Green glamour puts Berlin back on global fashion map

BERLIN, July 8, Fri Jul 8, 2011 1:13pm EDT

BERLIN, July 8, (Reuters Life!) - "Green glamour" is returning Berlin's fashion week to the map of trend-setting capitals, just at a time when consumers are turning to all things eco-friendly.

Two major "green" shows are exhibiting at this week's Berlin fashion week that ends on Friday.

They have recently been bought by Frankfurt Fair, the world's leader in textile and textile-technology, sending strong signals for sustainable products in the fashion sector .

"Sustainability is not a short-term trend, but a great new paradigm", Frankfurt Fair Chief Executive Detlef Braun told Reuters, adding that it was a lifestyle, affecting everything from production to retail.

In the last couple of years, eco textiles and fashion "have experienced a great leap forward, entering the fashion capitals of the world", Braun added.

It's also good for business.

"Labels realise that they won't get around the issue anymore, especially as consumers are increasingly conscious of the sustainability of the products they buy," said Friederike von Wedel of Berlin's ESMOD international fashion institute.

"Berlin is becoming an ever more important location for green fashion with international labels coming to enter the European market," said von Wedel, who directs the world's first master programme on sustainable fashion.

German voters have recently sent strong signals in favour of green policy. The Green party has risen from its beginnings as a political outsider to a mainstream party that earlier this year gained control of the affluent state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, a conservative stronghold for more than five decades.

The Greens have also benefited from Berlin's zig-zag policy on nuclear energy and have seen their popularity rise after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in March.

Japan has become a growing market for eco-friendly fashion since Fukushima, said Jana Keller, cofounder of GREENShowroom, one of the eco fairs currently showing in Berlin.

CREATIVE HOTSPOT

Berlin's fashion week became increasingly sidelined internationally, but it has been able to win back some labels and a celebrity following recently. And the eco-niche has helped this trend, especially given the city's efforts to make itself a creative hotspot.

"Berlin is currently the most important location for green fashion", Kati Drescher, who runs an eco fashion showroom parallel to Fashion Week, told Reuters, adding that the city was a global trend-setter.

Green fashion positioned Berlin vis-a-vis other fashion capitals, said Christoph Lang of Berlin Fashion Week's production partner Berlin GmbH, adding that it was a growth sector with great future potential.

GREENShowroom, together with Ethical Show of Paris one of the shows Frankfurt Fair has also bought, has seen a trend for sustainable fashion develop in the course of a short time.

"Since our first event in 2009 with 16 exhibitors, we have grown to over 30," Keller of GREENShowroom told Reuters, adding there were around 500 companies worldwide today, which reflected their vision and concept.

Sustainability and green consciousness has also found its way into the mainstream with plenty of global retailers offering lines using organic cotton.

While only the most rigorous schemes live up to the standards Keller demands of the labels invited to exhibit at her fair, broader schemes by global firms still encourage production of sustainable cotton, she said.

Denim maker Levi's drive to reduce water usage illustrates the rising green consciousness in mainstream fashion, having reduced the amount of water used for its jeans, a process usually involving 42 litres, by an average of 28 percent.

At Berlin's current Bread & Butter trade fair, the Levi's stand uses empty bottles to illustrate the water consumption of jeans production, and encourages wearers to act green at home by washing their jeans less to save water.

(Additional reporting by Veronica Bryan, editing by Paul Casciato)

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