09.20.11 6:22 PM ET
A Hip Haven in Berlin
In the city of Berlin, where the creative ferment is in perpetual heat, opening a designer studio or a gourmet café that serves exceptional kuchen and eye-opening espresso is nothing new. Distinguishing oneself in such a milieu may seem daunting, but for Diana Durdic and Tasha Arana, owners and founders of the café/clothing store Sing Blackbird, this was as easy as pie–or in their case, cake.
Sing Blackbird is a rare gem, one where vintage apparel, delectable dolce, and vegan food elegantly collide. It nests in the Turkish-turned-artist district of Neukölln, where in the past few years an invasion of artists, musicians, writers, and designers from around the globe have turned its smoky kebab-studded landscape into a free-range hub of pop-up studios, funky bars, and restaurants–further piquing Berlin’s palate for tasty new trends.
Sing Blackbird has managed to turn an old phone-sex shop into a charming café/vintage clothing store that delights intrepid explorers and caters to and comforts its neighborhood crowd. Speaking with co-owner Diana Durdic during one of Berlin’s rare summer days, I quickly learned about the raison d’être behind the store.
"I was working in advertising for BMW and hated it. My work was really limiting, and I had no creative autonomy. At the time, I was into making little cakes and brought some to a birthday party where I met my current business partner, Tasha Arana. She loved my cakes and soon we discovered that we both had a mutual affection for vintage clothing–as well as dolce. Soon, we teamed up and began searching the city for good vintage clothing. Despite its artcentric nature, Berlin surprisingly lacks a good vintage scene. As far as vegan food is concerned, it’s also hard to find and generally uncommon.”
The two girls blend their keen taste for fine food and fashion into a good match. A native New Yorker, Tasha previously worked as an accessories designer. Her father runs an antique store and frequently sends the girls goods to quench the Berlin vintage drought. Diana’s baking prowess marries well with her engineering mind, allowing her to run a business while flexing her creative muscles.
The store is a reflection of the girls’ eclectic style, divided by their love for fashion and food. The clothing side remains fairly minimalist. A whitewashed interior is offset by clothes organized according to color, and the rainbow effect is subtle and plays well with Sing Blackbird’s charm. Customers have the option to trade in their own goods or get a discount. Either way, you are allowed to peruse Sing Blackbird’s kitschy and eclectic collection of ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s fashion. During the warmer seasons, SB hosts a flea market (flohmarkt) on the second Sunday of every month with a popular vegan-style brunch.
The cafe side–having reformed its formerly kinky ways–is now worthy of a Marie Antoinette-style fete, with its delicate porcelain china allowing customers to indulge in scones or slices of exceptional cake. Much like its apparel section, the interior remains minimalist with Bavarian-themed woodland black-and-white stenciled wallpaper (designed by the artist, friend Karl Addison) that could easily be interpreted as a nod to German folklore or the Brothers Grimm tale of Hansel and Gretel … minus the witch.
Sing Blackbird has cultivated its own nest, one that people–whether neighborhood regulars, friends, or curious tourists–flock to for a sweet or savory fixes or some killer vintage pickings. "I like how people treat the café as more than a hangout or your average coffee and cake place. I enjoy working here and running my own show," said Diana. And although the majority of their dishes are vegan, Diana admits this was not their original intention: "We went vegan after our friend, Karl, the artist who designed the stenciled drawings, suggested we try something new. I am now vegan but am still flexible about what I serve. The quiche is certainly not vegan, but the majority of our items are those which require a lot of thoughts and care–something I think is important when it comes to eating well. Regardless, it allows to offer something that is uncommon in Berlin."
Vegan food, vintage apparel, and cake may seem like an unforeseen match, but in a city where food and design pair quite well, it continues to satiate Berlin’s unconventional taste.
Sing Blackbird is located at Sanderstrasse 11, 12047 Berlin. It’s open daily from 10:30am to 8pm.