From vintage Ann Demeulemeester, ‘90s Margiela and Helmut Lang, to an assortment of books on architecture, fashion and design, Disruptive Berlin is the fashion archive we’ve been waiting for. Opening bimonthly, with password protection and a limited selection of curated designer finds, the shop invites you to buy less and instead invest in quality pieces that will be worn with longevity.
After receiving a Masters Degree in Fashion Journalism at Central Saint Martins and having grown up sifting through eBay and Vestiaire Collective, the brainchild behind the minimalist haven, Brenda Weischer, wanted a space where people could integrate good design into everyday living. And in times of mindless consumerism, didn’t have to compromise their ethics for style while remaining conscious when it came to sustainability.
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It’s clear that you’re passionate about architecture – specifically mid-century and brutalism – as well as minimalist fashion, art and design. But what initially sparked your interest in all of this?
When it comes to design, I don’t think it starts or ends with fashion. I’m always quite surprised (and disappointed, frankly) when I go to someone’s house, they’re all dressed in designer and then their entire house is filled with Ikea. I don’t mean that Ikea is bad, but shouldn’t your style touch all aspects of life? Isn’t where you live, what you read, what you eat, equally or actually more important than your fashion? I’m not exactly sure what sparked my interest in design but I think it naturally touches all aspects of life, hence also architecture, the way I curate my personal home with vintage or second-hand furniture, or the music and art that I enjoy. I believe that it all goes hand in hand!
And what inspired you to work in fashion? Was this something you knew you wanted from a young age?
Definitely from a young age; I think I wanted to work in the creative field for as long as I can remember. I recently found my design books of sketches I made when I was a little girl, but I’m pretty sure I just drew outfits that my Barbies already had – pure plagiarism, honestly. I wanted to be an artist but pretty soon learned that I couldn’t paint and never had the confidence for abstract art. Fashion came quite naturally I think.
Disruptive’s philosophy is quite different from other stores. Opening only two times a month with curated releases, password protection and newsletters as the primary way to get all the latest updates; The concept is great, discreet enough to keep out people who want easy access to mindless consumption, but inviting to those with a genuine interest in fashion, art and design. That being said, how did you come up with this concept, and what made you stick with it?
I have always been obsessed with finding vintage treasures, and over the years, I started to be the personal shopper for all of my friends. I had the login details for their eBay and Vestiaire accounts and would buy their wardrobe. The hunt for that special item that might be hidden on page 14 and only has blurry pictures, which was a pain for them, was the biggest joy for me. And in the meantime, I was working as an influencer but couldn’t really tell my audience where to get my outfits because my answer was always ‘it’s vintage,’ which was very unsatisfactory for them, obviously. People followed me for my personal style but I wasn’t really able to help them. So combine these two things into a business idea – that’s the short story of how Disruptive came to be.
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Not only do you curate a beautiful selection of archival designer pieces but you also have a deep focus on second-hand books, art and design. When did you start collecting books and clothing, and what made you want to share your love of these pieces with the world?
The books have quite a similar backstory; I show my apartment on Instagram, which is filled with books, most of them I buy on my travels. I think I really started collecting around ten years ago. And people kept asking me where to get them, and my answer would be ‘a tiny vintage shop in St. German but I forgot its name.’ I asked my audience if they would be interested in buying vintage books based on design and architecture, sourced by me, and the answer was yes. Supply and demand I guess! 
At what point did you realize this could be turned from a passion-project and hobby to a successful career?
Depending on how someone defines success… If success means I’m making tons of money with it, then I’m definitely still years away from success. But in my definition, I wake up happy and get to do what I love. I get to combine passion and work; I get to be my own boss and work by my own rules, and I can sleep in on days where I have period cramps and I can work until 3 am when I feel motivated and inspired. Really depends on the point of view whether I have a career or not, and whether that career is successful or not. Maybe my view is the most important one, more important than that of society.
Many people that see me on social media especially have a bit of a distorted view on success. Just because things are sold out on the Disruptive Berlin website it doesn’t mean I can fully depend on those sales financially. I would say I’m working on it!
How would you describe your personal style? Would you ever buy anything for Disruptive Berlin that you personally would not wear yourself? If not, is it hard to detach yourself from the clothing and books you get for the shop?
If you see me on the street, or on Instagram actually, your first thought might be that ‘she’s definitely a minimalist.’ However, a look at my two closets (the black one and the white one) quickly exposes the true hoarder that I am. I believe in a uniform, I like everything I buy to seamlessly blend into my existing wardrobe. All things should be able to be paired together.
As far as the things I buy for Disruptive, I would wear them all. That’s also what makes my job as a salesperson easy; I genuinely would wear that item too. If you start buying things that you would purchase yourself, the selling part becomes hard work. If you can’t convince yourself of it, how are you going to do that to someone else? But obviously, it also makes it hard for me to let go of the items sometimes as I never know if I will find an item like it ever again. Always attached, never detached.
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What are some of your favourite second-hand pieces that you’ve acquired?
I think my most favourite are some of my Comme Des Garçons blouses that I thrifted mostly in Tokyo. They’re all special designs and so precious. The most worn items are my simple Helmut Lang pieces, they don’t look very special but I can just throw them on and they go with everything. That’s why I don’t sell crazy things on Disruptive, I don’t want anything to rot in your closet. I sell basics mostly that you can integrate into your everyday life. Appreciate the design but make sure it’s something you’ll actually wear.
If any, what is the one piece you regret not getting either for yourself or Disruptive Berlin?
Sounds cheesy but seeing the people who have bought the items so happy with their purchases makes it worth it to sell them. Also, I keep Disruptive and I very separate, I can’t legally buy from myself.
In an age of mindless consumption and fast fashion, what are your tips for curating a timeless wardrobe and shopping more consciously?
I don’t want to come off hypocritical, I am still a business trying to sell items, and so I don’t want to falsely greenwash myself. There is no shopping 100% eco-friendly, only consciously, as you said. Cutting out fast fashion would be a great start. I understand that people say that’s not possible with their budget, but these items are of such poor quality that you will lose your money sooner or later.
Saying ‘cut out fast fashion’ doesn’t mean ‘buy a vintage Chanel on Vestiaire’ in exchange. I refuse to believe there is no thrift store or charity shop in your area. If you take that half an hour searching through the rails there, I guarantee you will find a better dress than you will find on Pretty Little Things. Borrow things from friends and lend out things to them in return. No money involved. Look at the composition labels, what material is the item made out of? There are so many little steps one can take towards shopping a little more consciously. But the most obvious one is just to shop less.
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Your overall ethos seems very intentional and environmentally conscious in every aspect of your life. What initially got you interested in these views and ways of living?
Simply from my privilege to do so – I have the time to inform myself, the education that provided me with knowledge, the money to travel and widen my horizons on things that are going on in the world. And I believe that privilege brings a responsibility with it.
Considering everything that is going on in the world right now, how do you think this will affect sustainability overall, and within the fashion industry?
Well, the main goal is to make sustainability more attractive. With it being more attractive, there will be more demand for sustainable products. With that, hopefully, more pressure on the big firms that could actually make an impact. I’m not changing the world with my tiny business but I’m hoping to at least inspire the big fish to do better.
How do you feel consumerism and our values socially and environmentally will change going forward, if at all? With your influence and vantage point, have you noticed people becoming less attached to materiality – being happy with less, or with what they already have?
I am definitely in my little conscious bubble where I think we are all heading in the right direction and am then completely shocked whenever I get a glimpse at the ‘real world’ aka my Instagram explore page, where influencers from ‘love island’ promote the latest must-haves from Missguided and Fashionnova. I don’t want to sound pessimistic but outside of my tiny bubble the world is becoming more and more attached to material items and need a new outfit every weekend. And that makes me feel quite hopeless at times, to be honest.
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What is your advice for someone trying to start out in the fashion industry? How can they be successful and relevant going forward given our current world affairs?
I think you are relevant if you care about current world affairs, have something to say, and know how and where to say it. I think in the world of today, storytelling is everything. Having a great product or having the best grades and going to the best universities is good and all, but within fashion you really need to be able to sell yourself as well. How do you make people listen to you? By having something to say.
Right now, Disruptive explores art and design mainly through books. Would you ever consider the addition of homeware and furniture to the mix?
I think vintage furniture is a whole different league, for now, I’ll leave selling the 20K designer sofas to the experts.
You graduated in fashion journalism from Central Saint Martins, would you ever consider adding a blog or journalistic aspect to Disruptive Berlin?
Working on it, actually! I didn’t want to have articles on the Disruptive website just for the sake of longer viewing times (time spent on the website which would be valuable for advertisers), so I left it until I had a clear vision for the content.
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What can we expect in the near future? In the beginning, you were releasing jewellery and clothing under Disruptive. Is this something you are thinking of revisiting anytime soon?
For now, I’m sticking to the programme. I am trying to think of ways that I could approach a product of my own in a sustainable way.
Finally, it’s rare to see someone with such influence remain unaffected and authentic, how have you stayed so genuine and unapologetically yourself considering all the attention you have garnered through your platform? Do you have any tips for people struggling with authenticity in today’s mediascape?
Thank you! That really means a lot to me when people see me as authentic. I am the last generation to grow up without the Internet – I got my first email address at 13 and logged into Facebook at 15, so I grew up with being judged by my social environment, but not by the entire Internet. I think it’s a lot harder for Gen Zs to grow up unaffected by other people’s opinions, which ultimately affects and shapes everyone. I was able to find myself a little before I joined Instagram. This quote is quite cheesy and I don’t even know who it is by but I truly believe in: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
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