many of our customers were looking for something for special occasions, like red carpet events and performances, and often ended up with things they would only wear once or twice. This way, looking great for a special event can cost less, and things won’t end up wasting away in people’s closets.
We’re lucky to know models, dancers and drag queens who will always need special pieces for special occasions. They sometimes model for us and get to rent for free in return. This way we’ve always had access to great models without breaking the bank. Swapping has always been working well for us. We’ve done neighborhood clothing swap events and we have a no-rule swap chest by the door; take what you want and put whatever you want in.
You seem to be very connected to your neighborhood and your neighbors. Every time we come by, we see such a wide variety of customers, of all ages and demographics.
[S] This is one of the reasons why we love having a shop here. I worked in a high end design shop in Mitte once, and you get treated so differently. Here we are not treated like sales people, but as part of the neighborhood. Our customers also really appreciate the commission aspect of the shop. When they have treasures they don’t want to wear, but still feel attached to, they can sell it here and be told who bought it, or even run into the new owner.
Here we are not treated like sales people, but as part of the neighborhood.
You write down the stories of each of the items on the tags. How does that work?
[S] When we started we would sit down and spend countless hours writing the stories of each piece of clothing by hand. Now that we have drop offs several times a day, we ask the previous owners to write down the stories on the tags themselves. Not everyone does, but the ones who have good stories and wish to pass them on to the next owner always do. It makes them excited about passing their clothes over to someone else when they can also pass on the story.
The other day we had a girl who bought this really beautiful fake fur. The previous owner had inherited it from her grandmother, and even though it didn’t fit her, she couldn’t part with it because of the memory she had of her grandmother wearing it and taking such good care of it. But when she discovered our shop and the concept of telling the story of the garment through the tags, she felt ok about letting it go. And the girl who bought it liked it even more because she could relate to the story.
Another woman had kept her plateau shoes from her 1991 graduation party, but hadn’t worn them since. When she was finally ready to let them go, she brought them here, placed them on the counter and said “good bye”. She didn’t even want money for them, and turned down the commission and store credit, she just wanted the chance to let go. A lot of people keep clothes they don’t wear for sentimental reasons, but when given a chance to pass on the emotional value along with the garment, it makes them feel better than selling it at a flea market or dropping it in a donation bin. Sometimes we function like an animal shelter for clothes; finding new, good homes for special pieces.
Sometimes we function like an animal shelter for clothes; finding new, good homes for special pieces.
“Stories as currency” has become a common thread amongst many of the designers and shop owners we interview. Why do you think this is?
[S] I think the generation before us were more concerned with owning material things, because the whole idea of mass-consumerism was fairly new. For our generation the focus is on freeing ourselves from the burden of possession and own only the basics. It’s becoming more about what we can lend, borrow and trade. We do not to the same degree define ourselves by what we own.
I first realized this five years ago when I sold my car and ended up in a huge discussion about it with my parents. I was moving into the city and didn’t see the need for a car. The car symbolized a burden and I felt more free without it, knowing that if I really needed one, I could rent one for the day. My parents saw it as giving up my freedom and can’t fathom living without a car, even in the middle of the city.
I often sell things in the shop that I dearly love, but don’t use very much, because the thought of someone else loving it and wearing it brings more joy than having it hanging in my own closet. People are so eager to get rid of the things that are weighing them down, we don’t even have space for all the commission that is offered to us.
We had the store connecting us, but simultaneously keeping us apart because there was so much work. Now we have three talented and amazing girls working for us and it’s beautiful to be a team!
Speaking of lack of space, you recently opened a men’s shop nearby. Tell us about that.
[S] That was another coincidence. The owner of Café Feed around the corner was offered to rent the space next door as an add on, but se didn’t need it all to herself. And because she was pregnant at the time she wasn’t able to do renovations so she asked us if we’d be interested in tearing down the wall and sublet part of the space as a second shop. Again I called Anna and asked what she thought, and we both loved the café already, so it was an easy decision. And so the men’s vintage shop, Veist x Feed was born.
The guys have always been a bit disappointed coming into Veist and seeing the low ratio of men’s clothes to women’s. Now they’ve got their own space with over 300 items for sale at any time. The space itself is more structured and masculine, and each item there has its own place. Guys always tend to put the clothing back exactly where they found it, so it’s easier to keep a structured system. Women seem to have a problem with this [haha]. Guys just do it without thinking about it.
Our male clientele are so sweet — they are so proud that they have their own shop now. The news spread so fast we hardly had to do anything ourselves.
How does it work to manage, not only one, but two stores when you live in two different cities?
[A] I come to Berlin for about two weeks every six weeks, to give us some time to work together in the shop and to give Sandra some time off. Also, we have three girls working for us now, so there’s five of us in total, making it a lot easier.
[S] It was the most amazing feeling the first time that we were able to hire someone and had a whole day off together. We were lying on the grass on the Tempelhof Airfield and were so excited that the shop was open, but we were outside, spending time together.
[A] The first year, every time I was here, Sandra was away and opposite. We never saw each other and only spoke on the phone.
Veist brings people together, even if it’s over something as trivial as clothing. It’s making change on a much smaller scale […], but it’s more approachable and it allows us to be involved and engaged in the neighborhood.
So you went from living together and seeing each other 24/7 for a whole year, to not seeing each other at all…
[S] Yes, we had the store connecting us, but simultaneously keeping us apart because there was so much work. Now we have three talented and amazing girls working for us and it’s beautiful to be a team! Lots has happened in a couple of years.
On that note, do you have any idea what comes next?
[S] No, we’re staying here and we’ll see what else happens. We’re enjoying where we’re at.
[A] It’s like this, when you keep an open heart and an open mind, things come to you…
[S] Exactly! It was never the plan to open a men’s shop, but it came to us and we grasped the opportunity.
That’s great advise!
[S] It’s so important to be honest with yourself about what you want. When I first moved to Berlin, I started a company that worked with NGO’s and did social media consulting with companies like Greenpeace. It was amazing to know all these cool people who were saving the world, but at the end of the day, I found myself working long hours in front of the computer making me both sick and unhappy. I realized that I couldn’t “save the world” if I was miserable doing it. Veist brings people together, even if it’s over something as trivial as clothing. It’s making change on a much smaller scale than a company like Greenpeace, but it’s more approachable and it allows us to be involved and engaged in the neighborhood. The job itself doesn’t feel like work. Of course we work really hard, we just enjoy it along the way!
Thanks a lot Sandra & Anna!