After less than two years in the German capital, the Municher couple, Suza Podgajski and Marc Schmitteckert, have fallen head over heals with the neighborhood that houses their baby, Homage — a bright and open shop space filled with handpicked sustainable fashion and accessories. Just over half a year old and still finding its feet, the shop has in return, won the hearts of its neighbors. We visit them on a brisk fall day to learn more about how it all came to be.

At that point, we hadn’t even planned to open a shop […] But then this place popped up, and we immediately fell in love.

[Marc] It all happened really fast. We weren’t even supposed to get this space, but we got super lucky! When the landlord called us and told us that we were second on the list, it was really tough to hear. We had been in contact with the management for four weeks, and in our minds it was already ours.

The location and the space was just so perfect, with the large windows, tall ceilings, a back office and a large basement — there was so much opportunity. So when we got that call, we were really, really sad.

[Suza] At that point, we hadn’t even planned to open a shop. All we needed was an office and a place to do wholesale from, because working from home was starting to drive us crazy. But then this place popped up, and we immediately fell in love.

[Marc] We weren’t able to let it go, so we wrote one last email to the landlord.

[Suza] We told him, ‘listen, we love this space, so if it doesn’t work out with the other tenants, or they move out, please keep us in mind, because we will take it’.

[Marc] The next morning at 7, I got a text message saying, ‘Marc, come over, something happened’. A few hour later we signed the contract and a couple of weeks after that, we opened up. Luckily the previous tenants, owners of Japanese gallery, Hidari Zingaro, had put so much love, money and hard work into the space, which made us able to open almost immediately.

[Suza] It was a really stressful two weeks, and we worked day and night with the help of our friends. The last Saturday in April, we had decided to open, even if things were not 100% ready. On the opening day, we had worked until five in the morning, it was my birthday and my mom had come in from Munich. We were both exhausted, but so happy. The neighbors were warm and welcoming and we immediately felt like part of the neighborhood. It started out really good!

The word homage can bring about many different associations. To us, it became about a homage to the ‘kiez’ because we could not have experienced such a nice start without the warm welcome from the neighbors.

When you opened you didn’t even have a name right? How did you come up with Homage and what does it mean to you?

[Marc] The name was difficult. We wanted to be part of the neighborhood, so we didn’t want to ostracize ourselves by using an exclusively English sounding name. But German words can be hard to spell and pronounce for non-Germans, so we wanted something neither especially English nor German.When you look for a name, you also have to consider how it looks in writing, and how it could become a logo.

A few weeks after we opened I went away for a few days to attend a funeral. I was sitting in a car when the word homage popped up in my head. I could immediately picture how the word would look. It means the same in German and French, but we decided to use the English spelling with only one m.

So, it took a few weeks before we had a name, but it didn’t matter. Berlin is a city where everything is an-ever evolving work-in-progress anyways…

The word homage can bring about many different associations. To us, it became about a homage to the ‘kiez’ (German word for neighborhood) because we could not have experienced such a nice start without the warm welcome from the neighbors. We feel very fortunate to be part of a community that is so open minded and friendly. It is a homage to everyone who walks by, who come in to say hi, and to everyone who have offered their help and support.

[Suza] It’s also a homage to all the designers who are thinking about and working for the well being of our planet. Everyone is free to make their own connection, but to us, homage is about paying respect.

Besides the changing seasons, there’s holidays and ‘mid-seasons’ — all excuses for special campaigns and sales. It’s pretty obvious that this is not a healthy way to consume.

What was the initial concept and idea behind the store?

[Marc] We wanted to continue doing what I was already doing with my agency, Wild Card Distribution, which focuses on making sustainable fashion and accessories available to the public.

We already had a lot of goods in stock for wholesale, so filling the shop was easy. And from there, we started working with other brands.

This summer, our reworked vintage dresses made up most of our sales, but as fall came along, the shop started taking form. In the beginning it was more about filling up the shop and see what kinds of reactions we got.

A true work-in-progress! Are you starting to feel like your identity is becoming more clearly defined or are you still figuring it out? 

[Suza] It is still an ongoing process, but we have a clear idea of what we want, with the sustainable and somewhat anti-fashion approach being at the core of what we do. The fashion industry is moving way too fast and we don’t believe that there’s a need to be up to date on all the fashion trends. No one needs to buy 20 new pieces every season, but rather a few things that will last a lifetime, mixed up with some special secondhand and vintage items. Secondhand and vintage goes hand in hand with sustainable design.

Talking to our customers is also really important to us. We love to tell the stories behind the brands, who the designers are, how the clothes are made, where the material comes from, and so on. We wish to encourage people to think about what goes into the making of the clothes they wear.

We offer a range of things, from more affordable vintage pieces, to expensive designer brands. You can find things for 20€ or 200€. The stories are always an essential part of the products and it’s important to take the time to communicate.

[Marc] This is my third year of working with my agency and I know how the fashion industry works, and it’s pretty disgusting. Besides the changing seasons, there’s holidays and ‘mid-seasons’ — all excuses for special campaigns and sales. It’s pretty obvious that this is not a healthy way to consume. There is no logical reason why a classic, good piece of design made from quality materials should go on half price after christmas. But this is how the game is played and you are forced to participate if you want to stay in business. We can’t completely distance ourselves from this, but we can choose to do things a bit different. We don’t do big sales. Here, you can find genuine, good pieces, with stories that we are happy and proud to share. We hope that the customer can appreciate that. If you are looking for a quick, super sale, you have to look somewhere else.

[Suza] We are all responsible for what we consume. When you buy something, you should feel responsible for the conditions under which it is made. If someone has to suffer for you to look cool, that’s a problem. We all have to start thinking more about how we consume if we want to bring about some change.

When you buy something, you should feel responsible for the conditions under which it is made. If someone has to suffer for you to look cool, that’s a problem.

By which criteria do you judge what you accept into the store? 

[Marc] We started by working with the brands we already knew, such as Hannibal, which is a good friend from Munich, and from that it grew. Someone like Alexandra Schiess, we met at a trade show last season. The most important criteria is that we have to be a fan, and it has to make sense. Outside of that, we’re flexible. As an example, it doesn’t have to be 100% bio cotton, or only German produced, or anything like that. It can be someone like Simon Ese, who uses left over fabrics from North American sweat shops to produce new collections, or Hannibal, which is a small scale, all German manufactured and produced label. Sustainable is a vague term, but it comes down to the overall footprint. This is why we need to look at each case individually. There is no one requirement. We do, non the less, look at prices, because we don’t want to be exclusive. A lot of the time, sustainable and bio tends to get too pricey, but we don’t believe that it always has to be that way.

Many people think sustainable clothing is something that exists beside or parallel to regular fashion, but this is not true. The difference is only that it’s good stuff, made by happy people.

Many people think sustainable clothing is something that exists beside or parallel to regular fashion, but this is not true. The difference is only that it’s good stuff, made by happy people.

You mention a few times that Berlin accepts and allows for things to be under development, and not quite finished. What else is unique about your new home town? 

[Suza] The people, definitely! There’s so many creative people here, that are passionate about what they do. In Berlin you can be yourself and be accepted for it. We have all kinds of customers come by from punks to grandparents and children. The city is filled with different types from all over the world, and everyone tries to treat each other with respect. In Munich, where we are from, there is more focus on superficial and material things than here. I also love the community and the street life in Berlin.

[Marc] Yes, other places in Germany, this has disappeared. Often the working class can’t afford to live in the city, but are forced to work there, so they are only commuting and not part of the city life. Here, there’s a greater diversity, and you get to interact with people from all walks of life.

Also, in other, more established places, people are fed up and bored. In Berlin, people are still hungry, and on the run. It inspires you to take risks.

As long as we can bike here every morning from our place in Treptow, with a big smile on our faces, everything will be alright!

Lastly, where do you want to go from here? What is the next step?

[Suza] With Homage, the idea is to not just sell fashion, but a lifestyle, which incorporates music and art. We plan to exhibit more art and host musicians. It’s really an open space, so if people come by, and we feel a connection, we’re open to hosting a variety of events here.

We recently had a jazz musician come by because he was lost and needed help with direction. We got into talking and now we’re planning an event with him this winter, with warm drinks and jazz music.

[Marc] As far as our plans for the future… as long as we can bike here every morning from our place in Treptow, with a big smile on our faces, everything will be alright! We have a general direction in mind, but our path may divert, you never know. But we want to continue in this direction, and see where the road takes us.

Photos by Adlan Mansri
Visit Homage on Dieffenbachstraße 15 in Kreuzberg, Berlin, or on their webiste.
Homage carries the following brands: Simon EseMisericordia, Hannibal, Alexander SchiessTushita, Ark ReworksOndura, Berlin Vintage and pastperfekt