A few weeks ago Berlin’s latest shopping mall opened: the eagerly anticipated Bikini Berlin. It’s a very long building which stretches along Budapester Strasse, extending from Bahnhof Zoo to the Europa-Center. Bikini Berlin describes itself as “Berlin’s first Concept Mall” and it combines curated pop-up stores, brand boutiques and flagship stores on 17,000 sq m of retail space. Their pop-up store concept really is quite impressive.
Actually, Bikini Haus is just one of a whole group of buildings which also includes a cinema and a high-rise which houses a brand-new design hotel (for my Asian and American readers: unless you are in Frankfurt with its banking towers, a German high-rise usually means a maximum of 10 stories or even less – European architecture tends to be build low to the ground!).
The whole Bikini ensemble was built in the 1950s. Its location is very central, opposite Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Berlin’s famous “broken off” church) and Europa-Center shopping mall, with Kurfürstendamm around the corner and KaDeWe department store about a ten minute walk away. Basically, it’s Tourist Central.
Before 1989, when Berlin was still divided, this part of the city was THE pulsating center of Western Berlin. Then the Wall came down and redevelopment and new construction focused on the Eastern parts of the city, like Mitte, Potsdamer Platz, Alexanderplatz, Friedrichstrasse or Hacke’scher Markt. While these neighbourhoods became tourist magnets, the Kurfürstendamm area languished.
The old Bikini house was half empty – I seem to remember run-down antique shops and obscure travel agencies. The whole building looked really seedy. Then around five years ago, a whole clutch of investors descended upon the area and transformed the entire neighbourhood into one big building site.
For years the streets around Bikini were a right old mess, with several multi-million Euro construction projects underway at the same time. At the same time the neighbourhood became popular again, with plenty of new luxury stores opening on and around Kurfürstendamm – most of my Mintel Cityscape stories of 2013 were about new retailers and stores moving into the Kurfürstendamm area.
In the summer of 2013 the first of the new building projects, the brand-new Waldorf Astoria hotel (the first German Waldorf Astoria property of the Hilton group) opened its doors. And Bikini Berlin is the last major project to be completed. There are still a couple of buildings being renovated. But on the whole, the reconstruction of the area is finally finished. Yay for the rejuvenation of Charlottenburg!
Bikini is my current Mintel Cityscape so I went to check it out last weekend. As I mentioned earlier, the building is long and thin and stretches along the street. The mall is on three levels, ground floor, gallery and a rooftop terrace.
Now on to the retail. First, there are the “normal” stores, a range of brands located in permanent retail units. These include fashion, lifestyle and design boutiques and a couple of flagship stores – some are chain stores, others are independent. Bikini has an interesting mixture of mainstream and indie tenants: on the gastro side of things you have a Kaiser’s outlet (supermarket chain), a Block House (steak house chain) and an Einstein (coffeshop chain). Fashion and lifestyle brands include Gant, Closed, Vans and Carhartt (all fashion), Mykita (eyewear) and Ricardo Cortillone (shoes). Kusmi Tea also has a store there as does electronic retailer Cyberport. So far, so mainstream.
However, now we come to the good stuff: Bikini also features some more unusual boutiques like Berlin fashion store Anna Kraft, Vegan label Umasan, am+ (the Bikini dependance of famous Berlin concept store Andreas Murkudis) and Gestalten (Gestalten is a very cool gallery and art publisher based in Mitte).
There is also a space called Supernova. It is described as an experimental retail lab, curated by a creative agency. The idea is to come up with new and unusual possibilities for retail in the digital era. Sounds interesting. However, the inaugural Supernova edition (as they call it), focuses on football and there were some Nike shoes in the area – I am not a football fan so I continued on towards the pop-up stores.
The so-called Bikini Boxes are wooden containers in five different sizes and can be rented by small labels and young designers for time periods between three and twelve months. A group of retail specialists is overseeing the Bikini Boxes to make sure that there is a good mixture of brands and companies. The short-term rentals ensure a constant turnover of new and interesting brands – curated shopping at its best.
Current pop-up tenants include Dutch beauty company Rituals, fashion labels Mr. Gugu & Miss Go from Poland, Rook & Rocks from Hamburg and Wandering Minds from London, German tea speciality store Tea Tales, macaron manufacturer Makrönchen-Manufaktur, audio books and jigsaw puzzle specialist Litratron from Hamburg, leather manufacturer Mabba from Berlin and Drybar, a blow dry and eyebrow bar.
I chatted with the lady from Makrönchen-Manufaktur (a fabulous macaroon bakery based in Schöneberg) and she told me that they have rented the box for three months and will return later this year for another interval – show-rooming in its purest form.
The pop-up boxes are scattered all over the mall, there are cafés and seating areas in between and the whole atmosphere is welcoming, casual and very stylish at the same time. Carefully mismatched sofas and chairs everywhere, vintage and antique design touches and a lot of attention to detail – frankly, I was impressed. Check out Bikini Berlin if you are in the neighbourhood – it’s very worthwhile.