Funky Berlin: Don't Come If You Want Something Normal

19 minutes ago

“I mean, people don’t come to my shop if they want something normal. If you want something normal, you go to a big department store.”

Melinda Stokes is the owner and operator of Stokx Shop.

“So we’re on the second floor of Haus Schwarzenberg at the Rosenthaler Straße in Berlin Mitte. I mean, being on the second floor is quite a good filter, because the very boring people are too frightened to come into the staircase. By the time you get to the second floor, you see that there’s a place that isn’t completely graffitied, and there’s a glass door. Generally people come in and look a little confused at first, but then they relax into it, and if they find that things suit them, then I’ll generally see them a couple of years later.”

Haus Schwarzenberg is the black sheep amidst its deluxe neighbors. It's been a brush factory and a commune. The studios and shops here now are plastered in graffiti.

Melinda Stokes' workspace at her shop, Stokx, located in Mitte.
Credit Connor Renfroe

“Some of the graffiti - I find very interesting and nice. One of my colleagues does these beautiful birds. She’s called Caselle, and she’s done this beautiful flamingo outside my door. I like the flamingo, but I don’t like ‘Jenny was here.’”

Melinda and the other artists here live by their own rules. It's a shrinking island of individualism and freedom in a sea of commercialism.

“This house was empty in the early '90s. In that time, the buildings had to be occupied, so when the artists moved in, because they were invited to — well they wanted to make a bar.

And in the meantime, the house has even been bought by the city, because they realized that this is the only interesting place left in this neighborhood. If you take it away, all the gentrified stuff would look much more boring, because it wouldn’t have a contrast.”

Melinda’s success comes from the unique design of her clothing.

“I like to think that I reinvent the wheel - but I make clothing, clothing that has something about it that is an improvement. I’m interested in pockets for example. I make them so that things don’t fall out. That’s why people describe me as functional; because I do things like make logical pockets. 

CIEE student and Funky Berlin contributor Connor Renfroe.

Well, the other thing about that is that I make my customers slightly addicted to my clothes, because when they put other stuff on, things fall out of their pockets or they don’t have anywhere to put their phone. So, yeah, I turn them into pocket junkies.

So I’m not so interested in making things that are just beautiful, because I find that that’s only one part of the experience you have with clothes.”

Funky Berlin is student radio and podcasts from The CIEE Global Institute Berlin that captures the voices, sounds and stories of this vibrant city at the crossroads of Europe and the World.
Giving voice, listening and cross-cultural learning drive, Funky Berlin's mission is to connect and share amongst diverse cultures and generations.
Funky Berlin students learn research, reporting and digital production skills and produce stories in state-of-the-art studios at the CIEE Global Media Center located in Kreuzberg.