Selfmade Experts: Karina Venger on Wardrobe Detox

©Collage / Julia Zierer

I had already been following Karina (aka Kabeaux) for awhile on Instagram when I discovered a post of hers that, with nearly 2.5K followers, had already gotten a tidy 111 comments:

the morning began with drama. the buttons on my new Carven coat are rusted, my New Balance Made in the UK’s are disintegrating, just like my Acne pop light jeans. all junk, honestly, how much does a piece of clothing have to cost to survive daily life in Berlin? shouldn’t clothing get better with time? especially when you’ve invested a fortune in it? i’m drawing a line and only wearing clothes i’ve had in my closet for years, like the trio in the photo. no shopping until september 2016☝

©instagram.com/kabeaux

“No,” I answered, “I’m not a minimalist.” I like things ornate. I like my overflowing bookshelf and I’m particularly proud of my collection of matchbooks in baroque vessels made of Meissen porcelain. I just don’t like it when a cashmere pullover starts pilling on the first day you wear it or shoes that can’t last a week on Berlin’s streets. I’m not even going to mention that whole handbag circus due to space. Minimalism and French Wardrobe are popular hashtags, but mine in teutonically factual: clothing therapy. A declaration to take ten months of freedom from shopping, all with the goal to no longer have to give up on quality. “Yes”, I typed in to keys of my iPhone, “I find that it does make a difference if I buy a pullover by Massimo Alba or one from a Scandinavian label make in Pakistan.”

My wardrobe-strategy was always the same: my investments should have nine lives, become treasured pieces to the coming generations like my father-in-law’s sky blue pullover, my go-to item on grey winter days. Contemplating my new mohair coat, I don’t see a heirloom in-the-making, just the silver buttons that proudly display the label name and punctually began to rust at the onset of winter. The so-called “five pieces” idea is also crusted-over. Five years ago, when I had to queue up for Dicker Boots with other Isabel Marant fangirls in a decidedly Soviet manner, and gave my father exact instructions as to which clothes he had to import for me from the East—because even 20 years after the fall of Iron Curtain, no-one in Moscow is amused by a lack of goods—I bought cautiously, ticked off lists and season after season at that. My wardrobe was not value-priced, but it was worth its price. 2015 was not a good year in comparison to the others: no lists and countless complaints. I’m taking counter-measures. My self-culling austerity oath can also be seen as a manifesto against my own shopping madness, a savings contract for better materials.

Clothing and accessories with real value and the potential to withstand the trends, it’s no question they exist. They don’t just adorn the velvet hangers of Rue Saint-Honoré, or hide themselves in Florentine alleys or Hiroki Nakamura’s studio. Understated luxury in my resolution for 2016. “To develop a good product that lasts long”, explains Nakamura, the founder of Visvim, “it’s very important to develop it from the inside, not from the outside.”

Nakumara’s philosophy got me thinking. My clothing and bags should also get better with time, protect me on my travels and have stories to tell. Like so often happens in fashion, I found my inspiration in the men’s department: my husband is my role model. Even though we don’t live in a 35m² apartment in Marais, he strictly keeps himself to a few pieces per season, all of which he buys on our travels or after trying them on in the shop—whereas I have to scrape together my change for a gelato due to excessive online shopping and plaintively stare into the polished shop windows of Via Roma. Craftsmanship has its price and every morning that I secretly pull a sweater from the left side of the wardrobe, I’m even more motivated to refrain and keep holding out until September.

About the Author

A phone brain from Kiev with a growing drive to communicate that is practiced and cultivated daily on Instagram—the focus is on my cat Heini, a little bit on travel and my apartment in Kreuzberg. Starting in 2016 I’ll be preparing for my Postgraduate candidacy in Oxford and posting more photos of dusty libraries, friendships from IG sealed with real meetings and the advice of Kurt Vonnegut galloping through it all (Coucou, Nes!): “Practice any art to experience becoming.”

Translation: Melissa Frost