Entrepreneurship Center

Fashion Revolution Night Düsseldorf goes into its 5th round

“Changing Business Models in Fashion” was the main topic of the 5th Fashion Revolution Night Düsseldorf on November 7, 2019.

©Falco Peters

Fashion Revolution is the biggest global movement campaigning for a fairer and safer fashion industry and was founded in 2013 after the collapse of the Rhana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh. The movement wants to unite people and organizations to work closer together towards radically changing the way our clothes are being sourced, produced and consumed.

This 5th edition of the Fashion Revolution Night Düsseldorf was attended by round about 200 participants who had a chance to learn more about how business model innovations can become a driver of positive changes in the fashion industry. The event was organized by Dr. Monika Hauck, Managing Director of WHU Entrepreneurship Center together with the law company Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, the bank HSBC Germany and the Wirtschaftsförderung Düsseldorf.

The two City Ambassadors of Fashion Revolution movement in Düsseldorf Dr. Monika Hauck, WHU Entrepreneurship Center, and Anja Gräf, HSBC, started off with an introduction on the movement and announced the launch of a brand new website change-room.orgwhich will serve as a knowledge and community platform for everyone interested in sustainable innovation in fashion in Düsseldorf. Then Dr. Sven Greulich, partner at Orrick and the host of the evening welcomed the first lady of Düsseldorf, Dr. Vera Geisel, who expressed her strong wish that the city’s creative and fashion scene is being combined with a sustainable approach. To promote more sustainable fashion consumption of the city’s inhabitants, Dr. Geisel, introduced a photo series called The Naked Garments which is a creative collaboration between the Change Room founder Dr. Monika Hauck and Düsseldorf based photographer Falco Peters. Starting in November 2019, until the next Fashion Revolution Week in April 2020, the photo series will portray protagonists of the Düsseldorf sustainability, innovation and business scene. The (role)models will talk about their favourite piece of clothing and its unique and personal story. Anyone can relate to this, as all of us have at least one garment that is very dear to us. (More information about the project on change-room.org )

The evening continued with three keynote speeches from fashion industry entrepreneurs, who are at the forefront of integrating sustainability and innovation in their business models. Robin Balser from the startup VinoKilo then shared his entrepreneurial story and passion about giving old clothes a new life. The Mainz-based company organizes pop-up events for vintage clothes every weekend – from Milano to Oslo. There, second-hand garments are accurately presented on hangers in a hip atmosphere and sold at a price per kilo. The idea for VinoKilo was born when Robin Balser was thrown out of his swapping-clothes-store by his landlord at short notice and had to sell everything as quickly as possible. The resulting kilo sale was a great success. His advice to future entrepreneurs is “to do something not for the hype, but for the heart”.

The next speaker was Thekla Wilkening, Head of Business Development at STAY AWHILE, a fashion rental startup, which is based on the “sharing economy” business model. STAY AWHILE also takes part in a newly launched research project “Wear2Share” which is undertaken in collaboration with the Fraunhofer-Institute. The aim of it being to investigate the ecological and economic sustainability potential using two exemplary cycle models. Thekla Wilkening pointed out that before starting up a business “you should know whether you really want to be a CEO” because being a creative visionary requires different skills than being a good manager and planner.

Finally, the international guest, serial entrepreneur from Oslo, Kim Leskovsky presented his startup Woolit and shared first-hand insights on how, via a crowd-based knitting platform, he directly connects producers, designers and buyers of hand-knitted clothing and thus fundamentally changes the way clothes are being made. He stressed that consumers want unique pieces; knowing who knitted the garment gives it a very personal touch and makes you to want it last longer. Kim Leskovsky’s guess is that gigabrands will crash and production of clothes will become more local and individualized: “Let’s turn the fashion industry into the passion industry!”.

The official part ended with the interactive panel discussion “The Future of Fashion – Global or Local?” where fashion sustainability expert Max Gilgenmann from Neonyt Berlin, Düsseldorf based designer Stephanie Pothen, Robin Balser and Melissa Christov, co-founder of upcycling label Humans for Up, discussed opportunities and challenges of global supply chains, use of recycled materials as well as local manufacturing practices. Diversification became the key word of the discussion because as Max Gilgenmann concluded: “Life is complex so we need diversified solutions”.

Accompanied by the Düsseldorf band Neumatic Parlo, the evening was rounded up with networking food & drinks, which offered the opportunity to meet and mingle and view the latest work of local entrepreneurs and designers such as Perceptual Thinkers, CANO Shoe,Weich Couture Alpaca, You&JJ and Jolly Roger Design.

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