Artist, stylist, business owner, mother – whichever area of her life Dóra Földes turns her attention to, her approach remains consistent: instilled with love and care, following her intuition and setting her own pace. Her vintage boutique-café Grus Grus in Berlin-Wedding is a microcosm of her world: an oasis of calm, an extension of her philosophy, and a reflection of her style. On a January morning, a leisurely conversation on sustainability, coincidence and living slowly reveals the inspired mindset that makes Dóra A Very Modern Muse.
Dóra wearing the Clio Top and Hera Pants in Cotton
Vintage clothing has been a long-held passion – and over the past year, you’ve also turned it into your own business. How did the evolution unfold?
I've been shopping second hand since my childhood – it was a big thing to buy second-hand in Hungary. There were these second hand stores called turkáló, which means 'digging'. To be honest, I was also really intrigued by fast fashion when I first encountered it – all these super accessible pieces that are so cheap. Of course, I soon started wondering why that was. Once I started to get to know the behind-the-scenes of fast fashion, it was a very conscious decision not to buy fast fashion again. Everyone has their way to lessen environmental harms, and my way to deal with this was to switch to second-hand.
I always had it in the back of my mind that I would open my own store one day. It was kind of a childhood dream to have boutique with a café, and combine it with art. After I had my son, I stayed home with him for a year, and at that point, I knew that I wanted to start my own business. At that point, I was already buying clothes from second-hand places and bringing them home just because I couldn't leave them there, because they were so nice. They weren't my size, and some were menswear pieces. I had a huge overstock at home, and I started to sell online, which worked really well. I took nice pictures, also of outfit ideas, and then I started on Instagram too, as well as the platform Kleider Kreisel, and Etsy. I tried everywhere I could, and it worked pretty well, which motivated me to continue.
At that point, I thought, "Why not try to make it official?" and from then on, it all came together coincidentally. There's a beautiful book store next door, run by Emily. She knew I was looking for a space, and she mentioned to me that this place was soon going to be available. At that moment, she texted the owners, Olivia Reynolds – who also owns Lobe Block – who happened to be right around the corner. She came and showed me the place, and two days later I signed the contract, and here I am a year later, living my dream.
Dóra wearing the Rib Knit Dress Alabaster and a vintage silk wrap top
A series of beautiful coincidences! And how did you settle on the name Grus Grus?
It's actually the Latin word for crane, which is a personal thing – I've always loved that bird, because of how huge and majestic it is, yet at the same time, very simple and plain. That combination reflects the style of what I'm showing here: clean and natural colors and materials. When mixed well, they can be majestic, like the bird.
Looking at your range here, your knack for pairing beautiful materials and textures comes through clearly. How do you build your collection, and where do you source pieces from?
I don't want to have secrets, because I really believe in transparency – so I buy from private people, and then it's all about curation. In the same way you can dig in piles, you can also dig online. I buy in the same places I once sold, and I also have a commission system.*
The style is very difficult to explain. I would say it's timeless pieces, with a lot of minimal basics that you can combine well, and mix with some statement pieces. There are items that I always have in stock, like linen shirts or turtlenecks, and high-waisted jeans. The point is that you should be able to buy something and wear it for a long time – maybe dress it up for a special occasion to become a statement piece.
Dóra wearing a vintage sweater and the Slouchy Pants in Alabaster
I really like to express myself creatively through fashion. It still works like in a way that keeps coming back around. A good example from this past summer is biker shorts, or vests that are coming back into chain stores now. They're out there – and why buy a newly produced one if you can find an original? The other good thing about vintage is that you can already see what these pieces look like after 20, 30, 40 years of use, meaning you can get a pretty good idea of the condition they'll be in over the next decades. It's a nice way to know that you're investing in something.
Polaroids were taken by Ambra Andrei of The Flair Edit
How would you describe your approach to styling, both for yourself and for the pieces you sell?
It's pretty different, depending on whether I'm doing it for myself or for the shop. I live out my styling passion through the shop, putting together pieces that I would never be able to wear again anymore, because I have a two-year-old. For me, it's all about comfort. Oversized, playground-friendly outfits. For the shop, I take my pictures myself, with a tripod. I'm my own model.
I really needed to be able to figure out how do everything alone – though now I have someone who helps me. Her salary is the best investment I've made in the past months, because of course the downside of doing everything yourself is not just that the responsibility is all yours, but you're all alone in the fight. I consider her a partner – to share the joy as well the difficult times.
How does your approach to 'slow' fashion connect to other aspects of your life?
Slow is a personal way of living – some people who know us [my family and I] probably even think we’re too slow [laughs], but that's how it is for us. I have to make time for things and stay in the moment – and it really shows in my kid, too. As soon as things start to speed up, or there's a fast change in what we're doing, I can feel him wanting to slow down.
For this shop, if you look around, it's like a living room here. There are books, you can sit down, have a coffee.
Because we're a bit further away from everything, most people usually come on Saturdays, but often as a customer on weekdays, you're alone – you have the whole shop to yourself, there's time to chat, ask questions and get style advice from the person here. You can try a piece on, think about it, and then decide. That's how I think you can really make conscious decisions about what you want to buy, instead of making impulse purchases.
Alongside your clothes and paintings, Grus Grus showcase several local brands and creative studios – Kotai, R•EH, Yellow Nose Studio, and Subin Kim, to name a few. How has this community come together?
It flows through the shop – a lot of people I now collaborate with first came in as customers. Even before I opened the shop, I was researching where to buy plain white and black classic T-shirts. It was really hard to find them. Eliza [from R•EH], messaged me introducing herself, for example. I have to mention Jules [Villbrandt] from Herz&Blut, too. She's a focal point for the creative community in Wedding, and so when she came and featured the shop, it reached a lot of people in the neighbourhood.
You're an artist, and some of your paintings are on the walls of the shop – how do you see the connection between your art practice and your collecting and styling?
I feel like the paintings are part of Grus Grus – when I first opened, it all happened so fast, so [my husband and I] filled it with things from our place, like furniture, and my art. It feels like an extension of my home, and of my wardrobe.
When I first started to work on the concept, I already had the idea that I wanted art above the clothing racks. Similar pieces were shown in my last exhibition, In This Land Leaves Sifted Sunlight on their Cheeks, but it all comes back to the idea of slowing down, appreciating these subtle moments, like when you're in nature, looking through leaves towards the sun. This moment always strikes me, reminds me that everything is OK, and we're really lucky to have the moment we're in.
My painting work is about nature, and the human form – which I portray as my reality, with the female form – and moments becoming one with nature. That helped me go through difficult times in my life. I'm so grateful that showing my work here also means that people can react to it, and potentially buy pieces – which means there's constant change, constant renewal.
*If you'd like to have an item considered for sale at Grus Grus, Dóra requests that you send her a few photos of it so she can determine whether it fits into the range. Pieces from before the 2000s are welcome, unless they're classic designs, but what’s more important is the material – natural, or blends of artificial and natural are preferable. "Sometimes it's just a personal preference – it can be difficult to explain what makes the cut," Dóra says. The one thing it shouldn't be, of course, is a fast fashion brand.
The interview with Dóra Földes was conducted and edited by Anna Dorothea Ker, a New Zealand-German writer and editor specializing in design, culture and travel. Her favorite place to write is in transit.
Photography by Fanette Guilloud