December, 2016 - I fulfilled a dream of visiting Berlin, and Nagicia was asked to do a pop-up @AA-Collected!
Having a few friends that had moved there from NYC and Bali, and loving the creative hub there, I was very curious. I stayed with designer friend Millicent Nobis, who is situated in the funky upcoming neighborhood of Kreuzberg. Having lived in the East Village in the 80's, I felt right at home here. Murals on the walls, international eateries, small blossoming fine art galleries, edgy clothing boutiques. At the forefront of gentrification is Millie's boutique AA-Collected.Millicent Nobis - Australian model, fashion designer, blogger and now jewelry designer of Mies Nobis and founder & CEO of AA-Collected, Berlin.
Q - what brought you to Berlin?
After I came back from backpacking around Europe in my early 20's I wanted to learn language & German seemed the obvious choice as my father was born there. I was studying fashion design in Sydney at the time and started meeting with my German Grandmother to learn the language. When I finished studying I was torn between studying jewelry design, a course I had been accepted into (and was super interested in having felt that fashion was not the right fit for me while completing the degree) or traveling, I had chosen Berlin as it was a German city to practice my language skills & the only German City with a fashion week so seemed the right place to go considering my education. As soon as I arrived I started working in a cafe; which was great for my German but very poorly paid. Then I joined a modeling agency and started modeling, the money was great but everyone was happy to speak english. This became the problem with living in Berlin, so I stayed as I loved Berlin's vibrance & easy lifestyle, but it's not the best place to learn the language unless you are really determined.
Q - why did you choose Kreuzberg to live and open a boutique?
Kreuzberg used to be totally different, it was cheap and rough which attracted a mix of artists and immigrants, but it’s not like that since I have been here. I always lived in this area; from the beginning six years ago in a share flat for (now crazy cheap price of) 200€ pm with oven heating (I had never heard of such a thing and didn’t realize why it was so cheap until too late!). The choice to open a shop here was, again, not planned but something that had been floating around my mind as an idea for some time. I had actually been looking for a new share studio but then saw this space a few doors down from my house and the plan started to formulate. My friends were all laughing because once wouldn'tI started talking about my hypothetical shop I wouldn’t shut up but I don’t think anyone thought it would really happen.
Q - How did you collect the designers for the AA-Collected and what do they bring to the space?
The building was new and the space was way too expensive for me, after talking with my dad he said you have a month before you have to confirm. Don't take it unless you have 4 great designers ready to move in! So I advertised on Ebay, kleinanzeige, craigslist, facebook… everywhere & reposted & reposted & reposted! I met with many people and turned down some that I didn’t feel were right even though I was desperate to make it happen and scared I wouldn’t find the four I needed. It was super important to start with a level of design I meant to go on with.What they brought to the space was amazing and unexpected! I had a plan and made it happen, but I never imagined all the different personalities and ideas of my coworkers that influenced the space, and how it developed the concept to what it is. Its been challenging working together with other people as I am not used to it, but in the end more fulfilling and rewarding than working alone.
Q - How do you think the neighborhood will be in 5-years time?
I guess I compare it to another area in Berlin called Prenzlauerberg, shortly before I came to Berlin it was very hip with many bars & clubs & young creative people living there. Since then everyone grew up and started having kids & careers; now the area is expensive and often labeled (by kreuzbergers) 'boring'; home to designer boutiques & vegan cafes. I think my 'kiez' (as the different areas of Berlin are called) is in this transition, the prices are rising and trendy boutiques & cafes are replacing smokey bars. It is gentrifying as its inhabitants grow older & grow up. AA- is one of the first in terms of mitte style boutiques but I like to think we still fit into the old Kreuzberg as we are really a studio of creatives doing it for ourselves and not sole-y retail. Already there is a french hair salon 'L'Atelier' nearby and two sneaker stores called 'Overkill' around the corner.The old saying 'in kreuzberg the nights are long' is maybe more applicable to other areas now.