We had the opportunity to have a lovely chat with Brenda Weischer (@brendahashtag), fashion influencer and style icon based in Berlin, about her extra stylish black and white life, the sparks of joy while thrifting and her project, Disruptive Berlin, an online shop — open twice a month — where you can find the coolest vintage selection personally curated in every aspect by Brenda herself. On a section of the website you will also find a disclaimer that aims to make you shop wisely on the platform (but it’s something we should keep in mind every single time we buy something): Brenda is the bearer of a very unique form of fashion influencing, passing on to her audience a way of buying more than just showing the most coveted trendy items. A whole organic (and very much needed) approach to consuming, keeping, treasuring and cherishing.
For me – and I guess most people – starting to realize that vintage clothes were totally able to fit a modern wardrobe and integrating them in a harmonic way with my previous clothes was a process. Was there ever a pre-vintage phase in your life?
Yes, of course! I grew up in Germany in the 90’s and didn’t even know of vintage shopping until I was a teenager. It was more a connotation of, thrifting is for people who couldn’t afford to shop anywhere else. That has obviously, and luckily, completely turned around now. I have been thrifting my wardrobe together for about a decade now.
Your relationship with vintage clothes looks like an authentic love story: how did it all start, this passion for vintage?
When I was younger I wasn’t even aware of the environmental effects and benefits. Thrifting came from a need of not wanting to look like everyone else. I moved to the UK when I was 16, and the stores me and my friends went shopping at were Topshop and Zara at the time. But as soon as there was one good thing in those stores, everyone obviously bought it and you all walked around in the same outfit.
So that’s how I initially turned to second hand shopping, the need for individuality as a teenager. And slowly I realised, the joy of finding that one good item after an hour of browsing through the endless rails of a thrift store, I could never recreate those serotonine levels from a fast fashion item. So the love story began with the rush of happiness that came from the treasure hunting.
Your Instagram feed is a never-ending series of luscious, sophisticated, almost tactile pictures of your life in black and white. When and how did you start wearing and surrounding yourself with just these two hues?
Also around 10 years ago, I think. I think we have so much to choose from nowadays when it comes to our wardrobes and how we shop, I subconsciously set myself these boundaries (of black and white) not to be overwhelmed of choices when I go into a store. And the benefits of my monochromatic wardrobe are endless. Everything matches, laundry day is perfectly easy, nothing really ever goes out of style.
On the other hand, what’s your relationship with color? Love it on other people! I just would not feel myself if someone miraculously forced me to wear yellow for a day.
Your wardrobe is a collection of immortal treasures that basically made the history of fashion itself (yes, I am thinking about all that Margiela and Comme des Garçons). What’s your favorite piece in your closet, that one garment you’d save in the midst of a fire?
In the midst of a fire I think I would actually try to save as many of my collectable books as I could. They are my treasures more than my fashion. But favorite items of clothing, I struggle to narrow that down. Almost every piece in my wardrobe has a story to it, attached to a travel or a person, a memory.
A few of my Comme des Garçons pieces I got on Tokyo travels might be my most cherished. But not my most worn as they are so special. Most worn are probably my Ann Demeulemeester boots, all indestructable.
You manage to have a modern, contemporary style even if your wardrobe is mostly constituted by vintage finds. What’s your take on fashion trends?
I don’t want to pretend like I wasn’t chasing after the trends in my teenage years and even early twenties. But there just comes the moment when you realise that no matter how much money you spend, someone is spending more; and you will never be able to truly catch up with the trends. And once you come to that point, there is no reason to even try to go with the trends at all. Trends are literally just a marketing scheme, to give consumers a new reason to buy something.
Moving on to your project, Disruptive Berlin: you created this online shop from scratch, organizing the sales of clothes and books in two monthly drops and thrifting the clothes yourself. What drove you to this idea? How did it start?
Two things. Firstly, I was vintage shopping not just for myself, but also for my friends, for years. I had, and still have, their log-in details of Ebay and reselling websites and I curate their wishlists. For them it’s time consuming and annoying to click through endless pages online, for me it’s the biggest joy.
And then I was working as an influencer, but as I slowly moved to just wearing vintage, it became increasingly frustrating for my audience. They follow me for my personal style and can’t ever recreate my outfit because my answers were always “the item is thrifted”. So I was thinking, how about I combine my personal shopping, the curation, with my audience on Instagram who is asking me for styling advise? And that’s the short story of Disruptive. It’s really a passion project for me.
What’s your advice to your customers of Disruptive Berlin on how to mix old and new in a cool way?
I always take my time to write really extensive product descriptions for the items I sell on the website, including how to style them and what to wear them with. I think, or hope, that makes it easier for customers to decide whether or not an item would be a good addition to their wardrobe.
If you see a nice dress online but you think you need new shoes, a new bag, and also a new lipstick to even wear the dress, that’s never the right choice in my opinion. Think of what you have, first, and then think of what could be a good addition to the already existing wardrobe.
What’s the artistic process behind your thrift hunting? Do you have any tip for somebody who’s new to it?
I think in order to truly hunt, you should know what you’re hunting for. That sounds so trivial but I think many people miss that point. If course you will be overwhelmed with endless Ebay pages if you don’t even know what you want or need! Make a list, what is really missing from your wardrobe. Something is in your head while reading this. But be more specific. What colour, what cut, what material? It gets easier the more you narrow it down.
I think it’s very important, in order to educate ourselves as conscious buyers, to know how much work there is behind a shop like yours, not just in terms of finding the clothes, but also shooting them, measuring them, pricing them, etc.. How long does it take to prepare a drop? Do you do everything by yourself?
Oh god, don’t even get me started haha. I am super blessed to have my own business. People say “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” but that’s obviously not true. Do what you love, under your name, and you’ll kinda work, all the time. I am lucky to live in Berlin where I have so many friends who are creatives and help me out, but it’s a lot of work.
Where do you thrift for Disruptive Berlin? In physical shops or on the Internet?
Just like a journalist, you never reveal your sources <3
Do you think that Covid-19 has impacted our way of consuming and changed our buying habits? And if yes, do you think the change will last?
I would love to say yes. But no. In my little conscious bubble it seems like there is progress being made. But if you look at the bigger picture, we are spending even more time on social media and have even more needs to buy more things.
I like to think people care where their clothes come from but when I look at Instagram and how many people promote and buy fast fashion, I just don’t think that is the case. I don’t want to end this on a negative note but the information is out there.
Everyone could easily access the knowledge of where their clothes come from, who made them, which parts of the world they are polluting. People just choose to ignore it.