Interview with Magdalena Schaffrin and Max Gilgenmann, founders of 202030 The Berlin Fashion Summit

[Translate to English:] ©David Spaeth
[Translate to English:] ©David Spaeth

Twenty twenty thirty or in German Zwanzig zwanzig dreißig is not just a bunch of numbers - Its a playful Attentionkeeper onto the ‚decade of trade‘ from 2020 to 2030.

202030 - The Berlin fashion Summit has the vision, that constructive but also radical global change is necessary and fashion can play an dominant role in it. In terms of content, the 202030 Summit focuses on networking the most important players, conveying a truly holistic understanding of sustainability, and illustrating complex issues, solutions and concepts, such as regenerative fashion, in a fashion-aesthetically appealing way. The hybrid format offers room to discuss topics affecting the fashion industry in internationally staffed workshops and to develop visions. The main thematic strands are sustainability and digitalization, fashion and culture, and a look at the glocal system of fashion. And also this year the Summit is part of Berlin Fashion Week and will take place from March 15-17, 2022 at the Metropolenhaus.

We spoke to the founders of the initiative and they were able to tell us more about their vision, plans and anticipation for Fashion Week and the sustainable-innovative future of the fashion industry in Berlin and Germany.

Hey Magdalena, hey Max, 202030 - The Berlin Fashion Summit will take place again at the upcoming Berlin Fashion Week. Where did the idea come from to create such a platform?

We saw corresponding needs in the market and we also felt that the penetration level for the critical-constructive voices of the scene was still too dull. There are occasional Fashion Summits that have sustainability in their name, but at the end of the day, most are purely commercial in nature and often without scientific evidence. We have been working for over a decade on the necessary change in thinking and acting around sustainability in the fashion industry and now is the right time to start with a focused format like 202030 - The Berlin Fashion Summit, not least to give Berlin actors a firm place in the global discourse. We have a lot of plans for the next few years to help holistic sustainability in the fashion and textile industry get off the ground.

With the pandemic, it became even clearer that it's time for change and improvement - even in the fashion industry. What do you guys see happening in the fashion industry? Do you think there are already changes/improvements?

Yes, the pandemic exposed many flaws in our outdated systems, causing an increase in change - including the fashion industry. Exact numbers of how things have changed and whether there has been tangible improvement is still hard to say yet, in my opinion. Overall, we are in a decade of transformation and change. In all the systems in which we operate, we notice the urgency for change, because many of these systems are on the verge of functioning. It is now up to us to actually frame the change as improvement and then move into action. That's actually also a reason why we started 202030 - The Berlin Fashion Summit. Capturing what solutions are and also how that solution can become an actual holistic improvement. To make it better and not just different. That's why we represent a strongly science-based approach.

In general, we can see improvements, and the market penetration for the issue of sustainability is growing. The big question here, given the scenarios around the problem of global warming, is whether or not it is advancing fast enough. In that sense, it will only be a relevant improvement when we can foresee, as a global society, meeting the 1.5°C target.

Your mission: networking of interactive connections of various organs in the fashion industry, including science and politics, in order to strengthen innovation and transformation. How does this connection look like?

With the help of the 202030 Summit, we bring different fields together in one room. Thanks to our worldwide network, which we have built up over the last 10 and more years, we can draw from the full. Together with our partners we network and inspire Berlin-wide, Germany-wide and at least Europe-wide. We founded 202030 - The Berlin Fashion Summit in collaboration with Friederike von Wedel-Parlow from the Beneficial Design Institute (BDI) and Marte Hentschel from Sqetch. The scientific area is covered by BDI, the supply chains by Sqetch and we as a Summit cover the policy, innovation and of course the fashion and communication area. We bring people together with masterclasses, discussion panels, dialogues, interviews and much more. Stimulating togetherness and translating is part of our time-consuming work, which is unfortunately too often neglected by others.

Why is Berlin exactly the right spot for transformation?

Berlin has always been and still is a place for change. It is easy to see from the past and present, but also with the current prospects for the future, how much change has taken and will take place in Berlin. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, the need for change has been cultivated more and more in both the public sphere and the 'underground'. This dynamic continues to this day: Berlin is a hub for change, innovation, openness, diversity and realization. The most diverse people from the most diverse scenes from all over the world meet here, regardless of whether they have fled, moved to or were born there. The desire to improve everyday life and work, as well as our use of the planet's resources, is deeply rooted in each individual. Berlin is a melting pot for these people and these people make the place so vibrant and inspiring.

Looking back at fashion, Berlin has been a very strong source of inspiration for international artists and designers for several years now. They immerse themselves in the unique scenes, communities and cultural circles and draw out all the more and reflect that in their works and lives. Berlin breathes in and invigorates fashion culture. The changed perception of the free lifestyle is also celebrated in particular by the Berlin club scene and carried into the world. Exemplary is certainly Demna Gvasalia, who has been working for Balenciaga for several years and has been inspired a lot in Berlin.

Moving Fast Fashion to Green Fashion. How can we transform fast/short-lived fashion into more green, sustainable fashion? What needs to change? And what has been changed already?

The evolution of fast fashion to green fashion is complex. In the meantime, ultra-fast fashion companies like "Shein" from China are creating even more new trends that are being produced even faster and marketed directly. According to the American consulting firm Coresight, the British ultra-fast market leader ASOS throws up to 4500 new pieces on the market per week. Away from poor working conditions and an incredibly deep and large environmental footprint, there is actually something to take away from the ultra-fast fashion giants. The coordination of logistics and communication have reached a new level. Interaction with consumers is going out in real time. In the end, so-called 'green fashion' must also face up to this competition for attention and favor, and ideally do better!

The step towards green fashion is not a one-way street, but paved with challenges and curves. The goal is to professionalize it and to make sustainability truly sustainable in a holistic way, as far as we can with scientific knowledge and modern technological and cultural innovations.

It is a lengthy process that cannot be achieved 'just like that', but rather we have to work in many small, progressive steps. The chosen paths should always be agile and in consultation with all relevant stakeholders. The zeitgeist and the perception among professionals in the fashion industry are arriving more and more. People are already striving for ecological, clean and above all transparent value chains and are starting to enjoy becoming more sustainable and understanding how everything is connected.

Do you have any Berlin labels to watch that are already implementing and pushing sustainability and innovation?

Yes, we have a wide range of labels that take up and implement these topics. One of my [Max] personal favorites are "Arys", "Buki Akomolafe" or "Fade Out Label" - but also tech-oriented fashion start-ups like "Kleiderly" or the brand, "Yoona" or platforms like "Folkdays" or "Staiy" are super exciting Berlin players working very sustainably-innovatively.

At this year's Summit, you're all about local, global, and glocal perspectives again, but this time with a focus on a regenerative future. Is there any information on this year's speakers yet? Who will be there this season?

For this year's 202030 - The Berlin Fashion Summit we were able to attract an exciting mix of Berlin, German, European and international speakers. We will start the Summit on March 15 at 3 pm with a keynote by Claire Bergkamp, COO at the international NGO Textile Exchange, and over the three days we will present constructive and critical contributions from key players such as Aras Baskauskas (Christy Dawn), Christian Dietrich (Sfeeri), Daniel Ruben (Kornit Digital), Prof. Dilys Williams (Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion), Ina Budde (, Ingo Strube (BMUV) Kevin Thiong'o (Enviu), Lisa Jasper (Folkdays) Marije Slump (Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management of the Netherlands) or Renana Krebs (Founder Alga Life) and many more! This week we will publish the full program with all speakers and stakeholders.

Can you already give us a few insights into further topics and focal points?

Basically, development has a high priority for us. We give a holistic view of what it really means to care about sustainability with full energy.

The fashion and textile topics around the circular economy, which is gaining more and more progressive acceptance in the industry and the EU, requires us to always look ahead - we will continue to facilitate constructive and critical discourse in order to develop the topics and fields of action and to establish truly holistic sustainability as a standard. The urgency to bring change to economic cycles by 2030 is confirmed by an overwhelming range of scientists. However, improvement in the circular economy alone may no longer be enough to stop the climate goal or the already occurring consequences of global warming, so that we can have a comfortable/beautiful life on the planet for a bit longer.

Therefore, the current focus of the 202030 Summit is to evaluate and discuss how a regenerative fashion system can look like. We look at and analyze the fashion system in different ways: on the one hand we explicitly take the global and local perspectives and on the other hand we always look at possible solutions from the cultural, economic as well as the product perspective - this is important to design a solution as a real improvement for all stakeholders.

We approach this methodically. This is done in advance in so-called Pop Up Think Tanks, an intensive workshop program with international experts. This is not open to the public and serves as a trusting space for constructive-critical debates between experts and pioneers in order to prepare the public summit in a high-quality manner and with clear messages.

What is the goal of 202030 - The Berlin Fashion Summit?

Our goal is to be a strong, progressive, constructive and critical networker and companion until 2030. We support the developments in the textile and fashion industry - especially in the German-speaking region - put them in relation to global and European framework conditions and drive the exchange between the relevant stakeholders. From our point of view, the declared goal of the fashion industry must be to say goodbye to its manifold negative side effects by 2030 and, on the contrary, to become a role model for an industry with 'Positive Impact'.

It would be great if we could meet in the first quarter of 2031 for the last 202030 - The Berlin Fashion Summit for the time being, where we can make a positive reckoning.

And after the Berlin Fashion Week - are you also active there and carry the theme further? If so, how?

We are always active, there is no real before or after. Even though Fashion Week has naturally played a relevant role in our work rhythm over the last 10 years. We carry the theme forward every day with our agency studio MM04, with which we offer strategy and communication consulting, especially for the fashion industry. In addition, we are now building the first Berlin Fashion Hub, on behalf of the Senate for Economics, Energy and Operations. Together with our consortium partners Sqetch and Belius, we won a tender and have been working on setting it up since December last year. In the next few weeks, we'll have more information about the first programs and partnerships.

Are there any other events, designers, workshops or discourses at this year's Fashion Week in Berlin that you are most looking forward to?

We are of course excited to be back this time not only digitally, but also hybrid and to be able to participate alongside the Fashion Open Studio at the same location. In addition, we are of course curious which new designers and cultural trends will be presented at Fashion Week, which conversations will take place at the many events and are also especially looking forward to the actions and evening events of the Fashion Council Germany.

What do you think makes Berlin stand out as a fashion location?

As a source of inspiration, Berlin is the right place to be, if only because of its complex historical, cultural and social entanglements. The desire for realization and freedom speaks volumes. And you can see that in the fashion that comes out of Berlin. Since fashion needs the outlet of the freedom and inspiration spoken of earlier, Berlin could not be more ideal as a fashion location.

All 202030 Summit events will be published soon in the official Berlin Fashion Week 2022 calendar. To make sure you don't miss anything, check out @202030summit or @berlinfashionwe on Instagram