Slow fashion Blazing new trails at Berlin Fashion Week

Three packed days of fashion shows in botanical gardens, subway tunnels and techno nightclubs proves modern designers are ditching traditional style rules.
Taking the runway to the subway.

There's no limit to what fashion designers might use to create sustainable clothing. Boots made of maize, handbags woven from banana leaves and disused military camouflage kit repurposed into vintage wear.

Fast fashion, responsible for alarming amounts of waste and pollution, is so last season. This year’s Berlin Fashion Week featured experiments in sustainable, unconventional and outrageous apparel. Shows were no longer confined to the usual glitzy locations; instead catwalks were built in Berlin’s nightclubs, former power stations, a subterranean train station and in the warm and leafy climes of the Botanical Garden.

Designers' emphasis on using green materials is increasing as labels make sustainability a priority. Fast fashion has become a bad word as awareness increases of the toxic chemicals and plastic microfibers used in much clothing today. The appetite for new and cheap clothing creates masses of textile waste in a vicious circle.

Cutting-edge designers are experimenting with all new materials. Roxxlyn, an accessories label from Munich, worked with startup nat-2 to make stylish sneakers using actual slate stone. A designer in Mallorca called Marovilla uses the thick fibrous leaves of pineapples to create bags, marrying urban design with traditional craft techniques. Other labels used castor oil or milk or the fluff of the kapok tree to create environmentally friendly wearables.

The shows in Berlin featured young talents including Dawid Tomaszewski, a Polish designer creating luxury fashion in Berlin, who graduated from the London College of Fashion and the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. Another designer, Damir Doma, combined German and Croatian influences in his work shown in techno mecca Berghain.

The mood at Berlin's runway shows was focused if not deadly serious. Despite the natural fibers and focus on the environment, designers and retailers are fighting for customers’ attention, online and in stores. Toeing the lines between spacey and down-to-earth, modern and traditional, German fashion is as driven as ever.

Allison Williams is deputy editor of Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: [email protected]