How to rethink your coffee shop and make your clients want to come back for more

A Berlin-based fashion designer and artist on creating a palpable space that makes people feel good, the importance of building a legacy while having a spirit-lifting giggle and learning from playful projects.

Photography by Joji Wakita

Ines Ivkovic


— “Two years ago, my friend moved from Berlin to the countryside to open a coffee shop during the summer. To reach this small town in the north-east Germany, it was a one-hour-travel by train, plus half an hour by bus,” says Asuka Hamada, a Berlin-based artist and fashion designer behind the brand Theriaca. 

“Well, now I can tell that the journey was worthwhile taking.”

Gerswalde is quite a bit off the beaten track from the heart of Berlin, but the town soon became so popular among creative people that many moved from the bustling metropolis to this small idyllic land. Asuka loved the quiet atmosphere of Gerswalde, so one day that same summer she came up with an idea for a project.

— The idea was to establish a conversation between the fashion items, food on the plates, design items and people, and it had to be engaging for both visitors and people working in the coffee shop.

Photography by Joji Wakita
Asuka rethought the function of individual objects by combining them and for the cosy Café zum Löwen she invented several hybrid products made up of two or more components:

apron + waist bag
dress + apron + kitchen cloth
tablecloth + apron
picnic mat + bag

She even made an apron within an apron.

“I mainly used a red check fabric, because I thought that if I saw the same pattern and the same fabric everywhere, the line of distinction between objects would become less obvious.”

— When objects merge, they show up in a curious shape, says Asuka.
ASUKA I made a tablecloth with two pieces of aprons on both sides, and people who wore this had to keep the right distance; otherwise, they would pull each other. When you wear this apron-tablecloth and are face-to-face with someone, you always end up giggling. And it seemed like an excellent idea to have fun instead of staring at the table while waiting for the waiter to arrive.

Photography by Joji Wakita
ASUKA The owner of the coffee shop is a father to two boys, so I thought about creating some clothes for the toys as well. I also made a bag with a picnic mat, and visitors could put some food in the bag and take it out in the garden, lay out the mat and sit on the fresh grass.

Photography by Joji Wakita
— It was a relaxing project, all visitors enjoyed wearing strange clothes and feeling one with the coffee shop, and I really enjoyed seeing children excited about the toys.

ASUKA I love to think of objects as if they were tools. If you use them to create communication, they can easily become triggers of action.

Photography by Joji Wakita
Asuka Hamado thinks that objects are not only objects: they can be much much more.

ASUKA The summer day at the Café zum Löwen was more like an art installation for me, but I still keep these ideas in mind when I design clothes.

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