Photo: two seconds Photography
After a summer of record-breaking heat, living green is more topical than ever. Current trends show that a conscientious approach doesn’t have to be expensive – or even complicated. In Berlin, long admired for its unique approach to style, Green Fashion Tours bring the latest developments in ethical fashion research, design, and production to the fore. Behind the project are Arianna Nicoletti (Future Fashion Forward e.V.) and Anna Perrottet (Get Changed! e.V.). They’re passionate about casting a new light on sustainable fashion and work with students, politicians, and NGOs to create forward-thinking practices that turn tradition thinking about green fashion to the future.
We talked to Arianna Nicoletti to learn more about this innovative green tour concept.
Photo: Maxime Jean Abauzit
Location: Arianna Nicoletti and Anna Perrottet of Green Fashion Tours
Tell me about the history of Green Fashion Tours.
First, a little bit about Green Fashion Tours and Circular Economy Tours because they are two different projects: Both operate through the Future Fashion Forward e.V., but they came about in two different ways. Green Fashion Tours is a project that I founded with Anna Perrottet from Get Changed! e.V., a Swiss non-profit, when I still had The Upcycling Fashion Store. This was a joint project between shops and Anna’s non-profit to show what Berlin has in terms of sustainable fashion shops. Then we extended Green Fashion Tours. We adopted criteria: We present labels in Germany and Austria, which apply exactly these criteria. Based on this, we got attention from the press and bloggers and decided to create a bigger project and offer regular tours. In the first year, we didn’t have so many tours, but we noticed that we received a lot of requests from private groups visiting Berlin. Now we’ve organized more than sixty tours for a fashion audience from around the world only in 2017, and this year we have extended our offers even more. We do two to three day educational and workshop programs for universities and high schools.
The Circular Economy Tours are the result of the collaboration between me and Claudi Sult from the social business Green Me Guide. During these kinds of journeys, we explore different fields linked to the circular economy, for instance, material recycling, upcycling fashion, circular cities, zero waste practices, rescued food from supermarkets, and so on.
But it’s more than just tours, after the Circular Economy Tour, for example, you have a “zero waste dinner” for all the participants.
Exactly. We do this every month in summer. The dinners or lunches are a chance to go deeper into the topics. After the tour, everyone sits down and introduces themselves, and in this moment they also understand that they are not alone, that everyone is there with the same vision, with the same interests and that they are a part of something bigger. This is precisely what’s important to us. It’s the best moment, where people are happy to reflect and understand okay wow, we are a movement and we can change something.
Who takes part in the tours?
It varies. For the Green Fashion Tours, the sustainable fashion tour, it’s mostly textile and fashion universities from around the globe. Concerning the circular economy tours, we have requests from NGOs, social entrepreneurs, and politicians, both from Berlin and Europe-wide. We also have a large professional audience, but it’s usually not individual Berlin tourists.
The reason we wanted to develop the project is because we are very passionate about sustainability, but we also noticed that the demand is there. People want to hear more about the history, to express themselves emotionally, and, in the end, have the feeling that they have done something good. It’s wonderful.
And it all developed over the last three years!
Yes, it has developed very quickly. There was also a gap in the market at that time. And I notice now that more and more people are offering similar formats. So there’s a sense of enlightenment about these topics. Our tours are more informative, getting to know the designers and economy in Berlin – but other tours are more like a shopping experience.
Photo: two seconds Photography
Do you see Berlin as a green city?
Yes, I think it’s one of the greenest cities in Europe. We have so many projects, ideas, and start-ups here. It’s not like any other capital in that sense. Amsterdam, London, the cities that are usually at the forefront of innovation, are not as far along as Berlin when it comes to sustainability. I think this is a result of the culture of politics influenced by the Green party, the German love of nature, and also a desire for quality – a quality life and quality products. Quality is an influential topic in Germany. At the same time, Berlin is not yet as expensive as the other capitals in Europe, so there’s a lot more space for developing projects and the space for people. I am Italian, I’ve lived in Berlin for seven and a half years, and seven years ago, when we started our first business here, sustainable fashion was not as developed as it is today. All the elements were here – the designers, the desire for sustainability, Fashion Week, but the movement was only in its infancy.
In the past, green fashion was associated with hippies and environmentalists. Today, celebrities like Emma Watson are outspoken in their support of green fashion and sustainable practices. What does green fashion mean today?
There is a famous quote by Livia Firth saying “Call it ‘eco-fashion’ if you like, but I think it’s just common sense.” This is what green fashion means today. Nowadays you can´t do any innovation without including sustainability as a core concept. That´s why many designers and design students, are working more and more with local productions, sustainability materials, zero waste, and recycling strategies.
Over the past few years, transparency became a key concept for both labels and consumers. In fact, as a designer, you can either produce locally, and you get to know your suppliers and manufacturers personally and also show transparency to your customers or you can manufacture overseas – and we all know what that means – you can´t be sure about what chemicals are being used and you don’t know what the working conditions are like. There are, of course, also great exceptions: smaller labels controlling or creating their whole supply chain in different areas of the globe. But this is not the standard if we think about big retailers.
So, it’s not about calling it “green” that makes fashion better. The consumer nowadays is informed and makes their decisions on the basis of transparency and information.
What do you have planned for the fall and winter?
New workshops, focused even more on innovation, where we want to bring manufacturers and new technology together with sustainability. In October, Green Fashion Tours will also be launched in Munich with a Green Fashion Map and first tour of the shops that meet our criteria.
Do you have one or two Berlin recommendations where we can check out some green fashion?
Of course! Homage on Dieffenbachstraße is one of the few stores that has great fashion for both men and women. They have a great range, really something for everyone. And Ecoalf on Alte Schönhauser Straße. There you can see the innovation happening in material right now. When you go, tell them I said “Hi!”