Berlin is a known leader in sustainable initiatives. More than a third of the German capitol is green space, “no-plastic” shops are the norm and this month Berlin Fashion Week dedicated a portion of its scheduled to shine a spotlight on sustainable fashion.
Denim, apparel and accessories brands at Panorama and Selvedge Run last week received the memo, too, that green is cool. Exhibitors at the Berlin tradeshows flexed their sustainable savviness with Spring/Summer 2020 collections made with recycled fibers, upcycled waste and eco-smart innovations.
Dusseldorf, Germany-based brand Barta Jeans unveiled its full collection of women’s sustainable denim and casual apparel. Manufactured at the company’s owned facility in Turkey, the jeans are made with organic cotton, hemp and recycled fibers and eco-conscious components including buttons without chemicals, no leather labels, no rivets and organic cotton zipper tape. And the brand opts for recycled paper for its packaging over wherever it can.
Barta Jeans benefits by entering the market with insight gleaned from making denim for other brands, said representative Barbaros Durmaz. The company is well-versed in balancing fashion with sustainability and is strong in on-trend low impact dyes and washes, he added. Through its sustainable processes, Barta claims that its jeans save 55 days of drinking water and 90 hours of LED bulb energy.
Design-wise, Barta’s garments echo what’s trending in the market. Popular items extra-long jean jacket with shearling collars, soft denim circle skirts, color jeans and cut-off shorts with shadow pocketing. A line of basics like organic cotton tanks, cardigans and tees round-out the collection.
Knowledge Cotton Apparel was built on the know-how of founder Mads Mørup’s father, Jørgen, who was an early adopter of sustainable apparel manufacturing and organic cotton in the 1980s. The Danish outdoor lifestyle brand brought an expanded range of its Honest Selvedge collection to Selvedge Run. The line launched last year. Along with jean jackets, denim over-shirts and loose fit shorts, bottom fits include regular, wide, slim tapered and a brand-new cropped baggy.
As with all parts of Knowledge Cotton Apparel’s collection, the denim collection was made with sustainability in mind from fiber to finishing. The selvedge fabric, made with 98 percent GOTS certified organic cotton and 2 percent Lycra, is dyed with a natural indigo process that uses 66 percent less water than traditional processes and requires 70 percent less chemicals. On the garment side, the company uses a vacuum compressed washing technology that uses minimal water. And the garment washing and production facilities it uses runs on 40 percent green energy.
After 11 years in business, Knowledge Cotton Apparel is launching in the U.S. through outdoor retailer Huckberry, which will begin selling the denim line in August. The vastness of the U.S. market presents its own set of challenges for a European brand, but Mørup said it’s a good time for the brand to plant roots as consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the effects their purchases have on the environment. “We appeal to people who want to change the world,” he added.
Men’s brand Jack & Jones continues to build its sustainable denim stories with post-consumer recycled cotton, Tencel and its latest edition to its alternative fiber family, Repreve made from PET bottles. The brand’s “Ferrari” of sustainable denim, a rep said, is a line of low impact denim from yarn to finishing. The eco garments are just a portion of Jack & Jones’ denim range, but interest, he added, is growing as sustainable technology allows the brand to maintain its authentic denim character. Additionally, the Bestseller brand is dabbling into sustainable footwear. For S/S 2020, Jack & Jones is offering two sneaker styles made with eco leather, a “conscious alternative to cow leather” and rubber bottoms made from 70 percent recycled materials. The result is a sleek leather-looking sneaker with a festive multi-colored sole.
Berlin-designed brand Arys combined technology and sustainability in its line of lightweight performance outerwear. The brand introduced functional outwear padded with recycled plastic. The collection also includes technical fabrics like Schoeller’s semi-transparent, Bluesign-approved Lucid Woven fabric that helps regulate body temperature and FOV Fabric’s two-way stretch fabric that offers UV protection, water repellence and fast drying properties.
Sustainable motifs not only make for cute imagery for Wat? Apparel, a men’s and women’s graphic T-shirt brand from Diez, Germany, they also underscore the brand’s efforts to print in an environmentally-friendly way. Founder and designer Ben Wildner explained that the brand uses water-based Oeko-Tex certified colors to print on the fair-made organic cotton T-shirts sourced from Stanley/Stella in Brussels. The shirts are then printed at its German headquarters.
Wildner designs 80 percent of the prints himself. While sustainability-inspired prints were not the founding premise of the brand when it launched a decade ago, prints like bicycles are trending. Other popular motifs include birds, foxes, trees and florals. The brand is also having a successful run with tees adorned with corresponding laser-cut wood brooches.
Accessories brands are also finding the charm in natural or upcycled materials. Hamburg-based bag brand rolled out a range of gender neutral city-friendly backpacks made with 100 percent PET. The canvas-looking backs are durable and easy to wipe clean.
Elephbo founder Nicolas Huxley found a creative way to reuse plastic cement sacks destined for Cambodia’s landfills. A flood of new properties developed by Chinese investors, he said, means the sacks are in abundance. His company collects the empty bags from construction sites, cleans them and repurposes them as the exterior of weekend bags, backpacks and most recently, men’s and women’s sneakers. Each pair is one-of-a-kind kicks is accented with leather scrap materials.
And Scandinavian sneaker brand Woden proved that you can simultaneously rock the Dad shoe trend and support sustainable manufacturing. The brand’s spring collection was chock-full of pastel and neon chunky sneakers made with natural cork, recycled rubber and salmon leather, a by-product of the fishing industry, which the company maintains is 10-times stronger than calf leather.