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The story of Katrina and STUDIO183 in Berlin

Studio 183 Berlin

• 1 810 words • 7min read •

Let me introduce you to STUDIO 183, located in Berlin, Germany. This independent retail platform is representing an evolving selection of Berlin-based and international designers and artists. I met (virtually, of course) Katrina Ryback, the owner and founder of this concept store. A woman inspired by nature and art, minimalism, and contemporary culture. She created an impressive and engaging meeting point for all people who are sensitive to art, fashion, and design.

From Social Sciences to Fashion Entrepreneur

Katrina discovered a passion for fashion when she found herself in NYC in her mid-20s. After quitting a social entrepreneurship internship, Katrina ended up working at backstage shows during Fashion Weeks. This is how she discovered her ambition to build her career in the fashion industry. And more especially for independent brands and creators.

Therefore, she came back to Germany to work in a Fashion Agency based in Munich, for press and distribution for independent brands. A couple of years later, love drives her in Berlin, where she could enjoy her relationship and start working at the University of Fashion Design. However, Katrina felt that she also had something to create on her own. In her late 20s, she quit her job, without any plan.

I did not know what to do, but I did not want to do this office job anymore.” Simple as this, Katrina had enough courage and confidence with herself to trust her instinct.

Katrina had something in mind. Her parents living in Paris, she was often coming there from time to time. There, she founded fantastic vintage pieces that she brought with her and started to sell in flea markets in Berlin. You have to know that in Germany, flea markets are very hype places. Those flea markets are not like the one in France; you don’t want to go in there. In Germany, especially in Berlin, people in the flea markets are sourcing terrific pieces, and you are often very proud of what you find when you stroll these markets. I can recommend it to you if you ever go to Germany.

So, Katrina realized these flea markets were not a sufficient source of income. The idea of sharing a space emerged. Katrina asked various stores in Berlin if she may rent rack space in their stores. However, the stores declined. She then developed the idea of renting her own space and shared the rent with different creators and designers she met during her flea market time. This is how the first pop up project came to life in collaboration with her partner at the time, Mark Hunt, filmmaker, and photographer. 

Test your market!

Even if Katrina is bold, she is careful and realistic with her idea. The concept was clear, she knew precisely what she wanted to do, but now she needed to test it. 

So Katrina and Mark opened a one-week pop-up store in January 2015 during Berlin Fashion Week. They had quite a great location; the gallery space was located in Mitte, which is a perfect place because it’s part of the very center and historical side of the city. You find in this area the most monuments: the Fernsehturm on the Alexanderplatz, the Brandenburger Tor, the Reichstag, the Karl-Marx-Allee, and the bustling Hackescher Markt and surroundings with independent boutiques and galleries. 

Katrina and Mark experienced direct success with their project; designers and creators rented space inside the pop-up store. They hosted events with DJs and tattoo artists, an enjoyable experience they decided to continue. So, they did it again, but this time for more extended periods. They also decided to take over more of the managerial and promotion of the designers by assisting with sales and marketing strategies. That’s how the concept developed, with a very organic and word-of-mouth process.

Katrina ended up not just selling vintage, but solely focusing on the independent brands, which were Berlin-based and international. The concept was gradually taking shape.

The good opportunity

Do you know BIKINI Berlin? You should. Located at the Zoo (which is awesome by the way), it is the world’s first concept shopping mall. Consistently differentiating itself from regular shopping centers, the mall sees itself as a compilation of carefully curated boutiques and gastro concepts. The shopping mall is also known for its modular pop-up boxes, which brands can rent temporarily. This concept allows well-known brands to launch new products and also makes it easier for aspiring young designers to present their creations to the public for the first time. Nice, isn’t it?

So Katrina and the team received the exceptional opportunity to curate a space inside this innovative mall. Katrina was looking for a smaller space to rent; however, the mall was looking for creative tenants to curate a larger area.

“They asked if there is anything we could do with 400 sqm, we were so motivated!! We created a very cool space with a street artist doing a mural, a little garden. We had a crazy fun time. That was only supposed to be for 2 or 3 months max. We are now still in BIKINI today.”

The concept of STUDIO183

Now that the concept was working, the creative duo wanted to go back to Mitte, where everything began. In addition to the space in Bikini Berlin, they opened a second store in October 2016, their flagship store. “Studio 183” was written across the building in bold letters. As the concept was transitioning from a pop up to longterm store space, a rebranding was necessary. They asked the owner of the building if they could use “STUDIO183” for the store branding, and he agreed, so STUDIO183 was born. STUDIO183’s purpose is to assist in increasing the visibility of emerging brands

Katrina curates indie creators, brands, and fashion designers who aim to gain visibility and direct customers’ feedback. In exchange for 3-months visibility in her store, the vendors access a retail and promotional platform. If the partnership is a success, Katrina, and the team offer designers the possibility to work with the store on a longterm basis.

“It’s essential that customers have an experience when they come to the stores. We like to educate the customers when they want to know what they are buying. So traceability for us is very important. Every designer we represent in the store has a sign, like in a gallery, where you can read where they produced and designed their items. The storytelling for us is crucial.”

The designers they work with often create unique one-off pieces that are unisex and one-size-fits-all“I think this is the future of fashion.” Many designers collaborate with fuse fashion and art through handpainted pieces or architectural design. Therefore, they often organize exhibitions during gallery weekends, art weeks, or fashion weeks. An interdisciplinary approach immensely favored in the Berlin scene.

If you want a hint of what STUDIO183 offers in-store, check out the work of Assembled Half, a South Korean designer from Seoul. Based in Berlin, Katrina and her have been working together since nearly the very beginning. Sojin Park creates unique one-off items, including garments and visual art such as canvases.

The concept allows her to create scarcity, with unique pieces, and enable her to change her offer regularly, so the customers come back to her shop to stay updated with the unique articles.

Build a powerful (and supportive) community

Events are a big part of our DNA,” another good thing at STUDIO183 is how Katrina and her team build a relationship with their customers. More precisely, how they create a connection between the designers they represent and their creative customers. STUDIO183 is building a community by putting on lots of events. “I mean, usually, we don’t sell that much during these events, but that’s okay; we all have a good time, and it’s great for exposure.”

It’s also an excellent opportunity for different creators to meet, share, and get feedback, to network. It’s not just fashion designers coming here, but also filmmakers, photographers, models,… Lots of people who can find ways to quickly help each other in a very chill atmosphere. A strategy that fits the Berliner people, very international and therefore very open-minded to connect, network, and help each other out thanks to their connection.

Digital is, however, an excellent way to keep the relationship after the visit to the store. In particular, with Instagram, defined as a customer relationship tool by STUDIO183. “We do have our customers following us on Instagram, and they sometimes enquire directly about items or come in-store when they see what we posted, so that’s kind of cool.” Especially during these hard times. STUDIO183 receives lots of helpful comments and support through social media. 

I think our online shop is a good addition to brick-and-mortar. If you have customers before and are recurring, who already know the quality of the brand, but they cannot come to the shop because they are abroad, then it’s an excellent way for them to purchase and connect. But I do think it is necessary to run a physical store space. With the coronavirus situation, it is very helpful to keep in touch with our customers. We have thankfully received much support from them.”

Facing difficulties

As you all know, it is a tough time also for retail and gastronomy. I could not end this interview without asking how Katrina is managing the quarantine as an entrepreneur. 

As you could imagine, by reading my piece for 6 minutes now, you could imagine that our courageous entrepreneur must remain motivated during this time. On their Instagram account, they organize Live Stream Events called “STUDIO183 Online Hangouts,” to continue sharing the DNA and philosophy of STUDIO183. 

During these online events, they invite designers and artists to present their work and their key pieces and share their philosophy, processes, and brand story. 

Besides, STUDIO183 has developed its own masks created from upcycled deadstock STUDIO183 apparel. 

“And I have to say I enjoy taking time for myself. It has been a long time I did not take the time to breathe. Having a business like this is very consuming, you forget about resting and relaxing. I read I meditate; I am enjoying the slow living process.”

Take your time

If you also want to create your own business, here is a piece of advice from Katrina: 

“Take your time, don’t rush into things too quickly: make sure that your first steps are solid, and test your model. If you encounter good opportunities, go for it and figure it out step-by-step. You will never be able to plan everything, you cannot control everything, and nothing is perfect. This is what makes your concept store authentic, true, and honest to people.”

Don’t be afraid; you will always figure it out!

STUDIO183 Flagship

Brunnenstrasse 183

10119 Berlin

STUDIO183 Bikini Berlin

Budapester Strasse 46

10787 Berlin

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