I first knew about Bless from my frequent visits to the B Store in London many years ago, but it wasn’t until I was working in Persuade in Bilbao that I understood the complexity of their work. After meeting as students in 1993 and a few exhibitions in between, Desiree Heiss & Ines kaag formally formed Bless in 1997.
From then on, each numbered season is a new venture into their surreal world, changing the ideas of clothing and household objects. They also challenged the ideas of shopping, opening pop-up boutiques rather that full time stores, more like temporary exhibitions. A few years back they decided to go one step further and opened the bless shop home Berlin. But this is no ordinary shop, this Is a home, a home to Mira Schröder who has been collaborating with Bless for a number of years, and opens her doors and welcomes you in.
How did the idea of setting up a shop in a home come about, and how did you get involved?
I first knew about Bless from my frequent visits to the B Store in London many years ago, but it wasn’t until I was working in Persuade in Bilbao that I understood the complexity of their work.The idea of having the Bless Shop in a regular apartment grew over the years. Let’s say it was not so much an idea but a natural progression of what Bless had done so far. Since Bless began with their temporary shops in the year 2000, as a perfect set up for Bless products rather than making exhibitions, which would just display their products, the boutique BLESS had become a first real and stable shop in Berlin Mitte.
Getting involved myself in the Bless Life also was a natural process of what we had done together so far. I met Inés and Desiree while studying exhibition and design curation. I took part in a few projects and after university I started to assist them by organising some fashion shows for Bless in Paris. From the start it was a fantastic team. In Berlin I moved directly into the apartment where they planned to build up their Bless Home. We filled this wonderful place with Bless creations, from early work to temporary inventions. The Bless world in which I am living, I am now organising very personally. It is part of the concept of the shop that, who ever lives here, creates his or her own home. Thus, the Bless shop develops and changes with its habitants. I am living now in a nice mixture of personal belongings and Bless products.
How does it work?
Basically the shop is open to the public every Thursday. Otherwise by appointment where anyone can contact me via email or phone. In principle you can visit me at the wonderful BLESS HOME anytime I am here. When you arrive just ring the bell at BLESS/KAAG/SCHRÖDER and fly up to the private island, three floors up and hidden away in the back of the building. Sometimes you can see the guest taking their courage to come into the Bless Home. Often I notice a mixture of nervousness, but also excitement in their eyes. Once they have arrived you notice a certain will or proudness of discovery. I always try to find out if there is a desire for explanations, guidance through the shop or I simply leave them to it and help if they need a hand. It’s so nice to see the changing of feelings – from feeling like an intruder to becoming a guest or even friend in the Bless HOME. I love it when visitors stay, look at books, and relax on the balcony, which is the case when they feel home and have lost their first shyness, which is usually the case!
Did it take long to get used to the day-to-day routine of living your life and having to show people around your home?
It took me some time to accept living in a public space in a natural way. It became my life to share my space with unknown, interesting people. I actually think that if I move some day to somewhere else I will miss the excited, curious eyes on the doorstep. It really feels like enrichment for me to meet all these different people, who are becoming my personal guests.
Of course there are some funny moments when people are ringing the doorbell unexpectedly on a Saturday or Sunday morning and I am still in my pyjamas, preparing breakfast or something like this, but at least I can always decide whether to open the door or not. Most of the time I open it anyway. At that moment I know I only have about one minute to prepare myself until the guests are arriving on the third floor. In the beginning it felt a bit awkward for me with having my personal belongings laying around and the space was not perfectly tidy. But now I feel much more relaxed about it because also my guests know that it might happen when a private apartment becomes a public space. Now I understand it is exactly this that gives the charm within this concept of the Bless Home!
Are you not worried about having parties and having the collection leave with the guests?
Recently we opened the Bless Home for a dinner. We invited all people we know through press, mailing list etc. to papas antipasti (my father prepared his best Italian antipasti dishes). We didn’t know whether 2 or 500 guests will show up and I admit that I was extremely nervous but in the end everything went very well and we had a lovely, not too packed dinner, watching films and enjoying the great summer atmosphere. Luckily, in fact, 500 people did not show up. I think everyone enjoyed the difference of being in a home and not in a commercial space. It happened though, that during a normal shop day, pieces were leaving with the guests. It makes me very sad when people are not honouring this confidence and concept of this shop but I guess there will be always black sheep, but normally visitors show much more respect for our Bless Home and treat everything with great care and admiration.
Are there days where you would just like to be messy, and leave all your things around or are you very clean all the time?
How should I describe it? I think in general I am not a very messy person. Nevertheless, as everybody, I sometimes love to leave my belongings where they were ‘accidently’ located. I remember when I was still living at my parents place my father sometimes said that my room looked like a bomb had exploded in it, but to be honest, I kind of like it once in a while if that happens – a bomb exploding! It always gives me a feeling of freedom, but on the other hand I love the arrangement and minimalistic organisation of things and objects within your own walls. I guess it is some sort of good therapy for me to keep an organised life, with the option to plant a bomb sometimes when I am home alone.
I believe you will soon have people to stay. Are you up for making a good German breakfast?
We have had some people staying at the Bless Home already. The bed & breakfast situation still only works for people we somehow know, at least through someone else, or for customers we have known for a while. Guests at Bless Home are completely independent. It is their home. But if they would want me to, I could definitely prepare a good German breakfast.