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Jacuzzi, Berlin

Bread & Butter gives the streetwear crowd a good excuse to visit Berlin’s retail hot spots – Jacuzzi is one of those worth stepping into.

Jetting in to Berlin’s Schönefeld airport last week – it’s the low-cost one, you know how things are – one of the first things you tended to notice was a rolling billboard advertising the merits of a variety of denim brands. The Easyjet flight from Luton had in fact been packed with folk wearing jeans and modish casual fashion. Bread & Butter was on the agenda once more and prior to the show opening on Wednesday, it was time for the trade to go comp shopping around one of the world’s more influential denim and casualwear cities.

And the good thing about this influx of people well versed in the difference between a 14.5oz denim and chambray is they know a good thing when they see it. Inevitable therefore that Berlin’s denim mothership, aka 14oz, was packed – not least because it was offering free coffees and mint teas in its garden. Beyond this, however, shoppers were being highly selective and it was child’s play working out which were the brands and stores that have their finger on the pulse.

Perhaps the most obvious of these was Jacuzzi, a short walk around the corner from 14oz and, at first glance, a store that majors in selling slogan T-shirts.

As this is the Mitte district of Berlin, you would expect everything to be grungy, and shoppers and Jacuzzi both fall into this mould. But you can’t beat success and at a time of year when trade is slow, the tills were ringing out merrily in this purveyor of agitprop-looking merchandise at distinctly affordable (by local standards) levels.

Key looks and merchandise mix

If you took Jacuzzi and transplanted it into one of east London’s edgier districts, it would look perfectly at home. This is a store that almost seems to take pride in raising two fingers to the designer world, while at the same time, somewhat ironically, being very much part of it. This means T-shirts bearing the letters ‘YSL’ which morphs into ‘Your Life Sucks’, or the charming ‘F**k You’ where the letter ‘C’ is joined with a backwards facing ‘C’, reminiscent perhaps of a major brand, are almost de rigeur. There is a barely concealed anger about much of the offer, but done with a sense of humour that has the effect of making you smile.

There is rather more to Jacuzzi than T-shirts, however, with denim from Place du Jour and Nudie, footwear from a variety of sources and hosiery that puts the fun back into fashion, all part of the offer. And then there are the smaller accessories. Whether you want a pair of coloured headphones or a retro digital watch, Jacuzzi will probably have something to catch the eye.

It says much for the store that a highly fashionable accompanying colleague made a purchase – along with many others during the visit. The other point is that nothing was overly expensive and impulse purchases were a real possibility. The same could not be said for many of the other shops in this part of Mitte. On the basis of the trade being done alone, the store is evidently a popular location.

Score 8/10

Visual merchandising

From the outside, this is a shop with a long, glass frontage that allows you to see almost the entire interior. And little effort has been made to create windows, with the closest approximation to display being an army of T-shirts that have been turned to face out towards the street and a couple of mannequins. This is accompanied by decals applied to the glass bearing the legend ‘LIFE IS A JOKE’ and, in the right-hand corner of the serried row of windows, the shop’s name. It’s an uncompromising approach.

Internally, however, there is much to look at. The mid-shop uses junk shop tables and chairs of the preformed plastic variety, to create a pop art feel, while the stockings are displayed on single transparent legs.

The headphones, as much about fashion as function, are attached by red strings to the ceiling, creating a brightly coloured mid-floor spaghetti-like feature that almost all shoppers were inspecting. In keeping with the stock being sold, there is nothing high-gloss or polished about the visual merchandising. On the other hand, its simple what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach is perfectly in keeping with the shop as a brand.

Score 7/10

Service

Watchful. Perhaps because many of the items are small, and therefore easily slipped into a pocket, the several staff on the floor were keeping a close eye on everything that was going on, almost too much so. On the other hand, in spite of their counterculture appearance, stock knowledge and a helpful attitude were evident when required. This is not a densely merchandised store and therefore housekeeping standards were generally where you would expect them to be.

Score 6/10

Store appeal

This part of Berlin may have been freed from the shackles of the GDR in 1989 but it still manages to trade on the Trabant-infested and in-your-face concrete architectural past. For this reason, it should come as little surprise that as a building, this is not attractive. Yet perhaps that’s the point.

The interior of the shop is white box – it’s a monochrome vision where the coloured merchandise does the talking. There is also a semi-handmade sense to much of what’s on view, as far as the fixturing is concerned, although there’s a certain predictability to the taxidermy at the cash desk (as seen in every fashion indie, everywhere, currently) – which in this store takes the form of a bird of prey. Nonetheless, in spite of the fairly uncompromising nature of the interior, where even the mannequins have been stripped of wigs, it is interesting.

Score 7/10

Does it work?

Of course it does – the number of Jacuzzi shopping bags being carried around the nearby streets was testimony to the store’s pulling power. This is a shop that is perfectly in tune both with its neighbourhood and its customers. There are few places where the demand for this kind of thing is sufficient to ensure success (maybe Lower Manhattan as much as east London), but it seems as natural in this urban landscape as the thoroughly unnatural Berlin Wall.

Score 8/10

Verdict

Jacuzzi is one of the better ‘alternative’ stores among Mitte’s fashion retailers. Not flash, but capable of attracting attention through careful product editing and a distinct attitude in terms of presentation.

36/50

Essentials

Address 19 Rosenthaler Strasse, 10119 Berlin

Brands include Edwin, Eleven Paris, Nudie and Patrick Mohr

Ambiance Annoyed minimalism

Standout feature The headphones display

Customer Fashionable counterculture types

Price architecture Mid-market

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