Berlin Portrait: Sophia Schwan

by James and Zoe

We think that the best way to discover Berlin is through the eyes of the people who live here. For our Berlin Portrait series, we’re asking artists, musicians and other creative types to introduce us their corner of the city. Here Sophia Schwan, a stylist-slash-blogger originally from southwest Germany, introduces us to the “mayhem” of Friedrichshain.

Introduce yourself!

I‘m Sophia Schwan, 25, finally settled in Berlin after leading a slightly nomadic life. I now work as a full time stylist, having quit a job in PR in August. On the side I also do some freelance writing and blogging.

How long have you been here?

For once I can say “not long enough”. I moved here in the summer of 2010.

And what brought you here?

The city. I spent two months alone in Berlin taking a course at the ESMOD fashion school when I was 16, and fell head over heels in love. I was living with students six or seven years older than me and knew absolutely no one. I spent the whole summer exploring every nook and cranny and just knew that one day I had to end up here. That day didn‘t come though until I finished my studies in Aberdeen.

Does Berlin feel like home?

Completely. I have never really had that feeling before. My parents moved around with us a lot throughout Germany and the US and the four years in Aberdeen on my Erasmus exchange always felt like something temporary. I have the most amazing circle of friends here and couldn‘t possibly feel more at home than I do now. It‘s the most wonderful feeling in the world.

For the expats who’ve never made it outside the Ringbahn, how is Berlin different to the rest of Germany?

Lol! I‘m originally from Wiesbaden and the age average of the population there is probably 40. It‘s an extremely beautiful city, very boring – but I love it nonetheless. It‘s my Heimat so how could I not?! To answer your question though, Berlin is the most cosmopolitan and international city in Germany by far. There is no other place where even the biggest weirdo can make himself at home, where you can be who you want to be and no one gives a crap – whether you‘re walking barefoot down Warschauer Straße or cycling with a dog sitting on your shoulder and a boom box blasting out Elton John. I have in fact witnessed that.

How is the fashion scene here different to the rest of the Europe? And which Berlin designers should we be keeping an eye out for?

Berlin is home to so many good designers that more people really need to know about and support. I try to represent as much homegrown talent as possible in my work: Vladimir Karaleev, Issever Bahri, Franziska Michael, Rebecca Sammler, Achtland, JuliaandBen… they are all so talented. I could go on and on. I‘d say overall Berlin‘s streetstyle is muted and extremely laid-back but with interesting details. It’s like a mix of sloppy Scandinavian-meets-London. Berlin‘s fashion scene is still developing compared to cities like Paris and London but that‘s what makes it so special. People still have time for each other here. Everything is more slow-paced and not as glitzy and annoying.

Tell us about your neighbourhood, and what you like about it.

I‘ve only been living in Friedrichshain since March. Before that I lived in Prenzlauer Berg amongst a sea of children and before that across the Bundesnachrichtendienst in Mitte where there is nothing except a giant slab of concrete literally staring at you. I loved living in Prenzlauer Berg too but I prefer Friedrichshain. It‘s a bit dirty and gritty but it’s got its own bohemian and graffiti-sprayed beauty, that I couldn‘t go without any more.

Friedrichshain is mayhem and I‘ve randomly met so many crazy characters here. One Friday night I ended up sitting on a bench in my pyjamas until three in the morning with my dog and my flatmate’s dog, drinking beers with three old-school, very neddy Berliners, one of them telling me about his experience in prison, and a random couple that stopped to talk. I was only planning to walk the dogs quickly! Everyone was raging on about gentrification and old vs. new Berliners. Things got pretty heated and at 3am in the morning we all ended up hugging each other and then went off clubbing together. Not me in my pyjamas of course, I went to bed. It was bizarre.

And what are your five favourite things in your neighbourhood?

The clash of people, the dog-friendliness, the bohemian atmosphere, the Oberbaumbrücke and the fact that when I step outside my door I‘m in the middle of a party at all times.

And your three favourite Berlin places?

I am a huge lover of vintage and Gaudeli’s Vintage on Seumestraße is my absolute favourite vintage store in Berlin. The owner sources all her pieces from Italy and the quality and designs are impeccable and really timeless.

For some really delicious and moderately priced Japanese and Korean food I always visit Rice In on Grünbergerstraße. My favourite dish is Zirashi Don with its fragrant rice, raw fish and avocado. Yummy!

Urban Spree is an amazing place to get inspired by art and lounge around in the summer with a beer in your hand. They always have interesting exhibitions or film nights on so make sure you give it a visit!

See more photos from the shoot over on Zoë Noble Photography.

Berlin Portrait: Dolly Demoratti of Mother Drucker

by James Glazebrook

We think that the best way to discover Berlin is through the eyes of the people who live here. For our Berlin Portrait series, we’re asking artists, musicians and other interesting Berliners to introduce us their corner of the city. Discover creative Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain with Dolly Demoratti, owner of the Mother Drucker print studio.

Dolly Demoratti Portrait in her Urbanspree Studio

So tell us: how did you end up in Berlin?

I followed a girl out here. I met somebody in London, and they said they were coming here in a few months’ time, so I ended up quitting my job and coming out here. It felt like the right time to do it… as it happens, she’s back in England and I’m out here! But it worked out really well for me, and I’m glad I made that leap.

And how long have you been here?

About three or four years… I purposefully don’t keep count. I feel slightly embarrassed because I still know so little German, so people always ask me, “how long have you been here for?” and I’ve been saying “a year” for about three years now!


Do you feel settled here?

I definitely feel like it’s my home. I’m very happy here and I think I have more friends than I did in London, and I have a much nicer way of life. I’m working on what I always wanted to work on, which wouldn’t have been possible in London. My best friends are German, so I guess I am quite integrated here.

I don’t speak good German, which does make me feel like a bit of an outsider – but there are so many people passing through Berlin, staying for one or two years, that it’s easy to not speak the language and still feel involved in what’s happening here.

What’s the best thing about living in Berlin?

That I get to do the thing that I always want to, and get to have a studio of my own. When I was about 16, I built a darkroom in my bedroom – I’ve had an obsession with printing in all its forms since a young age. So now to be here, and have a studio – with my own printing press – is just great.

Dolly Demoratti Portrait in her Urbanspree Studio

And what are your favourite places in Berlin?

Urban Spree, where my studio is, is developing all the time. It’s an art space, with an “atelier”, sharing vibe, and now a venue for gigs and parties. They asked me to move in here before Urban Spree had opened, and even knocked down a wall for me! I had the first exhibition in the main hall, which was completely trashed – of all these shiny, perfect bicycles hanging in this fucked-up space…

Dolly Demoratti Portrait in her Urbanspree Studio

Markthalle Neun on Eisenbahnstraße is fantastic. I had my first studio on that street, right when they re-opened the market. I really liked the community vibe of what Markthalle Neun did, going around the block asking everyone what they should do with the space – it was a community decision. People were proposing different ideas like – someone wanted to open a kind of Victorian swimming pool – and in the end, the consensus was to take it back to its original use: a food market. Any kind of restoration of anything, rather than scrapping it or changing or modernising it… I just love it when things are taken back to their original state.

Dolly Demoratti Portrait at Urbanspree

The Künstlerhaus Bethanien is another building that survived the war. They have the most fantastic print studio there, which so many people don’t know about. Downstairs, it’s almost a museum of old machinery to do with printing, lots of letterpresses and cutting machines, and it just smells so old! You can only get there via one lift in the print studio, which no one knows is there.

…and I go to Tempelhof most Sundays, to either exercise or just cruise around on my bike. I love it out there…

Dolly Demoratti Portrait at Urbanspree

Dolly Demoratti Portrait against Fingaz Grafitti

Dolly Demoratti Portrait sitting in front Fingaz Grafitti


Dolly is organising Druck Berlin 2013, an art festival focused on screen printing, at Stadtbad Wedding. Check out the Druck Berlin website for full details.

Music Montag: Tonia Reeh

by James Glazebrook

Tonia Reeh by endless autumn under license CC BY-SA 2.0
Tonia Reeh by endless autumn under license CC BY-SA 2.0

We’ve featured Tonia Reeh on Music Montag before, but in her Monotekktoni guise, under which she produces brittle, intense electronica. The music Reeh creates under her real name is something very different: beautiful, bold piano ballads in the vein of Tori Amos. Watch the stark black and white video for the her new single “Stolen” below, and get a free download of the track on the Clouds Hill SoundCloud. Tonia Reeh’s second album Fight of the Stupid is out now, and will be launched at Urban Spree on 21st September, along with fellow Berlinerin Barbara Morgenstern.