Slow fashion

marc cain, berlin fashion week, subway sbahn
Taking the runway to the subway. Source: Reuters

There’s no limit to what fashion designers might use to create sustainable clothing. Boots made of maize, handbags woven from banana leaves and disused military camouflage kit repurposed into vintage wear.

Fast fashion, responsible for alarming amounts of waste and pollution, is so last season. This year’s Berlin Fashion Week featured experiments in sustainable, unconventional and outrageous apparel. Shows were no longer confined to the usual glitzy locations; instead catwalks were built in Berlin’s nightclubs, former power stations, a subterranean train station and in the warm and leafy climes of the Botanical Garden.

Designers’ emphasis on using green materials is increasing as labels make sustainability a priority. Fast fashion has become a bad word as awareness increases of the toxic chemicals and plastic microfibers used in much clothing today. The appetite for new and cheap clothing creates masses of textile waste in a vicious circle.

Cutting-edge designers are experimenting with all new materials. Roxxlyn, an accessories label from Munich, worked with startup nat-2 to make stylish sneakers using actual slate stone. A designer in Mallorca called Marovilla uses the thick fibrous leaves of pineapples to create bags, marrying urban design with traditional craft techniques. Other labels used castor oil or milk or the fluff of the kapok tree to create environmentally friendly wearables.

Berlin Fashion Week - lena Hoschek

Lena Hoschek
Botanical chic
Green was, well, evergreen, not only with the annual ethical fashion show but also in the choice of Berlin’s Botanical Garden as a venue for designer Lena Hoschek. Source:

Damir Doma berlin fashion show

Damir Doma
Club night
Designer Damir Doma’s show was held in the infamous Berghain nightclub, a techno mecca with the industrial, edgy feel that matched his clothing. Source:

Ready to rock
Designers deployed many unusual materials this year, including actual stone. Roxxlyn’s sneakers made of slate and copper are stone-cold stylish. Source:

Vegan options
These bags are made of pineapple leaves as a vegan alternative to leather. The designer, Maravillas, is based in Mallorca and combines urban style with traditional craft. Source:

Fashion friendly
The Greenshowroom ethical fashion show featured further inventive uses of materials, from recycled corn fibers for rain boots to weaving the fuzzy down of plants into skirts. Source:


Spring awakening
Seeking more individuality for spring, menswear at Berlin Fashion Week showed lots of color, like this sweater from Luisaviaroma, breaking with the monochrome trend of the past. Source:

Irene Luft
On trend
Checks, fake pink fur and red sequined boots were among the trends seen on the catwalk this week. Irene Luft used lots of see-through lace and dramatic eye makeup. Source:
AP Photo


The great outdoors
Outdoorwear is becoming more edgy as designers and retailers seek to combine functionality with style, such as this jacket from Bleed, a company that focuses on eco-friendly fashion. Source:

Not fur nothing
Fur remains controversial, and Berlin Fashion Week drew animal rights protesters who voiced their objections, even in Berlin’s freezing temperatures. Source:

The shows in Berlin featured young talents including Dawid Tomaszewski, a Polish designer creating luxury fashion in Berlin, who graduated from the London College of Fashion and the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. Another designer, Damir Doma, combined German and Croatian influences in his work shown in techno mecca Berghain.

The mood at Berlin’s runway shows was focused if not deadly serious. Despite the natural fibers and focus on the environment, designers and retailers are fighting for customers’ attention, online and in stores. Toeing the lines between spacey and down-to-earth, modern and traditional, German fashion is as driven as ever.

Allison Williams is deputy editor of Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author:

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