Clémentine’s Story: Building a Vintage Fashion Business in Berlin
I’m very excited to add a new chapter to our Expat Stories! After featuring Faye, British health and fitness coach, I had a chat with Berlin vintage fashion solopreneur Clémentine. It is in Berlin that this expat discovered her love of 90s fashion could also become her full-time job. Let’s find out a bit more about this solopreneur: how she built her business, what inspires her about Berlin, and how her dream came true in this city.
Berlin & Around: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Clémentine: I’m Clémentine, a 30-year-old French woman. Born and raised in Paris, I’ve been living in Berlin pretty much since 2011. I run the online vintage shop Paradisio Vintage.
Berlin & Around: What inspired you to dive into Berlin vintage fashion?
Clémentine: When I came to Berlin in 2011, I was going to the Grenzallee flea market every Sunday. Back then, very few people knew about it. It was my little secret and I kept finding more treasures than I could store. Around this time, I met Lothaire, another French expat who was selling vintage clothes online. I was impressed by his shop and never thought I could do something similar, but he pushed me to start. So I guess that’s how I got started! (Here is the link to Lothaire’s Etsy shop).
Berlin & Around: How did you turn your passion for Berlin vintage fashion into a full-time job?
Clémentine: In 2015, I returned to Paris for 2 years to finish my studies. I didn’t have much free time to dedicate to the shop, so it took me 5 years to turn it into a full-time job. I was mainly doing it as a side hustle at the beginning, but year-after-year it became apparent that it had more potential, so I told myself, “when you get back to Berlin, you will do it for good!” My studies in Communications & Marketing also gave me the tools I needed to be confident enough to jump into business and give it my all.
Berlin & Around: What’s your top piece of advice for others looking to start a business?
Clémentine: The key is to be an autodidact to a certain extent. The internet is your best friend here – you can find so many classes and videos online to learn very specific tasks. When you have a small business you have to multitask. You will have to deal with communications, marketing, finance, graphic design, video & photography, social media and so much more. You are basically a one-person 360° marketing agency also responsible for supply chain management and logistics. You can’t know everything but you can learn!
Berlin & Around: How is the Berlin vintage fashion scene different from Paris?
Clémentine: I’m following some French vintage influencers. The most popular is @claravictoria and I think she represents vintage Parisian fashion perfectly: 70s vibes, very feminine and elegant. You could probably say her style is very ‘Parisian’. For me, Berlin represents more 90s vintage streetwear and sportswear – pieces I try to reflect in my selection.
Berlin & Around: Why did you move to Berlin? What made you stay?
Clémentine: Ahah, I probably didn’t move for the right reasons! I was 20, just finished with my Bachelor’s in Nursing, which was physically and emotionally exhausting. I felt the need to release the stress of the past 3 years, and the clubs in Berlin were a great place to do so, until I decided that I need to do something else with my life. So I went back to Paris in 2015 for 2 years to get a new degree. But I finally came back to be with my boyfriend who is German and whom I’ve know since 2010. We are still together today!
Berlin & Around: What do you love about Berlin? What do you NOT love?
Clémentine: I love the diversity of people, the fact that people are quite accessible (in Paris it doesn’t feel that way) and “Berlin and Around” in its literal sense. I fell in love with Berlin and its surroundings: the lakes, the forests, the villages…There is always something new to discover.
I had to think a bit to find something I don’t love, but it is very obvious: supermarkets are not comparable to those in France. The selection, the packaging, the product presentation surely aren’t the most important things when it comes to food quality and sustainability, but I can’t help that it affects my shopping experience.
Berlin & Around: Do you have any Berlin tips for newcomers?
Clémentine: Don’t stay in your neighbourhood! Be adventurous and discover other parts of the city. Berlin is many cities in one, every single one waiting to be discovered, as are the lakes and forests surrounding town.
Join the Facebook group of your ‘community’ in Berlin. And please, don’t be like me – learn German properly as quickly as possible!
Berlin & Around: What are your favourite cafes or restaurants?
Clémentine: My boyfriend didn’t want me to tell you but I will. We love Taverna Dimikritos, a greek restaurant in Kreuzberg. The food is amazing (not a veggie heaven though like most Greek restaurants). The atmosphere and the people working there are so nice that it always feels like I grew up in Greece and am coming back home.
Berlin & Around: Where’s your favourite neighbourhood – or even better, favourite street – and why?
Clémentine: Forever Pflügerstraße! This is where I had my first apartment. I lived with many different friends during a crazy time in my life. Our flat was on the ground floor and people were just coming and going through the windows that were always open. It was an intense time in my life deeply connected to this street.