To learn more about Berlin Fashion Week 2022 and the city’s love for sustainable fashion, aware_ sat down with Berliner and green fashion expert Cherie Birkner 

sustainable fashion

As the world heats up, sustainable fashion has also become a hot (and pressing) topic. It is now well known that the fast fashion industry contributes a great deal to the destruction of our ecosystems as well as climate change through its processes of production, consumption and disposal. The situation is summed up by Cherie Birkner, Berlin-based founder of Sustainable Fashion Matterz: 

According to Clean Clothes Campaign, we are producing about one hundred billion clothes a year. From these, about 70% are sold, of which on average only 20% are even worn regularly. With this calculation, we have a yearly surplus of 85 billion items of clothing! We do not need more new clothes. We have enough. 

Evidently, the global fashion industry begs a serious transformation. To coincide with Berlin’s second annual Fashion Week (BFW), aware_ is delving into BFW’s relationship with sustainability. And to get a clearer picture of the event and Berlin’s intimate relationship to conscious fashion, aware_ talked to photographer and sustainable fashion expert Cherie Birkner. Her platform Sustainable Fashion Matterz offers a comprehensive curation of sustainable brands, projects and industry leaders as well as educational information for the public about the complex issues around fashion and sustainability.  

sustainable fashion

aware_: Cherie, when did you decide to start Sustainable Fashion Matterz and why? 

Cherie Birkner: I was working as a creative director for a fast fashion brand, and I came to the point when I could no longer handle the contradiction with my values. For example, I would always buy second-hand before I would buy anything new while simultaneously going into an office to sell more and more of a product that nobody really needed with a price tag that made production practices extremely questionable. 
I felt the need to talk about problems in the fashion industry, so I quit my job and decided to become a photographer. I wanted to work with people that cared about the impact of the fashion industry. At the time, in 2017, I attended the Green Showroom (today’s Neonyt) to take portraits of these change-makers and tell their stories. By the end of the event, I had taken 60 portraits and realized that there are sustainable solutions to every consumer need people just do not know that they exist!  

aware_: Which designers are you most excited to see at BFW this year and why? 

Cherie Birkner: I am most excited about the ESTETHICA event that is featuring ten designers from Berlin and Ukraine including one of my favourites Melisa Minca who is a fun and provocative up-cycling designer. Also, Vladimir Karalef who I discovered last season showing a dead-stock capital collection. These designers and those featured at Fashion Revolution are mostly engaged in up-cycling materials and really working with what is already there. That is also a thing that changed for me over the years. Six years ago, it was the organic fair-trade t-shirt that was sustainable and now the situation is like this: we have enough stuff on the planet. So let us use what we have and re-purpose it.  

sustainable fashion

aware_: What makes Berlin the green capital of fashion? 

Cherie Birkner: If you look at BFW, you see that the focus is on designers and events that prioritize sustainability practices. For example, if you are a brand that uses new plastic sequins, you are simply not up with the times anymore. The events around fashion week go deeper, it is not just a fashion show where the model is walking down the catwalk and you do not know how anything is made. In contrast, 202030 – The Berlin Fashion Summit is all about sharing the latest knowledge to educate the public. Also, Berlin has a culture of people gifting their clothes on the street or exchanging them. The city is even investing in circular fashion projects such as the A-Gain Guide which maps out all of Berlin’s options for pre-owned items. 

aware_: What are the most innovative sustainable fashion trends that are here to stay? 

Cherie Birkner: I would like to answer this after attending the 202030 summit! One thing that I have seen is that brands are making their own resale platforms. High-end brands are taking ownership of their brand style while giving their own customers the opportunity to re-sell their own products to keep them in the loop or taking them back to recycle the clothes properly. I am also very interested in clothing rental services such as Kleiderei, Pool Berlin and Clothes Friends, which work very well in big cities where people want to try the pieces on location. 

– by Tina Ateljevic 

Berlin Fashion Week is unique in its ability to influence the discourse around sustainability. Unlike the “Big Four” – Paris, Milan, London and New York – Berlin’s fashion calendar is not limited to the schedules of luxury designers, who have, until recently, dominated the fashion landscape.

With the freedom to move away from a rigid timetable of catwalks and showcases, the German capital is once again hosting the 202030 – The Berlin Fashion Summit and Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Open Studio during the upcoming Berlin Fashion Week (14th-20th March). 

202030 – The Berlin Fashion Summit @ Berlin Fashion Week 

After two successful editions, experts from interdisciplinary fields will come together during Berlin Fashion Week for the 202030 – The Berlin Fashion Summit to discuss and implement innovations and solutions for a more sustainable fashion industry. The focus of this edition is on regenerative fashion structures and questioning how positive impact can be implemented in already existing systems. The topic will be looked at from a global as well as a local perspective. The aim is to work out regenerative mechanisms for the planet, the economy and society and at the same time to strengthen and promote local fashion actors and innovators worldwide. 

Innovative Startup
Credit: Joao Maraschin

The 202030 – The Berlin Fashion Summit with the theme “Regenerative Fashion Systems – Implement Positive Impact” will be digitally and physically hosted by studio MM04, in collaboration with Sqetch and the Beneficial Design Institute. 

“I am very pleased that formats like the 202030 Summit are taking place here in the capital during Berlin Fashion Week. This year’s content promises a constructive exchange between participants to provide an impetus for sustainable development within the textile and fashion industry. An event that puts the focus on important topics of today”  

– Stephan Schwarz, Senator for Economy, Energy and Enterprise  


202030 – The Berlin Fashion Summit Programme: 

15/03/22 – on DAY #1 we will take the Global Perspective and ask our speakers and panellists: How might we create fashion that includes repair mechanisms for the planet, people, culture and the economy? 

16/03/22 – on DAY #2 we will take the Local Perspective and ask our speakers and panellists: How might we strengthen local fashion communities, businesses and innovators to strive for a regenerative future? 

17/03/22 – on DAY #3 we will look into Implementation Guidance and explore with our speakers and panellists: 

How might we create trust through holistic regenerative quality standards for product, design and production processes? 

Click here for the 202030 – The Berlin Fashion Summit registration. 

Berlin Fashion Week
Credit: Ivy & Oak

Fashion Open Studio @ Berlin Fashion Week 

Fashion Revolution Germany is welcoming 15 designers to take part in the Fashion Open Studio showcase from 15th to 17th March as part of Berlin Fashion Week. Through a series of designer open studios, short films, exhibitions and talks, Fashion Open Studio is challenging how we think about our clothing, highlighting real solutions and creating a safe space in which to exchange valuable ideas and information.  

 “Fashion Open Studio Berlin is giving exclusive insights into the work of upcoming international and local designers who pursue a sustainable approach to fashion. 

In hybrid formats, we take the audience directly into the studios and open the dialogue between industry experts and consumers.” 

– Carina Bischof, CEO Fashion Revolution Germany e.V. 

Berlin Fashion Week
Credit: Emeka Suits

Emeka Suits, the eponymous label founded in 2019 by Sydney Nwakanma based between Berlin and rural Kenya, is amongst the brands selected for this year’s showcase. After documenting the critical amounts of clothing waste in Dandora, one of Africa’s biggest landfill sites, Nwakanma and his team embarked on creating clothing to challenge existing ideas that surround clothing landing in Africa as a product of western consumption. A far cry from the piles of clothing surrounding Nwakanma strewn on the wasteland, the suits luxuriousness highlight the very real potential of reimagining trash. The handwoven pieces move away from the DIY aesthetic that has seen a surge in recent years. Emeka suits are on a mission to bridge the gap between luxury and sustainability, with a richness emerging from a narrative, not a price tag.  

Alongside a selection of innovative Berlin-based brands, British designer Patrick McDowell has been invited to showcase his work as part of Fashion Open Studio showcase. At the beginning of his career the 23-year-old Liverpudlian, whilst doing a placement at Burberry noticed the vast quantities of material wasted in production, and wrote to Christopher Bailey (then the chief creative officer of Burberry) to see if he could make use of the excess of offcuts. His first collection, firefighting aunties, was an ode to recognising the parallels between the work of his father and the powerful women at the epicentre of his family. Since, McDowell has collaborated on collections with the likes of Burberry, Swarovski and Depop and recently became the sustainability design director for Italian brand PINKO. 

Berlin Fashion Week
Credit: Anima Protection

Fashion Open Studio Talk Programme: 

15/03/22 – @MBFW Kraftwerk Fashion Open Studio Berlin presents: Talk: FASHION – Repairs and Restoration (11am-12pm CEST) 

16/03/22 – @202030 Summit Fashion Open Studio Berlin presents: Talk: POWER – Who’s in control? (5pm-5:30pm) 

16/03/22 – @POOL Berlin Space Fashion Open Studio Berlin presents: Talk: MONEY – How do we value our clothes? (6pm-7pm)

Follow this link for the complete list of designers and event schedule. 

– By Eliza Edwards

Berlin’s fashion landscape has seen a seismic shift in recent years. With the news last year that the trade shows would move to Frankfurt, the city has welcomed the readjustment to establish itself as a main player within the sustainable sphere by showcasing emerging talent poised to bring change to the industry. However, the continued unfamiliar territory of combining physical and digital events beg many a question. Will an audience be able to authentically connect to the clothing through a digital lens, or will digital broadcasting democratise the fashion week experience? Can the ever-increasing importance of sustainability be translated through a screen? And finally, what is the future of the fashion industry in a city constantly shifting, but with so much appetite for creativity? 

From September 6 to 12, Berlin Fashion Week will host a series of events focused on tackling the aforementioned questions and raise awareness around environmental issues within the fashion industry. Through a combination of live and online events: talks, presentations, award shows and virtual studio visits; experts will come together to forecast a future for the fashion industry, both inside the German capital and across the international landscape.

Fashion Open Studio

Fashion Revolution – the organisation set up by Orsola De Castro and Carry Sommers in 2013, founded in the wake of the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster – established a showcasing initiative in 2017 to exhibit emerging, young talent in the fashion industry. In Berlin this week, Fashion Open Studio is hosting a series of virtual and physical events in order to “highlight innovative new ideas and solutions to the systemic challenges facing the industry” (Fashion Open Studio). Fashion Open Studio hopes to inspire those who are looking to consume responsibly, encourage transparency within the supply chain and showcase sustainable designers looking to make a difference. Organised in collaboration with Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, on the 7th September Fashion Open Studio presents virtual studio visits with sustainable brands FADE OUT LABEL, NEW BLUE, and Priyanka Muniyappa, and Anugrah Samuel Phillips, founders of the Bangalore-based brand Grandma Would Approve. Alongside a glance into the creator’s studios, FOS will host a number of engaging discussions including: “Will Technology Save Us” and “Catalysts and People Who Inspire Change”, host an interactive upcycling session with the Berlin-based brand ANEKDOT, and a present virtual fashion show showcasing the work of 15 local and international sustainable designers.


“I’m delighted Fashion Open Studio is collaborating once more with the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Giving aspiring designers a space, at both a local and international level, and taking inspiration from their sustainable innovations showcases what is truly new. Our hand-picked designers are the pioneers of change. Each designer has their own particular way of demonstrating this.” 

Orsola de Castro, Creative Director Fashion Open Studio & founder of Fashion Revolution. 


See here the full list of Fashion Open Studio events for registration.

© Damur

Neo Fashion Graduate Presentation

One of the eagerly anticipated aspects of each fashion week is the young designers to emerge onto the scene. Whether Central St Martins or Parsons School of Design, graduate shows spotlight new talent, ready to embrace change. Neo Fashion, a platform for recent graduates in Germany, presents the work of 13 universities and over 80 graduates across Germany, as part of the Berlin Fashion Week. With the support of the Berlin Senate, Fashion Council Germany and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Neo Fashion is able to showcase cutting edge designers who present a new perspective on creativity and a fundamental belief in transparency. The “Best Sustainability Concept Award” will be amongst the three awards offered to the graduates; with the judging panel including the Harper’s Bazaar’s Editor in Chief, Kerstin Schneider, and the Berlin-based designer William Fan. aware_ sat down with the founder of Neo Fashion, Jens Zander, to hear about recent shifts within the Berlin Fashion Scene and the importance of promoting young designers:

“The German Fashion Scene is currently reorganising itself and building on its most creative talents. For this reason, Neo.Fashion, with its Best Graduates’ Shows and the new Award, is exactly the right platform to bring together these talents from all German Fashion Schools with the best labels, as well as with the press and associations such as the FCG Fashion Council Germany. This is our motivation!“ 

– Jens Zander, Founder of Neo Fashion

202030 – The Berlin Fashion Summit

This September marks the second edition of the 202030 – The Berlin Fashion Summit. Established together by the Berlin-based creative strategy consultancy Studio MM04, the innovation agency Sqetch, and the Beneficial Design Institute, the summit “is a cross-disciplinary platform, where avant-garde creatives meet industry stakeholders for constructive critical debates on the future of fashion” (202030 – The Berlin Fashion Summit). Centered around three main topics: circular, local and valuation ecosystems, the summit will host discussions between interdisciplinary experts on the potential to transform the fashion industry and assess the industry’s need for “pragmatic deadlines” (202030 – The Berlin Fashion Summit). Divided into two parts: a think tank between experts, followed by an informed, considered, three-day presentation to the public; the summit aims to provide an in-depth discourse within the creative context of Berlin Fashion Week. 


“We’re known as advocates of a post-waste fashion industry that transitions its activities from physical to digital, so it’s great to see the 202030 Summit’s dedication to creating conversations around how fashion can transform to create a positive impact on our world.” 

Amber Slooten, Co-Founder/Creative Director, The Fabricant 


Alongside these events specifically oriented around the sustainable subject matter, the Berliner Salon will showcase Berlin-based sustainable designers such as Julia Leifert and Karen Jessen, with Highsnobiety and Reference Studios also bringing their own concepts to Berlin. With Berlin Fashion Week no longer overlapping with Paris Men’s Fashion Week, both Berlin institutions are able to focus on presenting their take on this new chapter for the city. The continued unfamiliar territory of combined physical and digital events, and a post-pandemic fashion week, poses many a question. Can an audience authentically connect to the clothing in a digital sphere, or will digital broadcasting allow many more to connect? Can the ever-increasing importance of sustainability be translated through a screen? And finally, what is the future of the fashion industry in a city constantly shifting, but with so much appetite for creativity? 

Click here for the complete timetable of events, organised in collaboration with Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.


 by Eliza Edwards