WOMB at BERLIN FASHION WEEK - brands we fell in love with
Last week, WOMB stayed in Berlin, which for 5 days became the European hub for fashion, with (at least for us) its epicentere at Neonyt fair, which focused entirely on sustainability and ethics in fashion. We prepared for you two posts, this one being the first of them and focusing on brands that stole our love and attention at the fair and why. Stay tuned for the part 2, where we will share our reflections on the conscious talks, conferences and thoughts we had pleasure to listen to during Neonyt Berlin.
Most of the space at Neonyt Berlin was, naturally occupied by brands. Apart from Neonyt fair, there were at least two other large fashion fairs going on in town at the same time. PREMIUM, featuring bigger players on fashion stage but not entirely sustainability-focused (like Filippa K, Karl Lagerfeld, Lacoste, Uashmama, Vagabond and many many more) took place along SEEK, showcasing street wear and casual apparel mainly (with brands like Bad Monday, Fila, Fred Perry, Element, Kappa, Sandqvist among many others).
Being focused only on the ethical and sustainability-driven debate concerning fashion, it was only natural to choose Neonyt as our “home” for the week. And so, we came across extremely interesting brands, truly re-defining the current face of fashion worldwide. A lot of what is happening in sustainable fashion now seems to be about
And we cannot blame anyone for it. Although recycling should actually be the last resort to how we deal with discarded clothes (after refusing, reusing, repairing, swapping, re-fashioning…), it would be hypocritical to argue the obvious advantages of clothing that is made partly or entirely with reclaimed fabrics that would otherwise end up in landfills. In that regard, our hats go off entirely to the Finnish brand Pure Waste. Their practice involves using only fabrics coming from recycling. Yes, you read it well - 100%. They stick to barely a couple of colours (very Nordic too, we must say) along greys, blues and blacks, as they use zero dyes - the colour palette of the clothing simply depends entirely on the colours of the dead stock materials that they happen to use for a given collection and how they mix them with each other. The garments of Pure Waste are produced in India, in a factory that they own, which ensures high level of control and keeping themselves informed about the process of production. That way, they stay assured that no un-sustainable practices are present, and that their fabrics don’t get mixed with others accidentally (which is often the case with, for example, organic cotton production sites, where organic cotton often gets tangled with regular one). Oh, and did we mention they also inform their customers on best ways to wash garments in a more eco-friendly way?
We were happy to see some old-timers on the sustainable fashion map, like Skunkfunk (since recently branding as SKFK which confused us at first), a company coming from the Basque Country, sporting interesting, edgy designs and using recycled polyester or cotton. They also pledge strongly to pushing for zero-waste practices, which involve conscious design and lack of fabric loss at cut-outs, sourcing consciously from only trusted suppliers, investing in eco packaging that also can be re-purposed later on, as well as - they offer in-store recycling in some of their locations.
Another brand that really surprised us with their design and recycling abilities was the German Bleed, which we did not pay that much attention at first, but which really raised our eyebrows when Michael Spitzbarth, brand’s CEO, sported one of their jackets, made of 100% recycled polyester at one of the panels - including buttons and zippers! Every single component of it. What made it even cooler, we found out that they developed an entirely vegan and cruelty-free sneaker, where not only fabrics used are of natural origin (cork, natural rubber and recycled cotton), but also glues are ensured to be water-based.
We could go on and on about other brands who incorporate recycled fabrics into their practice and those below also deserve honourable mention:
Swedish Stockings (yes, yes a thousand times yes) for recycling elastane and nylon from discarded tights and stockings and making new ones (and rather cool ones!) out of them - every woman who ever experienced the frustration of throwing away a perfectly new pair of tights that broke while being actually put on for the first time, knows what that means.
Mimycri, whose incredible Vera Günther was a part of one of the most amazing panels during Neonyt on “Fashion, activism and empowerment”, for creating bags using rubber sourced from boats used by immigrants to reach points such as Greek islands while seeking asylum. Being firstly an NGO, Mimycri tries to raise awareness and, more importantly, empathy towards the immigrants movement (movement, not crisis). By the way - we strongly encourage a TED talk by Vera to see/hear about it for yourself.
Another aspect with a strong presence during Neonyt’s brands fair was the use of appropriate
We were extremely happy to see that, even though vast majority of brands proclaimed recycling as the primary way to alleviate the problem of unsustainable fashion, a lot of them actually focused on the very core of creating clothes - namely, the materials that come in their composition. As we mentioned above, recycling should be the last resort while dealing with and preventing waste - the first step should be always actually preventing it from existing. Creating well-thought, well-made, high-quality garments made of fabrics that are not the most exploiting for the Earth and dangerous in post-purchase phase (e.g. releasing micro plastics into water when washed), as well as educating people that natural vs. synthetic should be a no-brainer, could go much further than inviting countless “sustainability experts” from Inditex or Hugo Boss to panels discussions. And we came by a couple of brands that seem to be doing just that!
One of our top discoveries during Neonyt fair for us was cupro [editor’s note: see edit under article]. And we were fully educated about it but our fellow NÄZ that we had already known from Portugal. Cupro is still not a very widely-used fabric, but we actually see a huge amount of potential in it! It is created from cotton cellulose fiber which, as we got informed, can be sourced from leftovers from cotton production. It would mean that from waste remaining of production of one of the most cultivated and widely used fabrics, we could actually source another one which perfectly resembles silk but is more comfortable, temperature-flexible and easier to treat (iron, wash and store). Are we the only one excited here?! NÄZ so far has only one dress developed with cupro, and hats off that it’s actually a non-mixed, 100% cupro garment. We saw just one more brand during Neonyt which was using this incredible material in their clothes - interestingly, a Polish brand called NAGO, which we also consider worth mentioning. Admittedly, their cupro dresses are mixed with 20% elastan (with all fabrics sourced from Italy). “Nago” in Polish language means “being naked”, which we feel is a sneaky intelligent twist in fashion context, especially since this young brand seems to push entirely for slow design of basic, most “naked” styles possible, where not the lavish aesthetics is the most important, but the sustainability and consciousness of production and composition of clothes. For us, it all can come down to a great, complete and grown-up brand and we are happy to keep an eye on where they go next - since they are actually very fresh on the market!
Speaking of revolutionary materials, who would we be if we didn’t even mention so called “apple leather” and, sorry not sorry, a small healthy dose of criticism? We were incredibly interested to come via the booth of Nuuvai - a seemingly new brand (judging also from our difficulty to find a working website or Instagram - therefore, sorry for the lack of a link) offering bags and backpacks made of vegan leather developed from apple fibers. And… they were even giving away apples in the booth - what’s not to love? Well… From the distance it all looks amazing, screams vegan, PETA-certified and sustainable, not to mention the edginess of “OMG, leather made of apples, like, for real?!” And surely, while competing with leather accessories, undeniably it’s a point worth making and for us no animal leather will always be better than animal leather. However, as we learned while speaking to the brand’s representative, the bags only contained 50% of material derived from apples, with the remaining half being a simple PU. We get it - maybe it is not possible to work with 100% apple leather and it would not necessarily be a great product, but still, basing all the brand’s marketing and visuals on a component which is barely a half of the composition (with not a word spoken about other additional parts and glues) is a tiny bit of a greenwashing stunt - but maybe it’s just us. It just feels like a bit of shame when brands go to sustainable extends to market to the more sensible crowd of consumers, but don’t go far enough to actually make it properly sustainable - because, let’s face it, we should rather try to go away from PU as a main leather alternative.
Honourable mention for a great use of materials goes to a German brand Ulsto, mostly because we had an an amazing, charming chat with their representative at the booth, but also for the very interesting choice of linking Portuguese cork with recycled polyester felt, into very Scandinavian-looking bags, backpacks and other accessories. We must admit, we do not always love cork, because it tends to have a slightly too… cork-y appearance, which might not go very well with certain tastes. But we dare to say, Ulstø seems to be doing pretty well in order to break the uber-organic feel of cork by joining it with the soft felt and putting them together in a nice, minimalist way. For that, a big yes from Womb!
Let’s wrap it up here, as we could probably talk and talk more, since we met so many more incredible brands - but we have to remember to keep it digestible. There will be also a part two article coming right up as well! Please stay tuned for that one also, as we will be talking about the knowledge we gained from Neonyt’s incredible panel discussions and lectures!
PS. Did you go to Neonyt and you feel like we did not mention someone who absolutely should be here? Give us a shout in the comments section! Meanwhile - thanks a million for reading.
Edit (18/05/2019): Since we have written the article, we discovered more facts about cupro production. To our best knowledge, cupro might be derived from cellulose fibres but processed (as in, soaked in) strong caustic chemicals, which still makes it unsustainable as to its negative impact to environment - for instance through release of harmful elements into the ecosystems. Therefore, we sadly wish to withdraw our strong recommendation for this fabric. Better alternatives might include Tencel TM, which is derived from cellulose fibres dissolved in non-toxic organic solvents. We will add more edits to our content as we learn an increased amounts on the provided content.