Creative types have long been drawn to Berlin because of low rents, ample studio space and the relatively low cost of living. The German capital's last cultural heyday was in the 1970s, when the likes of David Bowie and Iggy Pop lived in the then divided city. Now musicians, artists and designers from as far afield as Denmark and Japan are giving Berlin a young vibe again nearly half of its 3.4 million residents are under 35. "Berlin is not a rich city, so the scene is not at all about money or society or status," says Slimane. "People just don't have those values. Everyone here is creating, so there is a very different rhythm. It's a very free territory."
Spurning conventional retail wisdom, designers like Bernard Willhelm and Kostas Murkudis sell their clothes in anonymous shops in the Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg districts; shoppers track down the addresses through friends, clubs or posters plastered around the city. Many retailers take out short leases, so their establishments come and go in a matter of months, while the locations of shops like Apartment and clubs like Fun are passed on by word of mouth. Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo was so inspired by Berlin's transient scene that she opened her own "guerrilla" Comme des Garcons store in East Berlin in February and plans to close it after a year.
"These are not touristy places," says Martin Wuttke, the creative visionary behind nextguruNow, a Berlin consulting firm. "If you want to attract the fashion crowd, you can't show off in everybody's face here." Berlin's understated cool looks set to keep the crowd coming back for more.