Sustainability, Circularity and Berlin's Green Scene
The European Union, in May 2016, launched the European Clothing Action Plan. The initiative seeks to significantly improve the sustainability of textiles and their lifecycle – from design, to end of use – by 2019. Swift, progressive and placing acute pressure on one of the most wasteful industries in existence, the initiative has been adopted by several influential, mainstream designers such as Stella McCartney, Gucci, Balenciaga, Viktor & Rolf and Levi Strauss. Recycled yarn, biodegradable plastics and reused materials have already proven to be a plentiful source for new collections, as well as new jobs and local economies.
Linearity has dominated the production cycle of the fashion and design industries – produce, use and dispose – accumulating a heap of waste only surpassed by the crude oil industry. One might make the assumption that sustainable fashion is soon to be mainstream, with upper-echelon designers coming forth promoting change – think again. Presented bi-annually, glorious runway shows are informative, inspirational and whimsical – they are also largely inaccessible for a majority of the world’s population. The attempt, no matter how minute, to transform fashion houses into sustainable entities should be held in high regard – but truly transcending the grasps of linear production are the designers producing sustainable fashion for their local community. The spectacle that is fashion week might provide the seasons’ trends, but the reality is that grassroots campaigns, small business owners and collaborative studios are generating real, transformative changes – and not surprisingly, Berlin is the front rank of the uprising.
Woven into every kiez, street and beat of Berlin, are sustainable studios, concept stores and pop-up shops. While these may be familiar to locals and fashion fiends, for those new to the city or simply stopping by, locating them might be slightly more challenging. Luckily, there are several organizations that have seized this opportunity and by combining two integral economies in Berlin – fashion and tourism – they have provided informative and interesting modes of accessibility and exposure. GreenMe Guide and Green Fashion Tours Berlin both offer customized walkable tours and digital guides for those looking for a unique Berlin experience. GreenMe focuses on an eco-friendly lifestyle and sustainable patrons of all industries, featuring shops, concept stores, restaurants and markets where you can find sustainable clothing, health food and vegan-friendly menus. GreenMe helps visitors and locals explore the green scene in one particular neighborhood of choice, or their “Special Focus” tours concentrate on one special area of interest – sustainable food, eco-friendly fashion, or local businesses operating under the parameters of a circular economy. Amazingly, for those living afar that are curious about the green scene in Berlin, GreenMe has podcasts, e-guides and a “Green Map” that are free and easy to download.
Although Green Fashion Tours Berlin might seem rather self-explanatory – to assume the variety of what they offer would be negligent. The “regular tours,” which are anything but, take you on a whimsical ride of shops, boutiques, ateliers and ongoing community projects that are fair and sustainable – for a reasonable price. The customizable tours can be tailored to your personal interests and can include (though are not limited to) “Upcycling Design,” “Fair Fashion,” “Workshops” and “Shopping and Styling.” The idea behind the “Shopping and Styling” tour is to allow the sustainable community to provide you with both a new wardrobe and a new look, in case you were feeling a bit bland after the New Year. The workshops cover sewing, screen-printing, social entrepreneurship and environment and social certification knowledge in case you’re rather inexperienced with the sustainable fashion industry.
Both organizations are supporters of the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin, which is one of the first ethical fashion shows ever created. Every year, sustainable designers and creative directors of larger, fast-fashion houses give lectures, presentations and talks on how the industry can develop a plan and call-to-action for a more livable future. So far, the event has proven successful and offers a platform to young designers that detest the idea of following in fast-fashion’s footsteps. Just as designers and small business owners are building niche communities within every kiez in Berlin, GreenMe and Green Fashion Tours Berlin are building the roads and access points to these business – each working in tandem, in collaboration and in mutual respect for a meaningful future.