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..

blu black

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

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

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.

The IOU Project – producers meet consumers

Last year at the Beyond Fashion Summit, we had a virtual encounter with Kavita Parmar, founder and creative director of The IOU Project. Kavita Parmar is a designer, serial entrepreneur and a passionate advocate for change in the fashion industry. She was born in India and was educated in India and England.

At the age of 18 while attending university, she started her own studio working as a freelance designer for various international clothing brands. After building up and running several successful clothing brands, she founded the IOU Project in 2011, her most ambitious project to date.

The IOU Project is an e-commerce social networking platform that manufactures and retails one-of-a-kind handmade clothes. It seeks to empower the artisan, celebrate uniqueness, re-vindicate the right to transparency and believes that technology can make it happen. Consumers can see the people who where producing the item, and when consumers upload a picture after purchase, the producers also see who is wearing it..

See a short, inspiring video about The IOU Project here:

For more information on Kavita Parmar, also see the recent interview by Summer Rayne Oaks.

This article was published in an earlier form on Beyond Berlin.