July 22, 2009

Berlin trade shows go green: an MBF exclusive report

Photos, from left to right: Hedda William S/S09; a bag from Royal Blush; Blue Notch S/S09.

MBF brings you an overview of the Berlin womenswear trade shows for Spring/Summer 2010, where we talked with quite a few companies about sustainability and shifts in the marketplace. We were most impressed with the two eco tradeshows: Green Showroom, featuring 16 sustainable collections from the high fashion segment, and TheKey.To, with 40 collections from the streetwear and sportswear segment, including the Green platform at the Premium Exhibition.

For Magdalena Schaffrin and Jana Keller, co-founders of Green Showroom, it was their objective to give like-minded designers and buyers a press platform for high-end collections by creating a trade show that would be both eco and luxurious. At other eco fairs, they felt, there was no fit for high-end fashion lines, because they were mixed in among yoga collections and lower-priced collections.

At the showroom’s debut event, one could see amazing collections from designers such as Julia Starp, who uses peace silk and organic cotton for her line of dresses and coats; Liv Lundelius from Blushless, an avant-garde bridal collection with eco fabrics; and Reet aus, an Estonian designer who is represented by Mica Lamb, the founder of Agent for Change, a London sustainable fashion showroom. This particular collection is very feminine with an antique feel, incorporating delicate lace, organic dyes, and re-used fabrics from a textile recycling centre in Estonia. Other standout collections were Van Markoviec, a Dutch designer working with Japanese cotton certified by JOCA, the highest standard for certified fabrics and production; Jana Keller, designing Royal Blush, a handbag and jewellery collection made of vegetable-tanned leather sourced in Italy; Magdalena Schaffrin, whose men’s and women’s wear collection has a long-lasting, understated design; and Hessnatur, which has used eco fabrics since its founding in 1970, and added fair trade in 2005, growing their own cotton in Africa. After hiring the designer Miguel Adrover, they feel they have all the elements – eco fabrics, fair trade, and design – to make it a successful company.

TheKey.To, another first-time eco-trade show, co-founder Gereon Pilz van der Grinten explained that the show was created because eco collection exhibitors were asking more and more for their own independent platform. Down the line, he sees TheKey.To becoming the eco-Bread and Butter. Highlights from their first show included Redesign, which uses only recycled materials; 1000-2000 tonnes of textile waste per day comes back to the recycling compound where they are buying materials to design new garments. At Slowmo, we talked to founding partner Melchior Moss about his nearly 4-year-old label, which uses eco-fabrics and produces in Berlin with a fair price strategy and high quality. Their biggest challenge these days is how to become even more sustainable regarding packaging, transportation, and energy usage. For them, it is very important that everything they do is coming from their heart; Slowmo's version of sustainability must include great design.

At the Premium Exhibition’s Green Forum, two collections in particular stood out. Odd, an organic design house based in New York, fuses everyday objects and innovative Japanese textile engineering for their soy cashmere and milk fibre-wool blend fabrics. This collection will soon be sold in a major department store in New York, Paris and Tokyo; 1% of their revenues go to charity via 1% For The Planet. Raffauf, a rainwear collection, uses organic cotton and banana fibre fabrics that are treated with beeswax or natural rubber coating to make the coats and jackets water-resistant.

Surprisingly, Bread and Butter did not have a green platform; still, we did see some labels moving towards sustainability in their own ways. Just to mention a few, Braez, from Holland, sells a collection of tops and tunics that changes only in colours and fabrics from one season to the next. Sack’s, from Israel, also makes very plain, almost seasonless clothes; Skunkfunk, a Basque-based company, is introducing 50% of their collection with sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton. Mikel Elozo, the general director, tells us that a lot of their clients ask for organic pieces. Although they use eco fabrics, they are not marketing the eco aspect of their collection, as they fear being accused of greenwashing since they have not yet achieved complete transparency in their production process. Meanwhile, cosmetics line Uslu Airlines presented a charitable initiative: a collection of 11 up-to-the-minute colors of nail polish, from which 90 cents of each bottle’s sale would go to help underprivileged children in Berlin.

The Premium Exhibition had a very nice, relaxing atmosphere, with a more upscale overall feeling to the participating brands. Again, we saw a shift happening in the different ways to apply sustainability: Philo-Sofie, a cashmere collection of 50 sweaters, hats, scarves, and capes, is produced sustainably in close partnership with their Chinese factories. Blue Notch Jeans, a South Korean label that launched in the US two years ago, is making skinny jeans out of organic cotton denim from Japan. Hedda William from Hamburg designs simple styles meant to last: 20 tops and blouses each season, each offered in 12 colours. Instead of using a factory, her knit pieces are made by a family in Thailand.

The managing director for Germany at Filippa K, Norbert Reipert, proclaimed that they incorporate their values into the product, making it true, sustainable and reliable. They are using eco fabrics for some garments, and fair trade is a must, but their low-impact strategy still wasn’t comprehensive enough to qualify them for the green platform. Nonetheless, Reipert had strong feelings on the subject:

“We know there is a consumer out there called the LOHAS in Germany, who are really knowledgeable. But the masses just know enough to make a choice, and these masses will count in the end. [People will question,] why would you eat something based on chemicals? Why would you wear something that harms you?”

On the whole, we could see a definite shift in consciousness taking place, with many young and not-so-young labels expanding the boundaries of ethical production methods and sustainable materials, both traditional and high-tech. Needless to say, a lot of work is still to be done: What will it take to move sustainability from a trend to a lifestyle?

Want to read more? Click below to purchase the full PDF version of THE ECO TRADE SHOW REPORT JULY 2009, complete with lots of photos and in-depth designer interviews:

For a breakdown of the trends we observed at the trade shows, click below to purchase the full PDF version of THE BREAD AND BUTTER/PREMIUM REPORT SS 2010:

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MBF Trend Talk by MBF Trend Consulting is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at mbf-trendtalk.blogspot.com.