Ruta Sluskaite-Dittmann moved to Berlin from her tiny Lithuanian village with just two suitcases, restless for adventure. Soon she was selling the finest yarn and knitted wares from back home in the city’s hip markets, before founding her own design label and shop in Boxhagener Kiez.
“I didn’t want to be sitting in an office at the age of 23,” says Ruta Sluskaite-Dittmann. Her mood is as vibrant as the colours of the wool rolls that pack her knitting shop from floor to ceiling. “After the fall of the Soviet Union, a lot of young people were looking for security in their jobs. But that wasn’t for me.”
The Lithuanian proprietor, who was born in Marijampolė and grew up in the small village of Kazlų Rūda, first came to Berlin to complete a Master’s degree in law. “Berlin was hip and affordable. I arrived in 2009 with two suitcases – and I didn’t know a single soul.”
But she had already founded her own label for handicrafts and textile bags back in Lithuania, so she soon began selling her wares at the city’s up-and-coming design markets. “My family loves to knit, and the old women in my village have a lot of time on their hands,” explains Ruta Sluskaite-Dittmann, shedding some light on the roots of her business idea. “I just asked if they felt like knitting for me.”
What followed was a label for knitted design and the launch of her shop, at first with the help of a wool company back in Lithuania. Now, Ruta Sluskaite-Dittmann is completely independent.
The key is slow fashion. She purchases wool, linen, and natural yarns from small, sustainable companies, a fact which is very well received by her young clientele in the trendy Boxhagener district. She also offers courses for novice knitters and organises workshops and events that are popular among more advanced practitioners. “There’s not much competition in my field,” she says.
However, knitting tends to be a seasonal business. “Things start to pick up around September and October,” reports Ruta Sluskaite-Dittmann, who has now integrated the less seasonal linen into her business model as well. She has her own yarn made of the material which is imported from Lithuania, where the production of linen enjoys a rich tradition.
She would like to start offering more finished linen products in the future. “The great thing about a shop – and the major advantage it has over online retail – is the fact that people actually get to touch the products.”
All photos by Lena Ganssmann
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