Thursday, July 14, 2011

Post-Fashion Week Musings from Berlin: Part 2

schmidttakahashi FW11/12 (image courtesy of Mueller & Zenone PR)

Freelance writer and translator Emilie Florenkowsky provides Ecco*Eco readers with a three part review of last week's premiere green fashion event in Berlin, the Green Showroom.

The Dutch/Portuguese label Elementum is geared toward zero waste by employing the minimum cuts to extract the maximum number of garments from tubular cloth. This harkens back to Issey Miyake's A-Poc (acronym for a piece of cloth) concept label from 1999 (above image) and its computer-programmed manufacture of continuous fabric tubes containing finished garments. Needing only to be snipped out according to the wearer's desired length, Miyake's foresight completely removes factory labor from the production equation. 

I was thrilled to see a few designers challenging consumer behavior by conjuring up solutions for reuse and upcycling. Both Sakina M'sa Paris and Berlin's schmidttakahashi are cohorts and followers of re-worked vintage guru Andrea Crews, whose projects and performances with recycling fashion have earned her cult status. The former's "Blue Line" pays homage to the working class with their take on practical-chic. Here, Sakina M'sa designer displays a cocktail dress and blazer derived from typical, royal blue workers' uniforms, which she collects from various institutions and unions in Paris, cleans and stitches into huge quilt-like panels. 

This patchwork yields unique pieces ranging from winter coats to tote bags – each combining highly tailored looks with an element of history and utilitarianism and, of course, durability.

The highlight of my visit to the Green Showroom was meeting design duo schmidttakahashi - a living metaphor for patchwork. Hailing from Tajikistan and Japan, Eugenie Schmidt and Mariko Takahashi met in Berlin, a mix-and-match city in its own right and a place instilled with a spirit of resourcefulness and DIY – perhaps a remnant of the not-too-distant GDR era. Against this backdrop, schmidttakahashi launched their "Reanimation" line in 2010. These totes illustrate their circular system of 'working with what you've got'.

Consumers are invited to take an active part in tracing the life cycle of clothes. A donation box is placed at like-minded boutiques internationally and a code is then allocated to each donated article of clothing, allowing the material to be tracked to its new 'reanimated' designs. These pieces are meant to be re-donated and re-made again and again. In the process a performative act transpires, encouraging us all to consider the life span of the objects surrounding us. The concept is a bit of a novelty and not yet foolproof, but food for thought, nonetheless. Plus, the spring/summer collection is characterized by a lovely application of macramé in the joining of materials. I think they have succeeded in raising the aesthetic bar and defying connotations surrounding 'used garments'. Alongside the search for 'greener' materials, I welcome more concepts for coming to terms with our waste and working with what we have.

Anyone interested in continuing to turn a profit in the fashion industry will also have to explore groundbreaking solutions and revelations. UK nonprofit Forum for the Future presents a fascinating report, outlining scenarios of the fashion world in 2025, when utter resource shortages met with explosions in costs and populations will require designers to create accordingly. I wonder what role future fashion weeks will play in such a landscape …

Stay tuned for part three of Emilie's review.

Freelance writer and translator Emilie Florenkowsky has lived in Berlin since 2005. Check out her online journal of art, science and all points in between, META magazine

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