Treasure Hunting on Kirchengasse: For the Eclectic Urbanite

Treasure Hunt: Dec. 2012/Jan. 2013

When you turn onto Kirchengasse from the commercial droves of Mariahilferstraße, Café Mentone marks the cultural shift.

Now partially closed to traffic, Kirchengasse features a transitional mix of small, traditional stores – a porcelain shop like a trip back in time, a crowded electronics place with shelves piled high, a uniform supplier – and newer indie boutiques.

In the two blocks between Mariahilferstraße and Siebensterngasse, there are the iconic sneaker store Zapatería (Kirchengasse 26), the marijuana “grow shop” Bush ­Doctor (No. 19) and Yogesh Parfum (No. 24), an Ayurveda-based custom perfume shop.

The warm sound of Billie Holiday greeted me as I entered Lila (No. 7), local designer Lisi Lang’s boutique of feminine, often belted numbers. The shop features so many fabrics that the racks resonate with the romance of a vintage store. But what caught my eye were the accessories: cloth belts, leggings, festive flowers on leather cords, and this winter’s “It” item – knitted wool headbands in neutral colours.

The nearby Herr und Frau Klein (No. 7) merits a visit even without munchkins to outfit. This children’s store features design elements that may also appeal to childless adults – sturdy storage baskets in a variety of solid colors, gorgeous strands of yarn-wrapped illuminated globes and classic Melamine dishware for picnicking.

Shop "Common People" Vienna

The storefront of Common People | Photo: Claudio Farkasch

Sixxa (No. 22) also offers toys, this time for “adult children,” says Nomadee, an electronica singer who works at the shop. People use vinyl figurines to humanise their offices and studios, she says. Owner and graphic designer Katharina Macheiner also stocks the store with her streetwear designs. Her line is organic, fair-trade, and Europe-made at a price-point comparable to Zara. But Sixxa’s highlight is its small collection of art books (artist Jean Holabird’s version of Nabokov’s Pale Fire caught my eye) and unusual magazines (such as Cut, which includes sewing patterns).

The multilingual graphic novel store ­BILDERBOXvienna (No. 40) is another Kirchengasse resource for unusual print culture.

A vintage curved grocery window proclaims Fleischwaren in red, the former incarnation of Common People’s new Kirchengasse location (No. 18). The shop draws together men and women’s causal wear from Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe. Cheap Monday jeans are a perennial highlight. A bare brick wall, leather armchairs and an assortment of art books give the store the quality of a New York apartment.

S/GHT (No. 24) is the most sophisticated boutique on the street. Owner Vivien Brandl and her employee, artist Mario Kiesenhofer, collaborate to bring together well-crafted pieces by designers such as Anuschka Hoevener, whose winter collection includes yarn embroidery detailing, and local favourite Mija T. Rosa, whose creations can be worn to the office. Brandl and Kiesenhofer enjoy the hunt for unexpected products. These include hats from a traditional Viennese workshop as well as the retro-alpine Essl backpacks. Since then, rival boutiques have started carrying Essl after their debut at S/GHT. Such is the price of having a keen stylist’s eye.

Unified by an independent vision, the shops on Kirchengasse tend to be committed to emerging designs produced in socially conscious workshops. Thus, the street evokes the best of the past and a lot of what’s most exciting in Vienna’s indie future.

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