We had a chat with Jade Helene Shimmin, clothing designer and owner of Level Eight in Mitte, to learn more about this intriguing local figure. Hailing from South Africa, Jade gives us the scoop on her designs, on what a wild night at Berghain looks like, and why she has made Berlin her home.
Tell me a bit about your shop, Level Eight, and your design process.
My design process is inspired by my surroundings and the people I meet. I make two collections a year, but depending on my involvement in fashion shows I make small collections in between. I never make more than six pieces per design.
I fell in love with the freedom and liberal attitude of Berlin. I moved here in 2014 and found the all-black fashion intriguing, and decided to do something different from my previous collections and open a black fashion shop. That is slowly changing, with new additions of pops of colour and grey tones. The collection that I started the shop with was called ‘In the greys of dreams’.
What kind of person do you feel your clothes represent?
My clothes represent individual style; I believe you are shaped by your surroundings. At the moment my target market is women aged 28–35, but this can and does obviously change, depending on the person. My clothes are minimalistic – easy luxury for women – but can totally be dressed down with sneakers.
Why Berlin? What do you love most about this city, and what does it mean to you?
I am still falling increasingly in love with Berlin; I don’t think this will ever change. The city has no judgment and is open to interpretation, which is what I want people to feel about my clothes. It is a city of expression, dark moods and fun.
What is your take on the Berghain subcultue? Is there is link between Berghain and your designs?
The stereotype is true, about going in black. Black is always safe, sexy and edgy. It’s a total mind-shock entering Berghain and seeing the all-black techno robots! I personally love a night out there, and I go as often as I can, but this has nothing to do with my decision to have an all-black clothing store – although my customers are often Berghain locals. The chokers and harnesses are a huge hit!
Can you tell me about a wild night out at Berghain that you’ve experienced?
Berghain is always a wild night; you find yourself in an environment with zero inhibitions, where everybody is extremely open and tolerant to anything! You can let your mind and body run free. One night, me and a good guy friend of mine stripped down and dancedpracticallynaked – it was amazing! We then accidentally swapped our keys for the coat check and left at different times, after a 12-hour session in the club. I went home in an oversized leather jacket and he in a tiny Zara leather jacket where his arms barely fit; it was winter, too! The same night, the guy in front of me stripped down at coat check and entered the club with just a cock ring on. Totally normal.
Who is your style icon, and why?
I’m sure most girls would say this, but (I have to admit) it’s Coco Chanel, because she freed women from corsets and made beautiful, elegant feminine fashion. Her style was impeccable and she was self-taught, which I love. She had a vision and she brought it to life. Marilyn Monroe, Mary Quant, Twiggy and Audrey Hepburn are others. I guess I also really love this era.
What are your favourite places to shop in Berlin?
Thrift shops and secondhand vintage stores. I love all of them.
What’s your ‘can’t live without’ fashion item at the moment?
When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing in the city?
There is so much to enjoy in this city. In the summer, the lakes are my favourite, and of course the outdoor clubs; it’s like a playground for adults. People-watching at cafés – there is such a great mix of people in the city.
What three words would you use to describe Berlin?
Moody, poor, creative.
What does 2017 have in store for you?
At the end of March I will show for the second time at Berlin Alternative Fashion week. I am working on a collection now. In April I will go back to South Africa for a bit of a holiday, and will be back in Berlin just in time for summer and whatever new opportunities come with it.