I trust Berlin to tell me what’s cool. Despite being a global capital, it has high regard for local brands that focus on sustainability and being functional rather than just being trendy. You can just feel that amid tourist lanes that bow to the gods of fast-fashion and franchises, every other corner has a workshop where the best kept secrets are made for the truly tasteful.
In Kreuzberg, one can book an appointment to visit the studio of the label Velt. The brand won the Swiss Design Award twice, something not even Nike has done, as Velt proudly points out. It’s a must-visit if you’re looking for shoes, bags and leather accessories conceived in Berlin, created in Swiss factories, and made from Europe’s finest leather.
Velt is the brainchild of Stefan Rechsteiner and Patrick Rüegg. “It was the red wine that started the idea,” says Rechsteiner. The two were flatmates in Berlin, killing time in between freelance jobs when they realized that their experience in shoe-making since their university days can be turned into hobby.
Now, five years after they first launched, it’s a full-blown fashion venture. They’re proud of their stockists in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. And they tell me that the possibility of landing a deal with the bigger online shopping spots isn’t far in sight.
They first started out with men’s shoes which they say managed to merge classic silhouettes with a sporty design. And I couldn’t argue otherwise. Theirs are also shoes meant to last, so you can have something reliable in your racks. You can wear them to formal occasions and also for every day wear during summer jolts to Tempelhof Field. When they pinned just the right tannery in Germany and two years after they made their initial designs, they expanded with women’s bags. Each piece has a functionality behind it: a bucket bag for every day errands, a half-moon bag for more casual days, and a circular one for parties and nights out.
“We try to do away with seasons, we look at colors and quality,”says Rüegg. It’s that kind of thoughtfulness which gives you your money’s worth with each purchase. The label also doesn’t limit itself to a certain age group. “My mother would use this and so do our friends and when we go to art fairs we’d see our bags on different kinds of people,” says Rechsteiner.
If you really want to specify who often picks up their products, they will tell you it’s the “creative class.” Rechsteiner says, “It’s for for the consumer that pays attention. The style is one thing. Where it’s made and how it’s made is also what defines us.” He explains how they look for sustainable companies that understand how they pay attention to details: the specific way the leather feels and folds, and how it takes on color pigment.
With a great respect for technique and design, Rechsteiner and Rüegg tell me that their next challenge is to reach consumers effectively. “It’s about how to make the consumer come to you. We have the quality and the design. But it’s about telling [a] story,” says Rechsteiner. It’s true but they’ve got nothing to worry about. Between the designs and sourcing, they sew together across Europe, and they’ve got a cool story. And that in itself is enough to make us stop scrolling through our feeds.