Denim destination 14oz has converted its discount store in Berlin’s Mitte district into a footwear, bags and accessories store, to impressive effect.
It’s always encouraging when you wander into a well-known shop and the owner is there to greet you. This is perhaps even more so when the owner happens to be more or less the beating heart of a district’s retail renaissance.
The area is Mitte in Berlin. And if you want to put a name to the individual or organisation behind the manner in which these few small streets have risen to international prominence over the past few years, it is probably Karl-Heinz Müller or 14oz – the two are pretty much synonymous. The man himself is in his shop and is busy admiring a new hooded top that has just arrived and about which he enthuses volubly.
This is the second time this year that Drapers’ Shop Watching has found rich pickings in Mitte and 14oz. The jean emporium for those who like their denim to be exclusive and ‘authentic’ was first covered in this magazine in 2009. Since that time, the retailer has taken premises around the corner from its Neue Schönhauser Strasse home and traded from the unit for a while as a 14oz discount shop.
This closed however and, following a conversion period, reopened around three months ago as 14oz shoes, a small shop which, in spite of the name, also sells bags and accessories.
At first glance this might seem odd but the most cursory visit to the Neue Schönhauser Strasse mother shop would reveal that shoes, lots of them, are already an integral part of the 14oz proposition. Yet the new store is different, as are the ranges that are on offer, and if you need to concentrate on footwear while in Mitte, then this is not a bad place to start.
The other point worth noting is that while it may appear that Drapers has a mild fixation with this part of Germany’s capital, it is still one of the more vibrant places in which to find new retail in the whole of Europe. A vortex of retail change and innovation.
Key looks and merchandise mix
Boots and brogues for men and women would go quite a long way towards describing the offer in 14oz Shoes, with prices starting at around ¤270 (£233) for a pair of women’s brogues and rising to just shy of ¤500 (£431) for a pair of calf-high boots.
For men, it’s a matter of brogues and rugged lace-up boots. As the prices are at the better end of steep, shoppers will look at what makes the ranges different. The prices can be justified by the fact that a lot of what is on show is handmade. The store is about a small number of brands – Ndc, Moma, Shoto and Ugg – and to an extent the shopper is paying for a highly edited selection. The accessories stem from the same brands and if a big leather holdall, or perhaps a wallet are on the list, then look no further.
The shoe, the whole shoe and nothing but the shoe appears to be the approach that has been adopted to merchandising the stock. Displays are simple –shelves around the perimeter and a mid-shop island. It is at the back of the shop, behind the cash-taking counter, that the visual merchandising really comes into its own. Here, large leather handbags and smaller accessories are displayed on a broad internally lit plinth, using bamboo canes of different lengths as props.
You’d be hard pushed to find anything simpler, but the execution is such, set against a tasteful grey wall, that the eye is almost unavoidably drawn through the whole of the shop.
Windows? There are none of them as the doors that guard the store entrance fold back to provide the kind of ingress more normally associated with a shop in a mall. The visual merchandising in this store is about keeping things minimal, but in such a way that you are constantly aware that everything has been thought about, instead of a stripped-back modus operandi, that looks, well, stripped back.
A single member of staff was on duty in the store, positioned behind the cash counter at the back of the shop.
He proved to be not only friendly and scrupulously polite, but also had a comprehensive knowledge of the offer. As might be expected, there are very close links between this small shop and the one around the corner and there seems to be a fairly constant interchange of staff between the two emporia. The level of service is as good as you’d expect if you are a regular 14oz devotee.
The palette of materials deployed to create this interior is beguilingly simple, consisting of polished concrete, exposed brick and painted concrete.
Reclaimed wooden boards for the floor complete the look. On the face of it, this would sound like pretty standard stuff in terms of the boho chic look that predominates in this part of town, but it is the way that things are put together that impresses. This is a warm environment with the worn brickwork making you feel perhaps that you’ve entered a German bierkeller, except it happens to be at ground level and shoes instead of steins are the order of the day.
The central island, constructed of polished concrete, is a thing of beauty and does make you want to reach out and touch it, even before you get down to the business of looking at the product.
Above this, the suspended rectangular lighting raft is easy to miss, but it does what good retail lighting should – lights the space effectively, without detracting from the offer.
Would I buy?
Maybe not – unless I was feeling abnormally flush. This is treat yourself territory, the kind of place that you wander into in search of that investment purchase that others will admire and you’ll feel good about wearing. For men or women, this is a shop to linger in, visit several times and only then perhaps consider a purchase.
Normally a standalone retail extension of a brand would be located some way away from the original, but 14oz has opted to set up its footwear shop just around the corner.
This has advantages in terms of consistency of service and keeping things ‘on brand’.
A positive departure.
Address 14oz Shoes, Münzstrasse, Mitte, Berlin
Ambience Boho chic
Range Narrow but highly edited
Reason for visiting Treat time
Future? Probably a one-off