Friday, 29 February 2008

Reports from the BioFach: in search for organic cotton

Everything organic on the BioFach? Maybe for food it mostly was. But visiting all the textile related stands on the BioFach, I had some remarkable encounters. At a stand where they had a good looking offer of organic cotton materials, I asked if they only did organic cotton. Immediately the lady took a large box from under the desk, and presented me proudly all their non-organic cottons. At another stand I was overwhelmed by the large offer of sportswear and caps, but wondering if they were organic, it turned out that about ninety percent was not at all.

Okay, the BioFach is not supposed to be a leading fair on organic textiles, but there shouldn't be sold just conventional textiles either. Especially because there is still a lot of confusion on what organic textiles are. Luckily these were exceptions and I had a lot of good experiences as well, meeting nice people of small ethical brands, producers, and shop owners, representatives from MadeBy, Solidaridad, Pesticide Action Network, etc.

How to label sustainable clothing?
I visited also the discussion forum "Organic cotton - how to label sustainable clothing?". A rather complex question, with no answers yet. Alexandra Perschau from the PAN Germany described the problem of the labeling towards the consumer: there is hardly any recognition with the existing labels, there are too many different ones and the consumer does not have any clue on them. They have more knowledge of brands than on labels.

The central problem around how to label sustainable clothes was described by Jenns Soth from Helvetas. You can have a certified organic fibre, but what about the end problem? There is a legal gap in labeling organic textiles because you can not yet label non food items as organic in

One quote from Helvetas sticked to my ears. They claim that in the organic cotton sector the partnerships are stronger than in the conventional, resulting in a higher loyalty and responsibility from the farmers. Logical, because there is more time and energy spent on training the farmers, and often worked with social programs, support of forming collectives, etc. But my conclusion is, that this could mean that actually the organic cotton production model in the end could be a more reliable business model.

Helvetas announced on the forum, they are working on Emission Certificates for textiles. What sounds like a good initiative of reducing carbon acid, also came with a lot of questions: does it reduce the miles a textile is transported? Is it right to give an emission certificate not for the whole chain but only for the production process?

Track & Trace your clothes origin with Made-By
The most interesting in the quest for a good labeling of sustainable textiles was the presentation of the Made-By initiative, who are expanding this year towards the UK, France, Germany and Sweden. According to research, for most companies reputation is most important when it comes to CSR. But for companies investing in CSR it is crucial to understand that CSR should be their business principle, and not only a strategy to produce a better image.

MadeBy offers clothing companies a way to clean up their production process, they give practicle support and monitor the results. Also the brands get a blue botton stating that the piece of clothing is produced under the MadeBy criteria. A very up to date part of the project is a Track & Trace tool, where consumers can check where exactly their clothing are being made, under which circumstances, and even see the people who made their piece of clothing. Just by entering a unique code from your jeans you get all this information, including the locations your jeans have been on google maps.

Hopefully there will come a more clear labeling for organic textiles soon, what will help the consumer a lot in choosing the right product. But meanwhile there are a lot of interesting initiatives, and it stayes, labeling or not, very important is that brands work on their whole chain transparency.

Actually the best experience was to meet our organic cotton deliverers from BoWeevil. They made it possible for us to visit several places along their production chain in Turkey and Uganda, and I find the way they work very sympathetic.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Photo impressions from the BioFach organics fair

A lot of different visitors on the BioFach organics fair: between all the neat suits and organic products one could spot quite some styles and cultures...

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Reports from the Biofach: Life elixer from Makava

On the blogger meeting, I met a few Austrian guys who just started their own biological, fair trade lemonade brand called MAKAvA. Being about the same stage with our ethical fashion brand Pamoyo, it is fun to hear the stories of other young, green entrepreneurs.

Based on ‘green gold’ Maté, MAKAvA you to have a good mood and bring a smile in your face, as the makers of the drink promise. The drink is sweetened with Agave and elder blossom. It is made with real spring water and without any adding of carbonic acid. That’s why it tastes different than most other lemonades, less sweet, and quite a subtle taste.

The MAKAvA lemonade will be spread by selling in selected clubs, bars and shops. Soon they will expand to Germany as well. We will hear more of this drink, I hope. Now the Bionade limonade started to sell at MacDonalds in Germany, it's getting time for some new drinks!

Reports from Biofach: De Leckere, one of the best dutch special beers in the world

The international organic fair BioFach has an incredible offer of organic foods. For all I am amazed by all the innovative and luxurious products offered. Finest biological Belgian chocolate, in exciting new tastes, the best Italian pestos, exotic local fruits from Africa, sparkling new lemonades, etc. As a dedicated consumer of organic products one feels like Alice in wonderland.

One of the products presented on the Dutch area of the BioFach (every country has it’s own cultural-commercial trade space) is a special beer brand called De Leckere (“The Tasty One”). This beer brand was once started by some old housemates of mine in our basement. They were some young guys with a passion for beer, experimenting nights long to invent their own beers.

We, the other house mates, were a bit of laboratory rabbits, drinking the results from their experiments. There were always stories and rumors about the ingredients. And off course they tried out making cannabis beer as well. But in the end they developed some really amazing beers that were sold in the shops. After a fast growth and some troubles the beer started to conquer the world. With almost all smaller beer brands being part of larger ones, it is great to see a small, independent beer brand survive so long...

Monday, 25 February 2008

Reports from the Biofach organic fair: bloggers regarded as press

The Biofach is the largest business to business fair on organic products worldwide. While the leading fair is in Germany, other BioFach fairs are hold in USA, China, Japan and Brazil. The BioFach in Germany welcomes about 45.000 professionals in the field of organic products, for all in the food but also in the noon food sector. Among the visitors are about 700 journalists.

This year the BioFach has a new novelty: Bloggers on the topic of sustainability are treated as press, even with an own bloggers press center. A very innovative concept, and in a time where web2.0 and blogs are still in rising importance, an initiative worth for other events and fairs to consider to do as well. In example also in fashion blogs have gotten a great position in inspiring designers by offering ideas from the streets, niches, subcultures and avant garde.

Bloggers meeting at the BioFach
On Friday evening there was a special sustainability bloggers meeting on the BioFach. As bloggers you often know each others blogs and maybe have some contact, and than it`s great fun meeting the faces behind them. The evening went all too fast, but it is a nice community with great diversity, all between activist looks and casual suits.

At the meeting we discussed the possibilities of a common shared online network project, without all too concrete results, but with a good exchange of ideas. Most important is that we as bloggers had the opportunity to get in touch. I met some really nice people and found it all together an inspiring event. Thanks to Geoffrey Glaser from the Nuremberg Messe, Herwig and Christoph , and off course the bloggers. Hope to see you soon again!

More reports on BioFach expected...

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Green & Recycling Fashion in Nuremberg (Germany): Duenda and the Glore Store

The best things come per coincidence. Yesterday I travelled to Nuremberg to visit the BioFach Messe, the largest professionals fair on organic products in the world (more reports later). I had my trip last minute booked through the German online carpool network Mitfahrgelegenheit and a very guest friendly host through the couchsurfing network Hospitalityclub. Altough I did not meet the guy hosting me, he just left me the key of his appartment and let me stay here in trust. There's still hope for humanity.

Creative decorations and recycling fashion by Duenda
When I arrived in the city I went looking for a cosy cafe with internet. After a unsuccesful detour through the romantic Nuremberg city, I stumbled over a small designer store called Duenda, which turned out to be a small cafe as well. Everything in this shop is made by the owners, a young German-Spanish creative couple full of wonderful ideas. Shoes with two big toes, uneven furniture, tons of fantastic decorative things and above all very worked out designer clothing with uneven cuts and handpainted drawings. A small, artistic universe and a great place for coffee as well. By the way Jordi, thanks for using your internet!

Cool Green Fashion in the Glore Store
From Duente it's over the bridge and you're at the Glore Store, Nurembergs Green Fashion Store. "Look fabulous, do good" is their motto. My first impression of the shop: colourful! Not only the pink store logo on the window, also the clothing was daringly outspoken in colours. I've seen some ethical fashion stores like Nukuhiva in Amsterdam, where black and grey have been dominating. I like green fashion on the creative side. The Glore Store combines classic ethical fashion brands like Howies, Kuyichi, or People Tree, streetwear styles from Nudie, Tudo Bom and the Berlin label Slowmo combined with cool screenprints on American Apparel shirts. Also a good selection of sneakers from Terra Plana, Blackspot, Ethletic and Veja. A good store concept that we will hear more of in Germany, I hope!

see also earlier report on Glore by Karmakonsum

Thursday, 21 February 2008

sexy ethics & dirty business: the edgy fashion game of American Apparel

American Apparel clothes are so fucking sexy. And they are so amazingly social to their workers. Wow! They care about their employers so much. But, well, maybe a bit too much...

I was in an American Apparel store just yesterday and wondered about all these great organic clothes that I`ve lately seen a lot in their advertisements. Well, they were mostly used for making the ads, I suppose, pushing their image of a green, ethical brand. If you happen to visit an American Apparel store, you will notice how much is true of AA's green image, and how much we`re actually trapped in a great branding strategy...

Sexy and sweatshop free
American Apparel has had a lot of positive response to their clothes. The cuts are very good indeed, the materials soft. If you look around in the right areas, you can easily pick out the AA garments passing by. They are good, sexy, sweatshop free. They care for their workers, paying more than minimum wage, paying insurances, and offering yoga and language courses under working time. That is rather progressive considering the circumstances elsewhere.

Conscious creatives use American Apparel shirts to make ethically correct screen print Tees. But somehow I am suspicious. I is all image, really. And if not, they better proof it. Earlier the company promised to convert to 80 percent organic in 2010, well, let`s see how far they are. Hey there in Downtown LA, tell us you`re keeping your green promises!

Critics on American Apparel

I just went for a quick search of info on the company and found some interesting critics:

- American Apparel has been selling flip-flops from Thailand in their shops lately, therefor breaking their rule to produce a vertically-integrated, sweatshop free goods

- Mr. Charney, CEO of the company, has a bit of a lose sexual style. Well, if the ads not told you already, linking to seventies porn, edgy advertising is their core business, but here it is not only image, but a working atmosphere. Charney (see pic of him in underwear on the working floor) has been accused by several former American Apparel employees of being sexually harassed by him at work. Although he denies being sexually offensive, he admits that enjoys sexual free working conditions at the 'vertically integrated' company.

- American Apparel is the largest T-shirt manufacturer, and operates the largest garment factory in the United States. The company is said to be one of the fastest growing companies in America. Sexy ethics sell indeed...

- Earlier the company has been taking steps against union forming initiatives of their employees.

Legalize LA campaign
Something that really speaks for the company and might also be part of their unconventional but sublime marketing strategy of being a `social company`, is American Apparels Legalize LA campaign. With a big banner on the pink factory in LA, and Ads in the papers, they make themselves strong for a more human immigration policy.

Better sexy ethics than unhappy workers
I am ambiguous about American Apparel and I think anyone concerned about ethical fashion should keep an eye on what is really being produced under ethical standards, and what is just part of a good marketing strategy. Because the "ethical light" of American Apparel can also hurt the movement as a whole.

I have my doubts about AA's real ethics, but they are just doubts. American Apparel also has had the courage to promote sweatshop free clothing and giving that a cool and rather sexy push. And therefor they deserve good credits.

Even hardcore feminists have to admit that basic (women) workers rights are more important than some sexistic advertisments. And why is the explicit gay magazine Butt lying around in all their stores? And why are so many American Apparel clothes unisex, even if they don`t say so? And what other fashion company puts meters high ads of an old lady wearing their underwear?

The sexism is here played as an edgy fashion game, so it is more about playing than about abusing. It is performative and provocative. Sexistic indeed, but meanwhile sexually progressive. Fashion from the friendly porn collective, if you like it.

Just keep aware of what you wear, and if you wear American Apparel, read these sources:

Business Week
Inc Com

pictures taken from different American Apparel ads

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Stylish vegan footwear by Bourgeois Boheme

Bourgeois Boheme, an online animal-friendly fashion boutique, has recently launched its own stylish footwear for men and women named Espiritual and Jiva.

The shoes are handmade and ethically produced in Portugal and India. The range is made of microfibre, an eco-friendly leather alternative, and acoording to the producers 100% animal-friendly. Even the glue used is water based.

A French tourist called Bourgeois Boheme
Bourgeous Boheme was started by two vegans with a taste for style. In their spare hours next to their jobs, they built up the shop and started to design own products. The company name is dedicated to a French tourist whom they met by coincidence.

Animal rights with style
The style of shoe wear is a little different than what is already on the vegan shoe market. Most labels, such as No Sweat, Blackspot, or Vegetarian Shoes are more or less directed to alternative youth culture. Beyond Skin another vegan shoe brand and a very stylish, exclusive and trendy one, is more on the the high end both in quality and price. Alicia Lai, founder of Bourgeois Boheme says, “We saw there was a gap in the market for footwear that is not only animal-friendly but also stylish and affordable." That's the combinations we are looking for!

The webshop of Bourgeois Boheme offers a range of ethical fashion accessories for both men and women. Every product is free from animal ingredients and their product range includes footwear, bags, wallets, belts, cosmetics, etc. The shop has been awarded by Animal Rights organization Peta last year.

source: Haute Nature , Bourgeois Boheme

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Recycling fashion with Recycle Your Jeans

Recycle your jeans is a business that turns your own old jeans into new, funky sandals. You send them your old pair of jeans, and they make a pair of shoes or sandals out of them. The sandals are made in the UK.

Quite a fun cradle-to-cradle recycling concept. If this kind of projects really reduce carbon footprints, as the company suggests, I doubt, but recycling old jeans into sandals sounds sustainable enough. A new wave of creative recycling attempts is on it's way and there are more and more advanced techniques to recycle old products into new ones. Often it's even invisible for the consumer, in example with some of the clothes of Patagonia.

Here in Germany I hear people being quite skeptical about using recycling in clothing, well these kind of innovative projects will hopefully set foot here as well and change the attitude!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

New York Fashion Week goes Green: Ekovarahuset & Earth Pledge Future Fashion Show

Recently fashion shows and fashion weeks gave a lot of attention to the topic of Green Fashion. The New York Fashion Week was stuffed with different shows giving attention to the topic, in example one by Swedish eco fashion collective Ekovaruhuset at the Haworth NY showroom Read this article for a full report.

In New York also hemp showed its comeback on the Earth Pledge Future Fashion Show in New York (picture), where designers like
Donatella Versace, Behnaz Sarafpour, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan International, Calvin Klein, Isabel Toledo and Doo.Ri showed their eco-fashion creations with hemp and other sustainable textiles such as organic cotton. See reports on this the show by in example EcoTextileNews, Treehugger or

Talking about fashion, just announcing you...oops, should I say this?... that we have the more official launch of the first on sale collection of our own ethical fashion label Pamoyo upcoming...soon soon soon

green is sexy and organic underwear is getting hot

Green is sexy - and new cool green fashion is combating the old eco-stereotypes succesfully.
And new organic underwear lines are giving green lifestyle a fresh, kinky sex appeal.

If you consider trying out some eco-clothing, underwear is not the worst to start with, because you don't really want chemica
l leftovers direct on your intimate body parts, do you? And some new organic underwear lines really give organic a new image. Also conventional lingerie producers start to take up the topic of sustainable production, as this article describes. A marvelous example of sexy green underwear are the collections by ethical lingerie brand Enamore (picture). For more info on organic underwear, see this informative blog post or read this report by green guide Inhabitat, handing you some last minute tips for Valentine...

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Organic Exchange & MADE BY celebrate organic and sustainable fashion in Europe

Organic Exchange and MADE-BY are joining forces to launch a series of training sessions for brands and retailers, to support the growth of the sustainable fashion industry. Both organizations work on the support of a more sustainable fashion industry. On the 3rd of March 2008 the Organic Exchange will celebrate the opening of the European office in partnership with MADE BY and the launch of a shared training sessions. The party on the srd will be accompanied with an indroductionary training session.

Organic Exchange and MADE BY also announced shared training sessions on April 8 & 9 in Germany, June 9 & 10 in the UK and November 3 & 4 in Sweden. Organic Exchange Europe will also offer in-house trainings, consultancy projects and other key member services throughout the year. For more info, contact Organic Exchange.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Recykling Multiplikacje: eco-fashion event in Poland

As Summer Rayne Oaks, model and face of the ethical fashion show in Paris, predicted lately that more and more local and national green fashion events will occur and that green fashion will continue to grow. I was lately wondering if and when green fashion would set foot in Eastern Europe or Russia.

In Cracow on January 26th there was an eco-fashion show under the name "Recykling Multiplikacje - Pozak Recyklingowy". Students of the Cracow School of Art and Fashion Design (Szkola Artystyczego Projektowania Ubioru) were showing over 300 garments of eco-fashion clothing made of recycled materials-paper and plastic. The event was organized in cooperation with the Polish Goethe Institute.

Will the green living movement globalize?
The question rises if "green living" is something mainly exclusive for traditional western societies, or that the topic globalizes as well. Can eco-fashion or LOHAS become a success in Poland, or Turkey, or Russia? It is an interesting question to work out: can the green lifestyle movement be exported to countries where environmental awareness is not that popular? Will it also conquer groups of consumers and citizens not so much concerned about the environment?

source: sustainable style foundation
pictures by Pawel Kaminski

Friday, 8 February 2008

new home for ID22, institute for creative sustainability

As a symbolic new start, Berlin's institute for creative sustainability celebrated it's new home in Prenzlauer Berg on Chinese New Year, introducing the year of the rat. Moving from it's former base in the cultural community UfaFabrik, the institute now found it's place within an innovative living community (WG) in Prenzlauerberg. It looked like an inspiring place to continue, and I hope the institute will keep the network of alternative communities in Berlin alive from their new home.

ID22, institute for creative sustainability, is in Berlin for all know for it's project Experimentcity, a model project for Berlin's local Agenda 21. They are supporting and developing alternative build and living concepts, thereby balancing between a network of subcultural, creative and often anarchist communities, housing companies and politics. Goal is to support
participative and sustainable use of Berlins many empty spaces and buildings. Experimentcity offers innovative housing- and cultural projects a platform for exchange and cooperation.

Until recently the ID22 was based in the UfaFabrik, a cooperative residential community of about 30 to manage a large range of cultural, social and ecological projects: international culture center, children’s circus, cogeneration systems & renewable energy production, including one of Berlin's largest solar energy systems, local re-use of rainwater, greening of buildings, a natural foods store & organic bakery, guest house, alternative school, children's farm, one of Berlin's most successful internet communications initiatives, and a neighborhood & self-help center. It must be quite a change to leave such a place to go living on yourself...

Image: experimentdays 07

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Premium Fall/Winter 2008/09: a bit of green and a lot of grey

With the Premium slogan "Save the future!", a green area, "green living" statements on the PR material and it's central symposium with the title "eco is not a trend" the Premium Exhibitions during the Berlin Fashion Week dared to profile themselves as green. But did the event make this green promise true?

The exhibition took place in huge old postal depot halls near Potsdammer Platz, and once you enter you feel in a labyrinth of fashion worlds. Somewhere at the very end, behind all black and grey, one could find the green area. With neon green flours and pillars, it was visible were to go for the green fashion consumer. But for the mainstream fashion buyers it might just have been one bridge too far.

Eco-Fashion professionals versus LOHAS Light
I missed out on the symposium "eco is not a trend", but from others I heard it was a hot, passionate discussion between LOHAS-light and Eco fashion-professionals. Speakers included the designer Katherine Hamnett, Renate Künast from Alliance 90/The Greens and Michalis Pantelouris, editor-in-chief of IVY WORLD. The event was moderated by Melissa Drier, correspondent for Women’s Wear Daily in Germany. While green is growing as a lifestyle movement, it also has the tendency to be more about lifestyle communication than about the actual subject to protect the environment and create human working conditions. Something we all have to find a balance in! Too much of environmentalism doesn't make it anywhere, too much happy glossy lifestyle doesn't work either.

Actually I was a bit suprised that so much central quotes from the Fair Fashion Affair, the ethical fashion event Grass Routes organized last Autumn, were reflected in the Premium PR. Christoph Harrach's statement on the new movement of "Eco2.0", a central focus on LOHAS, check it out on the Premium website! And the speech of Alexandra Perschau from the Pesticide Action Network was built upon the idea that eco should be more than a trend, and that that's the real responsibility for the fashion world. Without claiming any direct connections, I just realized we somehow hit the right thing there.

Meanwhile it stays a question for the fashion professionals and fashion events how to continue with the topic and make the promise true. In Germany there is still a long way to go! During the Premium Exhibition, the green fashion area stayed a small green spot between all grey, like a flower of hope between smoking factories. The real challenge is still to turn the grey into the green. In the end, green is not about style or trend, but just about a responsible production process. A positive note and prediction to end with: green is growing... no doubt.

Picture: ethical fashion by Camilla Norrback, a Swedish label present in the Premium Exhibition's green area.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

"The Children Behind Our Cotton" - report on child labour by the Environmental Justice Foundation

With all the positive news about new ethical fashion trends, one sometimes forgets to also stay aware about the negative sides of clothing production. In December the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) published a new report on child labour in the clothing industry, focusing on cotton production.

According to the report, six of the world’s top seven cotton producers have been reported to use children in the field. The EJF states that the conditions child labourers endure in helping to produce the cotton products sold on international markets are often brutal. "They may be subjected to beatings, threats of violence and overwork. Shocking cases of sexual harassment and abuse of girls have been reported in some major cotton-producing countries. Many children in the cotton fields are exposed to what is termed hazardouschild labour, which can result in them being killed, injured or made ill as a result of their work."

You can download the whole report for free from the EJF resources page.

Fashion campaign
The Environmental Justice Foundation has been lately in the fashion spots because of their T-shirt campaign to clean up cotton production. The campaign visited Fashion weeks in London, Paris, and now Berlin, and gained attention with famous models and designer names including Katharine Hamnett and Christian Lacroix.

Environment & human rights
We have been in contact with the EJF a few times and now met them on the Premium Exhibition in Berlin. The London based Foundation operates it's campaigns with a small team, and often cooperates with larger organizations such as Greenpeace. The EJF makes a direct link between the need for environmental security and the defence of basic human rights. And in the case of cotton production this is really needed, because the effects for humans and environment are very interrelated. Fair trade cotton that is not produced organic, that's kind of impossible...

Berlin Fashion Week reports: Room to Roam, young organic fashion from Munich

Room to Roam - "the new breath of freedom blowing through a well-assorted wardrobe."

Actually there is more cool, German ethical fashion labels than one might think. On the Premium exhibition, we met the people behind the label Room to Roam. The Munich based organic fashion label Room to Roam combines fresh design and sustainability. Created by designer Akela Stoklas, the label offers elegant and exclusive items for women. Another fresh new ethical fashion brand in Germany!

Image: Room to Roam

Berlin Fashion Week Reports: Mayi, serene ethical fashion from Vienna

Mayi is a young, ethical fashion brand from Vienna by artist and designer Maye Riess. The clothes are serene and subtle, using white and light colors, and round, arty screen prints. The label produces one-of-a-kinds, the screen prints are hand made. The label positions themselves as sustainable and innovative, and their materials are ecological.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Berlin Fashion Week reports: Federal Office for Garment

The streets of Berlin are crowded from German and international fashionistas, as the Berlin Fashion Week is hitting the city. Some small reports from your Grass Routes agents...

Bundesamt für Bekleidung
At the Premium fair visitors were invited to analyze their clothing in the laboratory of the Federal Office for Garment, a Swiss institution. With a newly developed laboratorial computer system the "beamter" (officers) could analyze all the steps in the production chain of a garment: where it was made, the age of the producer, the environmental impact of the materials, etc.

After such an analyze, this brilliant invention "greening machine" would take care of all eventual negative social environmental scores. 2 seconds of "greening" was enough for the organic t-shirt I had tested, but also tougher cases could be handled with this machine, neutralizing any damage being caused in the production process.

Green washing

Frans tested his Italian jacket, with the outcome: made from wool & poliester, origin of materials: Thailand and Pakistan, 312 travel hours, 4 sewers, the dyes causing a small risk of cancer, and all kinds of technical details I did not understand. Anyway this jacket had to be green washed for almost a minute.

Because of their innovative approach, the Bundesamt für Bekleidung is travelling all around the world with their laboratory. They might visit your town as well to give you the chance to test the production process of your wardrobe...