From the 6th to 8th July 2011 took place one of the biggest sports and street tradeshows in Europe if not the world – the infamous ‘Bread and Butter’ (BBB) tradeshow. Founded in 2001, 2011 marks the 10th year anniversary of this twice yearly show showcasing design companies in the areas of Street Fashion Denim, Sportswear, Street Fashion, Function Wear and Casual Dressed Up. Bread and Butter now houses around 600 of these fashion exhibitors. It presently takes place at the historical venue which is the Berlin-Tempelhof Airport but I recall the days where it was presented in Barcelona. Just before it moved to Berlin I was one of those visitors who was initially disappointed with the move out of Spain but who is now very happy with the new venue and have had the luxury to visit on various occasion and seen the growth and the changes.
READ BELOW FOR OUR FOCUS ON AFRICA RELATED BRANDS
Firstly I would recommend visiting BBB in the summer show as Berlin can be biting cold at times in the winter Jan shows, and can be very warm in the summer July shows, secondly book ahead and register ahead in time so you don’t have to go through the huge queueing system to register once you arrive; thirdly book ahead of time your flights and your hotel as you can imagine thousands of people are hitting berlin during this season and even Easyjet can take advantage of this time and extensively overcharge you for a near 2 hour flight into Berlin from London…the next show lands in Berlin from Wednesday, 18th – Friday 20th January 2012 so you have been pre-warned. Another…the 2nd to last point to note is to wear comfortable shoes and comfortable clothes. Airport Berln Tempelhof is a huge airport and spans a 1.2km quadrant so if you are like me and once you get to one end and realise y ou need to meet a company at another end then flat comfy shoes are the way to go as you WILL be walking lots and for hours too. AND the final point is to bring plenty of business cards – come stacked up…even myself, I ran out of my AfricaFashionGuide bcards as I tend to network with everyone I meet.
My very short trip was brief and my focus on this trip varied but I did want to being to you the Africa focused fashion brands that I came across at the trade events I visited which on this occassion were Bread and Butter and also Bright Tradeshow too.
Whilst at Bread and Butter I headed straight over to Ohema Ohene’s stall as I had noted beforehand that they would be showing at Bread and Butter for the first time this season and was elated to see them there. Once I met with founder Abenaa Pokuaa I managed to also give her a sneak peak of the fashion book we will be launching along with the website end of the summer (watch this space) and it soon proved that the stand was gaining a lot of orders and this was only the first day.
Abenaa came across professional and very pleasant. She made her visitors including buyers from ASOS who came along feel very welcome and she was also very encouraging to myself and the work we are doing with the book and the guide (AfricaFashionGuide). Above all the stand looked great, well put together and the product equally looked very strong.
Another brand who created footwear with a development focus and related to Africa was Toms shoes. Their business and philosophy is about One for One. Blake Mycoskie travelled to Argentina in 2006 and found that the children had no shoes to wear. He felt a strong desire to help and the solution he found was to create TOMS, ‘a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need’.
This was also based on these facts in developing countries:
•A leading cause of disease in developing countries is soil-transmitted diseases, which can penetrate the skin through bare feet. Wearing shoes can help prevent these diseases, and the long-term physical and cognitive harm they cause.
•Wearing shoes also prevents feet from getting cuts and sores. Not only are these injuries painful, they also are dangerous when wounds become infected.
•Many times children can’t attend school barefoot because shoes are a required part of their uniform. If they don’t have shoes, they don’t go to school. If they don’t receive an education, they don’t have the opportunity to realize their potential.
So the importance of a brand like TOMS is very, very necessary.
I spoke with Alex who showed a lot of interest in AfricaFashionGuide and we hope to connect again soon. But TOMS are doing interesting things, on 14th July TOMS shoes were part of an event in Leeds called Style Your Sole. It was a workshop event for people to customise their very own unique pair of TOMS espadrilles with a variety of paints, beads and buttons
You can check out their Giving report at http://www.tomsshoes.co.uk/giving-report Their focus is to ‘Give Sustainably. Give Responsibly’ and to find communities that will benefit most from TOMS shoes due to economic, health and educational needs. They produce their shoes in 3 countries of which Ethiopia is one.
Next in regards to African product was brand PRPS I met with them at BBB last summer and have been in communication with them since. I was unable to take photos of their product for obvious reasons but they did take me in and explained their product in more details. They are an American owned brand who create denim product. PRPS stands for Purpose and the North Carolina born Founder Donwan Harrell and he wished to create what he believes to be the finest product available – African cotton combined with Japanese expertise.
Their cotton is from Zimbabwe and is processed woven and washing takes place in Japan. If you are a denim enthusiast you can only but appreciate the true quality and expertise that this product represents. The denim is actually woven on vintage Levis shuttle looms in Japan in small batches. A deliberately slower process to produce a durable and superior product.
We began our quest to find the finest organic cotton in the world and found it on the African continent, specifically in Benin, Senegal, Zimbabwe and Uganda. These countries have the ideal climate for growing the strong, resilient, pure cotton that we utilise.
So for them it’s not just about creating what is a great, cool denim brand which competes with major brands globally BUT they have a purpose behind what they do by using organic cotton and sourcing from a continent that can supply quality textiles for their product. Check out product they create. You gotta love it!
Another brand that links both Africa and Ethical fashion that I spoke with were Anvil Knitwear a leading apparel brand who produce blank basics for the imagewear and private label markets. They provide over 70 styles of sportswear and accessories in 80 colors, including 17 eco-friendly styles in fibers such as organic cotton, recycled cotton, transitional cotton (or cotton in conversion) and recycled polyester from PET bottles. They have a very strong corporate social responsibility and take this very seriously. Anvil was recently ranked the 6th largest organic program in the world by the Organic Exchange.
Our values are to operate our business with a deep and continued commitment to respecting the planet and all who live on it. We want to share our programs and experiences with you about our efforts to create environmental and social awareness for Anvil products.
Their websites are also very interactive and I first came across them via their educational site track my t which cleverly tracks the journey of their tees. side from this on meeting with them it was confirmed that they too are also working with the reputable Cotton Made In Africa cotton program which works with 5 African countries and also works with other companies such as Otto, Puma and Tom Tailor. They are an initiative with a two-fold focus in helping local people help themselves through trade – one supports cotton farmers on-site with various training and social projects; whilst the other builds upon its Demand Alliance of international textile companies encouraging them to take up sustainably produced cotton from Africa and process it further for the global market. (AFG will be bringing you a full report on various African cotton programs in the blog and further information listing the programs will be available for your reference on the website.)
To continue with their social initiatives with interaction between their customers their product and their business. Anvil launched their new phone app Shirt Scan™, which aims to incorporates traceability of product along with multi-media content for its customers through QR coding on the product.
Whilst out and about I didn’t spot much Africa inspired clothing on the street but I did meet with an American girl who had spent some time in Ghana and had outfits and product made. She wore a wax print fabric all in one piece and looked fabulous but apart from that it was not a trend in the city during this period. There were plenty of other very interesting prints on the streets of Berlin do check out these shots here!
Overall I was quite impressed with the brands I met that proudly represented their African connecting if through fabric or production or development there was a presence and AfricaFashionGuide will continue to bring you reports of Africa’s fashion and textile presence at other more mainstream fashion events on the main fashion calender. Our focus is to create an awareness and to highlight the importance of African focused brands being more effective at these events and for there to be less division between the markets. With the fashion season just around the corner keep an eye out for our reports.
Check out the AfricaFashionGuide Berlin BREAD AND BUTTER / BRIGHT / GREENSHOWROOM – Ethical REPORT here.
Author – Jacqueline Shaw – AFG Founder/Director