“Invitation to join Berlin Sustainable Fashion Week”. I remember receiving an email with this title in December and jumping out of joy in my living room. Discovering a bunch of sustainable fashion brands alongside eco bloggers for 3 days in one of the most advanced city in terms of environment in the world? Heck yes!
Fastforward a month later, I was heading to Neonyt on a train from Deutsche Banh (did you know that travelling by train instead of by plane can reduce your CO2 emissions by up to 90%?) and about to meet my fellow bloggers and travel companions thanks to Vepsi Official.
“Ok, stop now” you’re probably thinking, what’s Neonyt and who’s Vepsi? I got you. Here’s a little background.
Neonyt is a trade show happening during Berlin Fashion Week but only focused on sustainable fashion. It also includes conferences on technology and sustainability in the fashion sector, a fashion show, showcases, influencer and blogger talks, networking events and a big party.
Vepsi Official was founded by the super cool ladies Eilean and Leslie. Eilean worked for around 6 years in the field of innovation and development at the UN. Passionate about fashion and fashion (blogs), she decided in 2015 to launch the VEPSI pop-up sales, bringing together ethical influencers and brands. These were the precursor to the startup. After three years of successful pop-ups - and after having finished eventually that Phd she was doing - she decided to uncover her true entrepreneurial spirit, quit the UN and create the start-up VEPSI together. Eilean and Leslie - who has been working as an Art Director in the corporate and luxury sector and was, like Eilean, always a fashion passionate - build on the sustainable pop-up experience VEPSI to make it accessible to all. This is how the new VEPSI was born: A agency-marketplace for ethical brands only, supported by fashion impact ambassadors (aka influencers) all over the world. The marketplace will be launched in April and focus mostly on sustainable brands of developing countries.
Now that you’re familiar with some of the protagonist, let’s go back to Berlin.
Day 1: Arrival to Berlin
After a lovely train journey throughout Belgium and Germany, I was ready to meet Eileen and Leslie from Vepsi and the group of bloggers I was going to share 3 days with.
They were all so lovely and inspiring and I couldn’t have dreamed of a better group to share this experience with: from animals champion Noa from Israel to super sweet mermaid Gabrielle from the Netherlands, hilarious Holly from Canada to uber cool Francesca from the UK and finally fellow French speaker and lovely Céline from France to super stylish and sweet Nina from Switzerland, we were quite the party!
After meeting up at the station, we were shown to our beautiful apartment in the Mitte neighbourhood, shared a delicious diner and passed out ready for day 2.
Day 2: Neonyt discovery and sustainable influencer marketing
Rise and shine and we’re all so excited for Neonyt! But first things first, we’re having breakfast at the delicious vegan coffee place Geh Veg because let’s be real, a hungry blogger is an underperforming blogger haha
With full bellies, we finally discover the trade show and oh boy, it’s an ethical fashion lover dream! From already established brands such as Jan ‘N June, Nae Vegan Shoes and Studio Cossac to up and coming designers, there’s something for everyone including vegans, yey!
We’re introduced to various brands including TearofJoy who makes beautiful and super light paper bags, Artelusa, a Portuguese brands who offers cork accessories including umbrellas, Nat 2 shoes and its sneakers made of… grass, coffee, hay and other crazy materials that make them super sustainable, Organic socks of Sweden who, as the name says, offers socks made of organic cotton but also ethical and fair trade thanks to a direct production line from Pakistan (spoiler, I wear my pair so so often that people are starting to ask me if I have several of them…). Being in this huge warehouse surrounded by change makers working to make sustainability the norm in the fashion industry is nothing short of inspiring and uplifting!
During the afternoon, we participated in a conference about how to have an impact as an ethical/sustainable blogger. And we’re asked this question which I ask myself so, so often: how to promote sustainable products without falling in the pitfall of overconsumption knowing that we’re actually advocating for the opposite?
From my perspective, it’s all about need versus want. Not everyone who feels concerned about the social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry is able to find what they need second hand or in vintage shops. Therefore, they’ll be looking for new items and this is where the importance of highlighting sustainable brands comes in! Some of the girls had really interesting insights such as returning the products once shot, offering brand ambassadorships to ensure sustainable and healthy relationships between the brand and the bloggers and other ways to not encourage excessive sending of products from brands to blogger with the aim of regular promotion on social media. Doesn’t that scream overconsumption?
Following this super insightful debate, we’re all exhausted so we pop by Neonyt’s party for a while and then find our way to a delicious vegan burger place (which reminds me how easy it is to be a vegan in Berlin) then head home for a good night sleep filled with sustainable fashion dreams.
Day 3: SDGs and vegan Berlin
Day 3 started with my tummy acting out so wasn’t feeling so great but seeing all the girls smiling and the prospect of going back to the fair and meeting more inspiring souls instantly made me feel better.
We met even more eco and ethical brands, including Zylo Eyewear making sunglasses from responsible wood and waste , apple leather bags by Nuuwai, the French brand I’ve been drooling on for months: Aatise and so many more before doing a second conference on the role of influencers in spreading the word about the UN Sustainable Development Goals. If you know me, you know how excited I was about this. I LOVE the SDGS. I work with them on a daily basis, trying to include them in my client’s sustainability strategy or advocating for a better inclusion of the goals in EU policy. I was even more excited to find out we were talking alongside Karry Banningan, founder of the Conscious Fashion Campaign, an initiative supported by the United Nations Offie for Partnerships dedicated to advancing fashion innovators addressing the world’s most pressing issues to achieve the SDGs. Talk about pressure!
In the end, I left the conference more empowered and convinced than ever, that we are all SDGs ambassadors and actors in our everyday life.
That night, VEPSI organised a walking veggie tour for us with With Locals. We had the best guide ever, an Australian bloke who had been in Berlin for a while and who showed us some of the best places in town to go to as vegan including Kanaan, an Israeli-palestinian restaurant, Dear Goods, a vegan and sustainable shop and finally Hum, a vegan Asian restaurant.
Filled and happy we went home for our last night in the city.
Day 4: Goodbye Berlin
For our last day, the lovely Vepsi ladies organised a breakfast at the sustainable Guldsmeden hotel which enabled us to say a proper goodbye while enjoying a lovely breakfast.
The whole experience was absolutely amazing and I can not thank Neonyt and Vepsi enough for putting it together. What a dream team! I feel so lucky to have been able to meet and discover so many brands making a change and so many individuals believing that another, more fair and sustainable world is possible. I left Berlin inspired and empowered and that is absolutely priceless!