The Future of Fashion in Berlin: Innovative, Creative, Sustainable

Bread & Butter Berlin Denim Religion Show

The Bread & Butter, the largest and most significant trade show in Berlin, has declared bankruptcy. Will this be the end of this legend, the end of an era? And if so, what will this mean for Berlins Fashion Week and Berlin as an international hub for fashion business?

The Bread & Butter trade show could be connected to a lot of things of the fashion industry that are in many ways unsustainable. A “You Only Live Once” philosophy. A Bigger Bolder Better attitude. The sky is the limit and on top of that limit there will be another party waiting for you. And the fair and its founder Karl-Heinz Müller were often said to be arrogant and megalomaniac. The extraordinary trade show was also the master of producing trash. And meanwhile, there are many fairs and shows in Berlin. So, who cares? The fair played its role for Berlin and its underlying paradigm of unlimited growth and consume is getting out of fashion..

But one thing made this fair different from all the others: a strong vision. It always wanted to be more then a trade show, it wanted to merge business with celebration, show with party. And with that, the Bread & Butter brought business to Berlin and helped the city to become an internationally renown fashion capital.

Probably the show was always a bit ahead of some of its exhibitors. If you read the interviews with Müller, he has been proclaiming a “choose quality, consume less” message for quite some years now, in example in 2009 he said to Exberliner: “I think a general trend is that people will consume less, with more awareness. They’ll look for authentic products. They will look for where it comes from, what it means, what history is behind it. A pair of really well-made jeans, for example, or really good leather shoes.”

Berlin is not only risking to loose its most relevant fashion trade show, and therewith also the significance of its fashion week, it is currently also risking to drain its creative identity. There is an increasing pressure on the cities creative scene. The answer should be a bold new vision on the cities creative future, and addressed with according actions and resources. A vision that nurtures bottom up innovations, supports its creative communities and local retail market, offers them gentrification-proof spaces to develop, and truly and thoroughly invest in sustainable solutions and initiatives in the city.

Now is the time to discuss what fashion business in Berlin should be about. According to me, that future should be about those three elements: innovation, creativity and sustainability. That mixture is what makes Berlin interesting and dynamic, and will also play an ever increasing role in the fashion business.

If there is not a vision, there will not be a future. As a protest against gentrification, friends of the streetartist BLU recently painted over his piece in Berlin Kreuzberg with black paint. Sometimes you need to paint something over to make space for new things. Catharsis. Let the new things be good and the visions bold.

And maybe, there will be a phoenix rising..

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Photos: Bread & Butter Denim Religion Show; Blu street art piece painted over with black paint

Simplicity in Business

christoph harrach

Back in 2007, during the preparations of the Fair Fashion Affair with Cecilia Palmer, showing freshly started ethical brands like Slowmo, Magdalena Schaffrin or Armedangels in an improvised yet momentous event, I got in contact with this friendly, newly started blogger Christoph Harrach who wrote under the name Karmakonsum..

Shortly after, he founded the Karmakonsum Conference, which rapidly became one of the most significant events for sustainable lifestyle in the German speaking area. Back then in collaboration with Noel Klein-Reesink, who nowadays runs the sneaker brand Ekn Footwear, he brought this conference to be a place that brings together people in an inspiring and connecting setting. It welcomes people that are interested to do yet more then “just” a little extra of ethical labeling or CSR monitoring, people that practice their idea of sustainability in their daily lives as well as professionally. Wether CEO’s, social entrepreneurs or hardcore activists, this conference brings them together and makes them share a common spirit. A spirit of friendliness, forward vision and positive intent. The accompanying camp and award also make it the right place to go for start-ups.

Over the recent years, the conference got a slightly more spiritual approach, but with an open-minded, inter-religious set up. This year the lead topic is Simplicity in Business. Breath in. Breath Out. Get Your Ticket. It is that simple. Be there!

Green Fashion Fairs Unite

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New Joint Venue for Green Showroom and Ethical Fashion Show in Berlin

Yeah! The Green Showroom and Ethical Fashion Show Berlin are moving to one common new location: the Postbahnhof, near Berlin’s train station Ostbahnhof. I believe this is a good thing, because a common location makes it more attractive for visitors to come, and creates a strong and influential hub for bringing sustainability in fashion forward.

The two trade fairs are together forming Europe’s biggest platform for green fashion during the Berlin Fashion Week. For the first time, from 19 to 21 January 2015, they will now be united in a shared venue.

Before Ethical Fashion Show established, it’s predecessor green fashion fair THEKEY.TO already took place at Postbahnhof. Also the Capsule fair made a good impression there. It definitely was one of the nicest locations to hold a fair in. The Green Showroom will be using the elegant top floor of the building, which is definitely the most beautiful part of the venue. The Ethical Fashion Show Berlin will be in the more industrial part downstairs, which could really work well if the lightning and atmospheric concept are done well.

Congratulations to the Ethical Fashion Show, Green Showroom and Messe Frankfurt teams for this courageous new step!

acceleration thekey.to postbahnhof

Photo: compilation by Balestra Berlin of the THEKEY.TO fair at Postbahnhof in 2010

Fashion Revolution Day Revisited

On April 24th 2013, 1133 people were killed when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Many more were injured. To remember the catastrophe and call for a significant change in the fashion industry, a global “fashion revolution day” was organized. The Fashion Revolution Day was organized in over 50 countries. The campaign concentrated around the question “who made your clothes?”, and asked people all over the world to wear their clothes #insideout and share this through social media.

I was part of the Fashion Revolution Day campaign group in Austria, and this is my impression:

* It was the first time ever that the sustainable fashion movement joined forces globally – something to build on!

* The campaign was a success in terms of mobilization of an enthusiast group of sustainable fashion activists and entrepreneurs.

* While the topic is relevant to all consumers, and the campaign reached out to many of them through conventional and social media, it is still hard to reach the majority of them in a way that they will really change their consuming behavior or actively question the companies where they go shopping.

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Fashion Revolution Day action in Vienna

What I would recommend for the fashion revolution day to come:

* Build a campaign that mobilizes more people outside the sustainable fashion scenes.

* Get more celebrities and political figures to endorse the campaign in an early stage.

* Keep the campaign organized by independents, but get relevant NGO’s and organizations on board as partners (i.ex. Ethical Fashion Forum, Clean Clothes Campaign, Greenpeace Detox, Friends of the Earth, workers unions, etc.).

* Use the global factor more to build up momentum. Global social media channels of the fashion revolution day campaign could share more local activities around the world, also the press could be fed more with worldwide activities and stories.

* Build up a strategy how to work together as a global fashion revolution network all year.

* Start preparations for 2015 now.

Organic 3.0 – the organic future

ginger cat biofach 2014biofach organic liquer

What does the future of organic look like? I had a look at BIOFACH to see a glimpse of the immediate future. The BIOFACH in Nuremberg is the world leading trade show in organic food products, with currently around 2200 exhibitors and over 40.000 professional visitors per year.

A current development in organic that was also clearly visible on the show is the “vegan overtake” of the organic discourse. Vegan products, producers and brands are regaining a stronger visibility among exhibitors, vegan has become an own price category in the “Best New Product Awards”. Also raw food and power food are sailing in with the ships of veganism and healthism.

Meanwhile, it is also clear that most organic farmers (especially bio-dynamic) see keeping animals as the only way to have an holistic organic agriculture. So next to the vegan trend products, the organic produce (also for vegan products, by the way) will still depend on farms that integrate animals, may it only be for the purpose of fertilization, or the bees pollinating the flowers.

BIOFACH 2014: focus on core business

SAMSUNGorganic soyspresso

The BIOFACH fair, which celebrated it’s 25th anniversary this year, has reduced size a bit compared to the last years, and concentrates stronger on it’s core business: being a business to business fair for organic food. It has built in several theme areas such as cheese and fish, and also the conference program had a strong focus on food topics this year.

There is a growing offer of younger, stylish products on the fair. Products that have a slick design and often distance themselves from the typical organic product design. This counts especially for products like power foods, sauces and drinks. Young pioneers bring new drinks on the market, from ginger liquors to coconut drinks. Organic and other new drinks (Bionade, Lemonade) are already revolutionizing the lemonade market in Germany and might be able to do so in other countries as well.

While it’s nice to see some innovative newcomers in Nuremburg, many cool, organic startups do NOT exhibit at BIOFACH, and so other fair concepts like the Next Organic in Berlin are trying to fill this gap. For the BIOFACH it would be wise if they would give more space to this start up community and integrate it better in its fair concept, as the start-ups of today are the next generation of organic pioneers.

Old varieties and Prosumers

The BIOFACH also published the outcome of a trend studies on the organic future, this is what it concludes:

1.   The clearer the quality profile of organic products, the greater the symbolic impact.

2.   Organic should move away from concentrating exclusively on the product and towards even stronger orientation to the needs of the customers.

3.   Besides service in the sense of providing a service, aspects such as the right design, sensible simplification and support through technical innovations in labeling and during shopping, cooking and preparation will play an ever-increasing role in future.

4.   The holistic philosophy of organic agriculture must be continued for the whole product cycle in future.

5.   The sharing concept brings dynamic to regional cooperations. This development promotes the use of synergies between rural and urban spaces and consumers are linked more closely with production and develop into prosumers (= consumer who becomes a producer at the same time).

6.   Organic should rely on a soft health strategy instead of wearing itself out in the absurd competition for “healthy food” with “better nutritional value” against conventional or even adapted products (functional food). It is a matter of moving away from monocausal health promises and steering towards systemic contexts of general lifestyle, food and health.

7.   A return to old varieties and their cultivation in organic agriculture must go hand in hand with intensive research in order to score by also proving the supposed health potential and not just with the culinary alternatives.

8.   Consumers do not see organic products only as products. So opportunities and places should be created to perceive them in a comprehensive,cognitive and multisensory way and in communicative exchange with others. They then become part of their own complex self-image.

While the results read more like advices for organic businesses then as actual insights in the trends of tomorrow, they hint towards a few key topics that are relevant for organic and sustainable companies today: (1) holistic approach (2) design (3) local (4) sharing (5) do it yourself.

The renown Bloggertreffen was this time organized as a breakfast and also accompanied by a magazine. A nice initiative that hopefully will be continued. Next year, The Netherlands are partner country at BIOFACH, which should be reason enough for me to visit again. Stay tuned.

Dutch Eco Design Show at Berlin Fashion Week

dutch eco design show

During the Berlin Fashion Week in January 2014, the Dutch Eco Design Show put a spotlight on sustainable fashion designers and brands from The Netherlands. The show took place at the Kronprinzenpalais, and was part of The Netherlands as official partner country of the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin and Green Showroom.

The topic of sustainable fashion has strong roots in The Netherlands, many Netherlands based non-profit organizations have played pioneering roles in the field, such as Solidaridad, Fair Wear Foundation, Fair Trade, Made-By, Clean Clothes Campaign, and the Greenpeace Detox Campaign. The current Dutch minister of international development Ploumen has positioned herself as an active supporter of labor rights and even named and shamed companies who did not commit in time to a treaty to improve the conditions for workers in the Bangladesh textile industry.

The Dutch support for sustainable fashion looked good – see for yourself in the video below. We’re looking forward to see more Dutch Eco Design at the next fashion week!

Shopping Ethical Menswear: Atelier Akeef in Berlin

Atelier Akeef Berlin

Berlin is enriched by another hotspot for ethical fashion: the Atelier Akeef. Founded in September 2013 by Alan Sommerville and Michael Ashley, it is one of the first in its kind that is specialized on menswear from socially and ecologically sustainable fashion brands. In many ethical fashion stores, menswear is still taking the lesser part, but the offer of good, ethical menswear is rapidly getting better and this is a welcome new retail initiative that will hopefully see more menswear ethical fashion concept stores in other cities around the world..

Atelier Akeef runs a very nice selection of ethically sound brands, with as jeans from Kings of Indigo, bags from Elvis and Kresse, shoes from Ekin Footwear and Veja, and shirts from Knowledge Cotton, Two Thirds and Atelier Awash.

While they might not follow the most critical standards for their selection of products (some products are of conventional, non-ecological materials), they have their own score cards on the products showing in what way the product is sustainable. The store has a contemporary, authentic look with many wooden and some recycled and retro elements and is located in Berlin-Mitte.