There is one shop on my road in Berlin which really stands out from the rest. Himo is nestled in between a closed-down supermarket and a quiet, tired-seeming hairdressers. It looks somehow mischievous. Himo has silver tinsel hanging down from the doorframe, and a handwritten note on the door announcing that it is open Wednesday to Saturday -- apart from those Saturdays when its owners are at the opera. It’s a hat shop. In fact, it must be the most exciting hat shop in the world. Through the window you can see a huge headpiece made from one big lamp shade and lots of little ones; you can see hats which resemble food, and toys, and animals; and you can see cases, boxes and drawers overflowing with colourful bits and bobs for making things. Looking through the window, you don’t just want to try on every hat you can see; you want to ask if you can come in and make one too.
I grew up thinking that ‘fashion’ was a terribly serious thing. I used to read the kinds of magazines which showed you pictures of fashionable people wearing expensive clothes, and then told you where you could buy cheaper, normal-person versions. ‘Fashion’, I thought, was for the rich, and the famous, and the beautiful. Those people were allowed to experiment with different styles and fabrics, but everyone else had better stick to H&M or New Look, where all of the important decisions had already been made, and you just had to choose a size and colour. I wish I had grown up over the road from Himo, and not a British newsagent, where all the glowing, glossy magazine-faces would remind you every day that you could read about fashion, but you certainly couldn’t take part in it.
What I like about shops like Himo – and there are a number of shops like it in Berlin – is that they make fashion not only accessible and affordable (the prices in Himo start at 10 euro), but they also make it look like really good fun. Why should cutting and sticking and gluing be things that you stop doing after the age of 11? Why should you feel that the things you wear have to come ready-made, and packed and folded into plastic bags? I firmly believe that what you wear is a great way of telling the world a little bit about who you are and what you like. You shouldn’t have to learn about who you are from magazines and manikins, you should be able to find out by yourself. So maybe the next time you find yourself on the high street with some spare pocket money, you could skip the magazines and head over to an arts and crafts shop...?