Getting to know Mongrels in Common
Earlier this week I told you all about the Vogue Fashion’s Night Out at Hotel Concorde; the tea cocktails, the sore feet, the goodie bags, and, most importantly, the fashion. Mongrels in Common, a permanent fixture of Berlin’s flourishing fashion scene, was one of three labels presenting their collections that night. In fact, the Mongrels aka. Livia Ximénez-Carrillo and Christine Pluess were there for the second year running. When they told me their latest collection was inspired by Stevie Wonder and Iceland, I just had to find out more, so I invited myself along to their shop cum atelier in Berlin’s Mitte district.
I arrive on the Tieckstraße, a sleepy residential street just off the hip Torstraße with its concept stores, independent galleries and never ending tide of pop up showrooms. I ring the bell at number 29, and am greeted at the door by a rather excited dog – is this the eponymous Mongrel? “No,” Livia tells me, closing the door behind us “this is Betty.” As I take in my surroundings – the neat rails of clothing out front, the sewing machines and hard-working assistants out back – Livia explains where the unusual name comes from.
“When I first met Christine, my business partner, we were still students at the Esmod fashion school in Berlin. We found we had a lot in common, because we both come from multicultural backgrounds – together we have roots in Spain, Peru, Switzerland and Germany. Hence, Mongrels in Common.”
Their collections are also characterised by unusual combinations – masculine and feminine, avant-garde and classic, subdued colours and neon – a style they describe as “mongrelism”. Take their current autumn/winter collection, entitled ‘Stevie Wonder in Iceland’, for example. During a recent trip to Iceland, Livia was inspired by the country and the sensory overload she experienced there; hot and cold, smooth and rough. Meanwhile, back in Berlin, Christine had been listening to a lot of Stevie Wonder’s music. When Livia and Christine were reunited, their two very different experiences also, unexpectedly, came together; the collection explores what it would be like for somebody like Stevie Wonder, who is blind, to travel to Iceland.
I ask about the artwork on the partition wall which partly obscures the store from the atelier. The motif is familiar to me, and I realise I have seen it many times before on the streets of Berlin. “That picture’s by a street artist named XOOX,” Livia explains, “he lives in Berlin. His work often features fashion in some way. Look,” she pulls out a patterned shawl from the shelf behind her, “this scarf is from one of our earlier collections. XOOX designed the print for it.” I confess my love of clothes with backstory and, at this, Livia pulls down a pair of shoes with unusually-shaped heels. “These,” she smiles, “were made by a designer in London for one of our collections. We just loved the sculpture-like heels. But, after they had arrived, the designer explained that the design is actually based on fetish shoes! We were rather shocked but it didn’t detract from the elegant design, these are still some of my favourite shoes.”
Finally, it’s time to leave, so I bid Livia and Betty farewell and send my regards to Christine, who is currently somewhere in Ibiza. If you are looking for original and high quality clothing, then I recommend paying the mongrels a visit. The whir of the sewing machines and relaxed, intimate atmosphere in the store make for a truly pleasurable shopping experience.