Die Mode laborantin von Schöneberg
Shoko Kawaida explains her shop Townes, the new hip Schoeneberg and her favorite collection from the season. Her explanation is styling exercise.
Fashion culture “Made in Germany” is what we want to create with our magazine Achtung Mode. But it’s not always so easy. Looking at the last Berlin Fashion Week in July here, we were mortified by the quality of most presentations and shows. There are simply not many fashion people living in Berlin full time. They come in and out for shoots and events but for a culture to stick, you need them to be permanent residents. Hence, we introduce you to Shoko Kawaida, the founder of Townes boutique, a kind of fashion doctor in her own right. She knows fashion’s past and present very well and being Japanese of course she takes fashion seriously. A characteristic often lacking here. Kawaida closed her shop in over-gentrified Mitte to bring it to Kurfuerstenstrasse where she was invited by video artist Douglas Gordon to take over an entire floor in his new Berlin Schoeneberg factory to reopen Townes there in September with a new format. To marry the trending hood with high fashion, we brought along one of the most impressive Fall/Winter 2018-2019 collections from Louis Vuitton by Nicolas Ghesquière to the empty space of the back then future Townes. Kawaida styles some of her favorite Townes archive pieces on new German break-out model star Cosima lensed by Ronald Dick. Kawaida gives us a detailed account of the looks and her Townes story, a shop, which has been shortlisted as one of the best vintage stores in the world where designers and researchers for big houses go in and out.
Achtung Mode: Your store is quite well-known – even W Magazine mentioned you in their top ten vintage stores worldwide. What is your secret?
Shoko Kawaida: I’m very grateful for all the encouragement and features I have received. It helped a lot, as it’s my first shop. Hypebeast, WWD, SZ magazine, W magazine and now Achtung Mode. But my secrets must stay secret. The list of customers is long that asked for discretion by keeping their names and the items in question confidential after purchase.
AM: Do you remember how it all started with Townes?
SK: I have never been a collector, but I have always been excited and intrigued by designers like Helmut Lang for example. As a schoolgirl I would beg my parents to buy me a winter coat by Helmut Lang. I worked in a bar while I was a fashion student in Amsterdam, every time I went to work I passed this store, which had Helmut, Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten. I would bring the cash I earned the night before straight to the shop, ready to drop any boyfriend or any other obstacle to get those designers.
AM: Why did you choose to sell vintage?
SK: It has never been about vintage for me. Vintage originally meant 20 years or older. It was my decision to go a different way. I studied fashion design and after graduating and working for labels in Paris, I came up with the Townes concept: offer the best beyond time as well as space designs and eventually combining historic pieces with my own designs. Also, inviting contemporary artists for collaborations. I always have an open mind. And I allow a minimal presentation rather than piling up quantity on the racks and floor. Townes is not cheap. I work hard finding, fighting for, purchasing the various pieces.
AM: What can we expect from the new store?
SK: Vintage and original designs, customized items, artists’ collaborations, new designs, occasional vinyl, maybe toys, exhibitions, dinner parties, performances, android interaction, underground cinema, special services.
AM: Why would you move a store out of Mitte?
SK: The amount of space at my disposal that I would not have dreamt of. I have to thank Douglas Gordon for it. This neighborhood was once a cross between Knightsbridge London and Soho Manhattan with 300-500 square meter apartments and little specialty factories for making Alka Seltzer. After the war it turned into a red light district and Christiane F. and of course the teenager hookers made it famous. Now I see some of the most famous artists in the world in the little Rewe supermarket, like Douglas and Germany’s best writer: Rainald Goetz. Or France’s best, Michel Houellebecq, hanging out on street corners and I witness saloon style fistfights involving the Rossmann security girl and some hookers. From some striking beauties to the scariest 100-kilo-8-foot-steroid Botox-monster. My garden, the park on my block, the incredible money-laundering hairdressers. Lightshop owners driving 300.000 euro Lamborghinis and, of course, Andreas Murkudis who started the Schoeneberg Renaissance now aided by Angelika Taschen and her gallery, Matias Aguayo, the bearded 7-foot-drag-queens under the Hochbahn, Woolworth’s, LSD, my son Cosmo and Fetisch, his dad. Love burger, Café Einstein, Sunday service at the American Church.
AM: Tell us more about the Townes looks we see on the slide show (see above)?
SK: I picked four looks for Achtung Mode to channel the atmosphere of nervous excitement that has taken over Berlin Schoeneberg and the world. It feels like the next chapter is being written here – not just for Berlin or me but also for the creative set worldwide, people like us. All the animals come out day and night here: dopers, friends, hookers, artists, dealers, queens, cosplayers, lawyers, the ultimate mix and most of them female.
The looks are for the strong independent woman to get what she wants. They stand for pride, clarity and seduction. Maybe even manipulation, a taking-no-prisoners attitude. She’s dressed for a business lunch, an opening, meeting her boyfriend and if it’s one of those days for Kumpelnest and Panorama Bar as well. With eternal respect for the great, late Gianni Versace, artist Helmut Lang, Comme des Garçons. We shall mix, combine and add layers to get it right or wrong. Embracing failure. Clothes for heroines.
AM: And what is your season’s favorite?
SK: Louis Vuitton.
AM: What do you like best about Louis Vuitton collections?
SK: They stand for amazing craft and vision. Versailles in the year 3000. Always futuristic and hypnotizing. Such a welcome fresh breeze for the industry and it gets better and better.
AM: How would you describe Nicolas Ghesquière’s approach to making clothes?
SK: Like a magician he plays with layers. You always wonder: Is it separate or actually part of the shirt? This is new and pushes fashion forward. It’s like trompe-l’œil.
All images by Ronald Dick
This interview appeared first in Achtung Mode Nr. 36 (Fall/Winter 2018/2019 issue). Discover the rest of the images in print.