„Ignore cheapness – save your money“ Interview with Ed van Hinte

The fashion industry is speeding up. Leading fashion retailers are producing up to 12 collections per year. Fast fashion is flooding the market. The cheaper the better. Ed van Hinte is a Dutch industrial designer and self confessed „consumption critic“. I talked to him about the problems of the fashion system, sustainable fashion concepts, and how to extend the lifespan of our clothes.

What do you think is the most urgent problem with our clothing regarding sustainability?
The whole fashion system is destructive, because of what it does to the environment, the enormous material flow, pricing pressure and low payment for those who do the work.
The most urgent problem is probably the speed of fashion. Fast fashion is cheap, so it maybe should be something even immaterial. An idea is, you go to a shop and dress up and take pictures of yourself and pay for that and then leave.

Without actually buying something?
You would pay because it would change your image. The clothes themselves would be much more expensive because you don’t have to buy them anymore.
The more obvious idea is that fast fashion is no longer made of textiles. We are all wearing clothes made out of fabric, but that could be different. We should make those kinds of clothes out of materials you can throw away with your newspaper, out of easy recyclable materials, that don’t take energy. The fashion industry has to focus on innovation and development. Yesterday, I mentioned the elastic paper material for instance. The paper is developed in the atmosphere of packaging. Clothing is also packaging.

Are there already clothes made out of paper or is that just an idea?
As far as I know there is a machine now, developed this year by GruppoX in Italy for the packaging industry. There are experiments with paper clothes and in 1967 Scotch produced paper dresses that you could buy for one dollar plus two soap coupons. The principle could be translated into fashion, but not as a one-time gimmick. It is good for industries to learn from each other and mix things up.

What do you think about recycling regarding our clothing?
Fast fashion items should be made out of material that can be recycled easily. Also, you can extend the lifespan of your clothes by wearing them longer. Maybe you can wear them for 15 to 20 years. I have clothes like this. These socks I am wearing are 15 or 20 years old. For this purpose, the clothes have to be such good quality that you can recycle them in a responsible way.

You say that we should extend the lifespan of our clothes by wearing them for up to 20 years. How is this compatible with the new trends that are coming up every season and what would the job of a fashion designer would be like?
As a fashion designer, you could design just slow clothes, very comfortable long-lasting winter clothes for instance. You could also decide to get involved in fast recyclable fashion and design new collections every second day.

How does this work for High-end Fashion Brands like Gucci or Chanel?
They are exceptional. These brands are not mass clothing producers and they are quite expensive. So, what happens to those clothes is that they are collected by people who like them very much and keep them for a long time. That is a different story than with the cheap fast fashion clothing. There is no material flow. What these brands should do is put some of their money into the well-being of the people producing their clothes. There is an economic model which is not based on growth. It is called the doughnut economy developed by Kate Raworth. It says basically that the economy is shaped like a doughnut. The ring itself is the optimum quality for people to survive. Inside the doughnut is where the social circumstances are very bad, so you have to reduce that and get the people from there into the doughnut by spending money. Outside the doughnut you find excess and too much waste. So, you also have to spend money to reduce waste, you should rather get an economy of quality than an economy of quantity. As a fashion designer, you can keep an eye on that.

Companies that produce sustainable fashion are mostly not the leading companies in the fashion industry. How can we make big companies like H&M and Zara produce their clothes more sustainably?
They have to be forced. As long as their business is booming they don’t really care. People are not very considerate. They do not think about sustainability or who produced their clothes. You have to find a way to get under their skin. And this is true for consumers as well as for producers. But for producers it is way more difficult. They are focused on sales revenue. But making more money is not always necessarily good for the environment. What they do with the profits should also be a part of their business plan. They have to invest their profits so that they can produce their clothes in a more sustainable way as well as pay fair wages to their workers.

What is your concrete suggestion that is practicable for everybody to make clothes more sustainable?
Ignore Black Friday, ignore special offers, ignore cheap clothes. For instance, I bought these pants I am wearing yesterday. They are from „Brax“ and when I bought them I got a radio with them. I did not expect it, I don’t need it. This is a good example on how they try to speed up fashion. Somehow, we have to stop that, because that’s what people always fall for. Sales and special offers. People sometimes buy just for the sake of buying. They buy it because it’s cheap even if they don’t need it. They don’t think about it and that is the problem. The first step would be ignoring cheapness. Save your money.

„Waste is not waste until you waste it!“ Interview with Juliet Namujju

Juliet Namujju is a Ugandan fashion designer and the CEO of Kimuli Fashionability. At the young
age of twenty-one, she was able to build up her own label that revolves around taking waste in
Uganda and creating something entirely new with it. This form of designing and creating clothes is
called upcycling.
Kimuli Fashionability was created in November 2015 at the Social Innovation Academy (SINA) in
Mpigi by Juliet Namujju to produce and create innovative fashion and accessory products. With
combining plastic waste like sugar sacks or cement sacks and African fabrics and garments like
kitenge, sisal or backcloth she creates truly African products in a country full of western fabrics and
cheap, low-quality products imported from most Asian countries.
Juliet Namujju made it her task to step against all of this waste that is being overproduced and not
recycled enough to help our planet be a better one. She and her team members go to waste pits
and collect different types of waste that they can upcycle. Saving the environment is only one of
two reasons Juliet Namujju is doing this. She wants to promote beautiful African garments and
fabrics which she combines with the plastic waste.
Upcycling is all about saving the planet we live on and reusing our worlds plastic waste which is
not environmentally sustainable and does not rot. Plastic waste is an enemy especially to the
animals living on this planet. Tons and tons of plastic waste alight every year in our oceans. Fish,
other Sea animals as well as Birds cannot differentiate between their food and plastic waste,
leading to many animals dying because of it. It is simply destroying our Eco System.

Bildquelle: Engagement Global / Bodo Tiedemann

When and how did you make the decision to open up your own label?
I started last year. Since I was young I loved working with people with disabilities which made me
start building my brand and including people with disabilities. They lack skills, they are vulnerable
and they are being discriminated. Giving them an opportunity, a chance, to teach them the skills
they need for fashion and design will make a good impact on them, their community as well as the
society we live in.
Was it hard to build up your label?
I come from an organization that teaches us not to give up because of bigger challenges but to
look at big things and slowly accomplishes it. „Social Innovation Academy“(SINA) in Uganda
accompanies young people on their way to become an entrepreneur.
Why did you make the decision to do upcycling?
Upcycling is one of the unique ideas in Africa.My grandmother was a Ugandan fashion designer as
well as a tailor. From a young age, I had the opportunity to take her remaining pieces and sew
flowers and dresses for my dolls out of them. I was able to see that waste could be something very
useful. At that age, I didn’t even realize that I was upcycling waste. When I grew up I developed
that passion I have now for upcycling waste and designing something out of it. To be unique from
all fashion designers in Africa.
What type of waste do you use for your upcycling?
Everything plastic waste we can find like sugar sacks, empty milk packets, rice sacks and cement
sacks. Collecting them from rubbish pits, bringing them with us and washing them. After that, we
sew them together with our African fabrics. In that way, we can bring together environmental
sustainability and the traditional African garments and fabrics.
What is your inspiration for creating your designs?
I and my team work very tight together in the creative process of designing our clothes without
copying from other fashion designers. It can also depend on the customer. You may find a person
who comes up with its own idea or design. The design you have in mind could also not work for
 your customer considering the fit, the size, the customer’s figure and the overall look of the item. I
will not hesitate or beat around the bush if the design will not look good on you.
What is your favorite design at the moment?
The rain and waterproof jacket. It got developed last year with one of my customers from Poland
and was instantly trending. It also sold out. It has not been branded yet but that will be done
shortly. They are gonna be restrictions on the design and idea behind the item so that no other
fashion designer can copy it. It is unique and I am very proud of it.
What would you tell a designer thinking about going into upcycling?
Upcycling is all about promoting and saving the environment, about reusing waste. You have to be
creative. You will get waste but will fail with doing something out of it. You can not take yourself to
be a higher person because you have to touch the waste and wash it. As the fashion designer has
to be an example to your workers and even to other members of your company. You have to be
able to make your own hands dirty. That will give you the opportunity to evolve the passion for
collecting waste and creating something out of it.

Albanian workers are still cheaper Interview: Emma Engel

Artan Xhiani is Managing Partner of the Albanian Consulting Network UHY Elite and member of Confindustria of Albania. So, let us read about what a finance manager thinks about fair working conditions connected to fashion.


You mentioned that the gap between the minimum wage and the live spending is wider in Albania compared to other countries like for example China. How is that possible?

There are many reasons for low wages. The Albanian governmental system is still weak and cannot have a full control in the labor market. Therefore in some areas, there are employees who are working under difficult conditions and earn less than the minimum salary, and sometimes paid in black (not declared for tax purpose) .

The most people working for textile companies never learned that job and so get lower wages because there is a higher risk for mistakes in the production process. Albanians will embrace a different workplace for “only” 5,00 € more a month because of the financial gap.  There have never been official figures published regarding the minimum life expenditures per person or per family in Albania. However, there are some indicators which tell us that the minimum living cost per person is 200-250 Euro per month excluding the dwelling expense.

The minimum salary defined in the law is 180 Euro per month since May 2017 and most of the workers get paid close to this amount. Still, it is not enough to cover living costs and other expenses such as taking care of their children and families at the same time.

Why do employers hire uneducated employees when there is an existing risk in failing the quality control of those textiles she/he sewed?

 The educational system in Albania has been focused on universities and high college in the last 25 years, that is why there are too many jobless accountant, lawyers, engineers, dentists, etc. and there are not enough qualified labors because the education system for the qualified labors was almost in-existent up until 5 years ago. Looking at the high demand for qualified labors in the market, the government is now investing and sponsoring professional schools which produce skillful/qualified labors. In this context, the employers have had (and still have) difficulties to find already qualified employees for their business. There are two options:

  1. hire unqualified people and show them the ropes. Which means more costs for the business (time, money, and high risk for low quality production).
  2. “steal” qualified employees from each other.

Even though with the new policy of developing professional schools by the government, the demand for skilled labors is much higher than the actual supply. It will take some years (5-6 more years) to narrow this gap for the professional labors. Not to be surprised, some Albanian companies are looking for skilled labors from Far East Countries to fill their immediate needs for skilled labors.

It is still cheaper. You do not need to pay as much salary for an uneducated worker even though there might be a 20% higher risk in failing the quality control compared to the educated sewer.

What would be your idea to improve the system and to make the employees stay?  

The thing is that a company that hires an uneducated worker, needs to invest money to teach him everything he needs to know. The problem about this is that it is lost money as soon as the worker decides to leave for another workplace. The best approach to retain an employee is not to keep him through a contract saying, “You need to stay for three years after we taught you the profession of a sewer”, because it does not have any consequences when the employee leaves anyway.

I think that one will make the best approach by saying, “We will teach at our cost and we want you to stay loyal and offer you therefore a savings book at our local company. This is how it works: You will earn 5,00 € extra each month in the first year that will go straight to your saving account. The second year will be 8,00 € and the third year will be 10,00 € if you stay. You will get the money after five years if you do not quit.” So, the idea is to pay the workers a bonus for their loyalty additional to their monthly wage.

What about welfare? Can one apply for it if she/he does not have a job?

Yes, there is welfare in Albania but you can only apply for it if you worked for one year and only then you will receive welfare for one year. You can get up to 60,00 € a month per person which does not even cover the living spending.

You said that you want the clothing label to say, “Made in Albania” instead of “Made in Italy”. Why and why does that not work out?

Well, first of all the clothing is made in Albania and not in Italy! The problem is that there is no agreement between the EU and Albania to enter into the European market because of the standards that Albania does not fulfil. The garments get shipped from Italy to Albania, get sewed in Albania and then get shipped back to Italy so the company can sell it all over in Europe. The label says: “Made in Italy” because the main process takes its place there.

However, there are quite many brands which do provide the label “Made in Albania” such as: Caprice, Camper, Ferrari, GF Ferré, Byblos, Laura Biagiotti, Beverly Hills, Gas, Bonavita, Sorbino, Relish, Meltin Pot, Ted Baker, Jack & Jones, Tommy Hilfiger, Angel & Devil, Sixty, La blanche, Plaetor, Cotonella, Essere, Tod’s, etc.


„Nachhaltige Mode darf nicht nachhaltig aussehen“

Slow, ökologisch, fair: Wenn es um fair produzierte Mode geht, haben viele Konsumenten noch immer das Bild von langweiligen Öko-Kleidern im Kopf. Designerin Friederike von Wedel-Parlow und Bloggerin Antonia Wille von amazed erklären, warum nachhaltige Modeunternehmen im Blogger- und Influencergeschäft hinterherhinken.

Antonia Wille präsentiert bei amazed ein Fair Fashion T-Shirt von Reformation mit einem Blazer der High-Speed Marke Mango. Foto: Antonia Wille /

„Für 2018 nehmen wir uns vor, noch öfter auch unter dem Jahr an unsere Mitmenschen zu denken, Hilfe anzubieten und vor allen Dingen auch unseren Modekonsum weiter zu reduzieren und mit Bedacht zu kaufen. Das funktioniert nicht immer, aber immer öfter – und wie ihr wisst: Jeder kleine Schritt zählt!“

Diese Gedanken macht sich Antonia Wille, eine der drei Gründerinnen des erfolgreichen Münchner Modeblogs amazed in einem Instagram-Post kurz vor Neujahr. „Wir stellen immer mal wieder faire Labels vor, um unsere User zu sensibilisieren und um sie auf coole, faire Labels aufmerksam zu machen“. Einzelne Fair Fashion Teile von kleinen Münchner Labels oder von bekannten Firmen wie hessnatur kombinieren die Bloggerinnen mit Fast Fashion Stücken in Outfit-Postings. Dabei sind die Autorinnen von amazed immer wieder erstaunt über die Resonanz der Leser: „Faire Labels kommen extrem gut an. Die Leser sind froh, wenn man ihnen faire Sachen an die Hand gibt. Vor allem, wenn man ihnen gute Alternativen im Basic-Bereich wie T-Shirts und Pullover zeigt. Gerade bei diesen Teilen sind die Leute dann bereit, Geld auszugeben.“

Die Vermittlung eines bewussten Konsumverhaltens ist auch die Agenda von Friederike von Wedel-Parlow, Gründerin des Beneficial Design Instituts und ehemalige Professorin des Studiengangs „Sustainability in Fashion“ an der Esmod Berlin. In Zusammenarbeit mit FEMNET e.V. und mit der finanziellen Unterstützung des Bundesministeriums für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit gab sie im April letzten Jahres den Fair Fashion Guide heraus, einen ästhetisch anspruchsvollen Guide für fair produzierte Mode. „Wir wollten versuchen, die Leute genau da abzuholen, wo sie sind, also Fashion-Konsumenten mit ihren Lese- und Sehgewohnheiten. Wir wollten sie herübertragen in das Feld der Fair Fashion“, sagt von Wedel-Parlow, die für ihren Guide viel positives Feedback bekommen hat.

„Die Schnitte sehen oft aus wie von 1980“

Auch die Münchner Bloggerin Antonia Wille ist sich sicher: Es gibt eine große Nachfrage an fairer Mode. Für amazed würde es sich anbieten, öfter mit fairen Labels zu kooperieren. Allerdings tut sich das Blog-Unternehmen schwer, geeignete Partner zu finden. „Das große Problem ist, dass nachhaltige Mode oftmals nach Nachhaltigkeit aussieht.“ Meist seien nur wenige einzelne Teile aus Kollektionen passend für Blogeinträge. „Die Sachen dürfen nicht nach „öko“ oder Schnitten von 1980 aussehen. Ich verstehe es oftmals nicht, dass sich niemand von den fairen Labels einen Designer von Inditex oder H&M ins Haus holt.“

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Der Fair Fashion Guide von Friederike von Wedel-Parlow gibt Tipps für bewusstes Shopping und stellt nachhaltige Labels vor. Foto: Regina Steffens

Designer sind teuer, das Budget fairer Labels oft gering. Modern und aufwendig geschnittene nachhaltige Mode hat deshalb oftmals ihren Preis. „Eine schöne, faire Jeans eines kleinen Labels kostet gerne mal 500 Euro. Die kann ich unseren Lesern nicht vorstellen, denn die kann sich kaum wer leisten.“ An Geld fehlt es nachhaltigen Modeunternehmen auch oft für Marketing. „Viele nachhaltige Labels stecken ihr Geld lieber in faire Löhne, Entwicklungsarbeit, gute Materialien und Transparenz, als in teure Kooperationen mit Influencern“, meint von Wedel-Parlow.

Für die Modefrau Wille ist jedoch ein niedriges Budget keine Ausrede. Gerade in Sozialen Netzwerken, die man günstig bespielen kann, lägen nachhaltige Marken zurück. „Die Kanäle sind oft sehr öko-angehaucht, sehr bunt, wenig ästhetisiert, wenig von dem, wonach Mode-Menschen heute eben auswählen. Da versagen die Labels.“

Die Story steckt im Produkt

Doch gerade hier erkennt die Bloggerin eine Chance: Haben kleine Marken verstanden, wie Ästhetik heute funktioniert und sie dem Kunden nicht bloß ein Produkt, sondern auch einen Lifestyle verkaufen, steigen Followerzahlen und Verkäufe enorm an. „Ich glaube, es würde funktionieren, wenn man zeigen könnte wie toll und schön Fair Fashion ist, welche Konzepte und Stories dahinter stecken. Bei nachhaltig produzierter Kleidung muss man sich keine Story ausdenken. Sie steckt im Produkt“, meint auch von Wedel-Parlow.

Den Vorteil gegenüber Fast Fashion Marken, dem Konsumenten ein gutes Gefühl durch nachhaltige, fairen Produktion zu geben, haben kleine Marken, fern von Armed Angels und hessnatur, bis jetzt allerdings wenig ausgenutzt. „Es würde viele Leute vielleicht sogar stolz machen, faire Mode zu tragen“, vermutet Wille.

Influencer wollen sich mit dem guten Image nachhaltiger Mode identifizieren

Hier knüpft sich für kleine Labels eine zweite Chance an: Influencer und Blogger ins Boot  holen. Auch dabei ist für Wille das Budget-Problem keine Entschuldigung. „Es gibt immer mehr Blogger, die sich über bewusstes Leben und faire Mode Gedanken machen und wissen, dass es ihre Abonnenten interessiert.“ Eine Kooperation mit nachhaltigen Modemarken färbt auch auf den Charakter eines Blogs oder Instagram-Kanals ab: „So eine Zusammenarbeit kann total richtungsweisend sein“, weiß das amazed-Team. „Es ist ja auch Imagebildung für uns.“

Deshalb würden viele Blogger auch ohne Bezahlung mit kleinen Marken kooperieren. Auch, wenn Blogs wie amazed zu unbezahlten Partnerschaften bereit sind, wünschen sie sich einen Partner, der den gleichen Stil fährt wie sie selbst. Ästhetik und einen coolen Lifestyle sind das, was Influencer und Blogger wollen – und faire Labels brauchen.