At Home with BrendaHashtag
The Berlin-based journalist, entrepreneur, and minimalist style icon BrendaHashtag is much more than your average influencer. She started her instagram back in 2013 with few expectations and has since grown her following to nearly 100k. Her social growth is in no doubt due to a combination of her impeccable taste in design and her natural approachability—she's constantly communicating with her audience and creating forum-like discussions where her followers can interact through her instagram stories.
After receiving a masters degree from Central Saint Martins at the end of 2017, Brenda relocated to her favorite city in the world, Berlin, and is in the process of launching her new business endeavor, Disruptive Berlin. We followed Brenda around her beautifully-furnished apartment and chatted about social media, minimalism, and what she's working on next.
For those unfamiliar, who are you, what do you do, and did you get your start?
I actually just got a DM on instagram today that just said, “what exactly do you do for a living?” and I laughed at it, but honestly, I don’t have a proper job title and in any small talk I’d just say “I work in social media and fashion.” I was born and raised in Germany but moved abroad alone when I was 16 to learn English mainly. From then on I haven't really been in one place for more than a year. I started my instagram account in 2013, not understanding the app at all. I never intended it to grow as much as it did, but it since has shaped my entire career. I write freelance, style, blog sometimes, do social media consulting and this year I’m finally launching my own company which has been in the works for over a year, which will me a multi-label online streetwear store. I just relocated to Berlin from London, where I finished my masters in fashion journalism at Central Saint Martins. Pretty much all of my job opportunities that I’ve been working on in the past have come from social media.
Tell us about your new project, Disruptive Berlin. Right now its instagram is somewhat of an extension of your own—a moodboard of fashion moments, lifestyle images, and great design. What is left to come? What do you hope it will provide to your audience?
So Disruptive Berlin has been an idea I’ve had for over 3 years and it’s now finally close to coming to life. It’ll launch this fall. I think any business idea starts with a gap in a specific market that you identify, and even though fashion is a pretty (over)saturated market, for me, the perfect store doesn’t exist yet. And it doesn’t exist for my friends either. I’ve been unknowingly doing market research for the past 4 years that I’ve worked on social media and now everything is coming together in the form of an online store which will represent independent brands. I think I’m one of the lucky people who gets to turn their hobby and passion into a career. I’ve been styling my friends, taking photographs, giving unwanted fashion advice to anyone who will listen, and finding new brands online for years, so why not turn it into a business? And, on a side note, I love working on social media but I never really wanted to become an influencer. I think from the outside it seems so glamorous but really you’re just a walking billboard getting used by brands. It’s boring and not fulfilling in the long term (unless money and free clothes are your only motivation).
How were you first introduced to minimalist design and what about it appealed to you?
What pushed me towards minimalism was just my hatred for maximalism. I have never liked anything with too much colour, patterns or things that were overdesigned, I very much believe in “less is more.” I think every person has a preference for what is pleasing to their eyes, and to me simple things are just nice to look at and calming.
Minimalist design plays a role in all aspects of your life, not just your wardrobe. What matters more to you—form or functionality?
I get asked that a lot, how my apartment and pretty much everything else in my life matches my wardrobe. I’m always quite surprised when I enter someone’s home and it’s styled completely different than the way they dress. It’s a bit off topic but how my home is looking is just as important to me as the way I dress myself in the morning. I think it says a lot about someone’s priorities when they are dressed in all designer but sleep on a futon. Nothing bad about the futon part, but I think your home should come before your wardrobe!
In terms of form or functionality, I very much agree with the principle of industrial design and modernist architecture which is “form follows function.” The shape of a building (or any object) should firstly relate to its purpose. Good design is as little as possible, and that can be applied to all aspects of life.
What current designers do you think best execute minimalist design?
Minimalist designs in the mainstream have become quite rare since the emergence of social media because everything needs to be photogenic and logos just sell better. The consumer is constantly demanding something new and exciting, so simple things sadly just don’t seem to cut it anymore. It’s weird that minimalism has turned into a luxury. For minimalist designs I’m drawn towards vintage Helmut Lang, Raf, Rick Owens, Margiela...all the good stuff! Most of my wardrobe is thrifted for a variety of reasons. I like my clothes to be of quality, which is a rare find on high streets nowadays. I want brands but I don’t like to spend much. I also don’t want to be running around in the same dress as everyone else. Most importantly, as much as I love fashion, it’s one of the environment unfriendliest industries we have.
How do you maintain such a curated life?
It really comes naturally, I promise! I see an object, whether it may be a piece of furniture or a clothing item, and it either fits into the bigger picture or it doesn’t. Everyone seems to think I’m the most OCD person when they come to my home, but I just don’t own a lot of crap. There’s nothing to create a mess with. For anything I buy, I try and donate, sell or gift an item in return.
Where have you found inspiration for your new living space?
I know this is the most unsatisfactory answer ever, but I knew exactly how I wanted it to look as soon as I stepped foot into the apartment.
Tell us about your connection to Berlin.
It's my favourite place on earth. Berlin is very hyped up right now and I think people have this image in their mind of this grungy, underground techno metropolis. In reality, it’s pretty grey here and kinda ugly, but the people are the best. In comparison to many other big cities, there is still room for creativity here. Rent prices aren’t as ridiculous and it gives people the room to dream and, as Kylie Jenner said, to "realise things."
I first moved to Berlin in 2012 and have been in an on-off relationship with the city ever since. I lived in London and New York in between, and while both of these cities offered me so much, they just couldn't give me the freedom that Berlin does. I also just can’t live in a city that doesn't have good falafel.
What are your favorite shops or places to visit in Berlin?
Morning coffee at Concierge Coffee, then a walk by the canal in my hood Neukölln, then get some work done at Dots Café, art supply shopping at Modulor in Kreuzberg, a store which you go to to buy a pen and leave with giant blank canvases and some point because you got inspired. Lunch at Azzam or anywhere else that has a good hummus plate. Then maybe vegan donuts at Brammibal because I deserve it. Off for some window browsing, my favourite store is Andreas Murkudis, and while I can’t really afford anything there, it’s the most visually pleasing store in the city. Then the art gallery next door, Blain Southern. If I have more time on my hands I’d go to the museum Hamburger Bahnhof and the concept store Voo. For dinner, dumplings at Long March Canteen and drinks at TiER in Neukölln or wine at Sippi. I don’t go out much, but once in every blue moon if I didn’t eat too much food that day to dance, the club I go to is Berghain.
You engage with your community extensively over instagram. What differentiates your community from others online? What do you value most about your followers?
My point of view is this: I am lucky enough to be in the position to have an influence, so why not “influence” for the better good? I simply don’t understand how influencers don’t use their voice to talk about issues going on in the world. I understand it from a business perspective, they want to stay advertiser-friendly, but as a human being I just don't get it. I am interested in different opinions, so to have the chance to ask thousands of people for their views on specific topics, I mean, I get to do market research for free every day! It’s so inspiring reading about how other people view the world. My audience is incredibly smart and open-minded, but that also means I get called out immediately if I post something that’s incorrect, which I love. It’s communication that goes both ways. I also don’t get any hate comments or DMs ever, I get worse: constructive, well thought-through criticism. My audience means everything to me. I could ask the most random question on a niche topic and suddenly I have someone messaging me that works in that exact field. To me, social media has been nothing but positive. It’s so cliche but I don’t think about likes or anything like that, I try to actually talk to the human behind the screen. People have anonymously trusted me with their darkest secrets, sometimes I feel like I'm everyones shrink. I say it all the time, but social media really doesn't have to be this scary place. Don’t follow people that don’t add anything to your life!