There was a time when ethnical fashion suffered the impression of being a pity product. No longer. At the same time more and more importance is being attached to the question of who makes the clothes and how they do it. Now labels like Gundara, Lanius or Armed Angels have young, fashionable answers that allow fair-trade projects to shed their sober eco-image.
Gundara, Shopper | Photo: Jean Amat Amoros
During her assignment as a development worker in Kabul in 2007, Gunda Amat Amoros discovered the small leather manufacturing business of Mohammed Yaqub. His bags were made of finest kidskin and meticulously sewn, but they were not selling well. They did, however, appeal to the political scientist, Gunda Amat Amoros, who was so taken by the material and the craftsmanship that she enthusiastically started to design bags for her own use and for her friends, even though she had no previous knowledge. These models, that now featured many more inside pockets, for example, were quickly snatched up in her circle of friends and acquaintances. They were so popular that her husband, Jean Amat Amoros, a geographer and development worker, managed to persuade her to bring out a complete catalogue of bags. “And so began the story of the Gundara label“, Gunda Amat Amoros comments.
Johanna Riplinger, Collection autumn/winter 2015 | Photo: Sarah Dulay
When the couple returned to Berlin in 2009 they continued to expand their network and the range of products. Jean Amat Amoros looks after the online shop with a growing selection of merchandise. Besides Mohammed Yaqub’s bags from Kabul there are other models designed by Gunda Amat Amoros, some of these coming from a cooperative for physically handicapped men in Burkina Faso. The product range also includes plaids from Pakistan, Babouche slippers from Morocco, Tuareg jewellery from Niger and silk scarfs from northern Afghanistan. Most importantly, the couple’s overall objective remains the same for all products, 30 per cent of the retail price goes back to the makers and middlemen are not accepted. In this way, they can offer the craftspeople long-term work perspectives. “But the products still have to look good,” Gunda Amat Amoros adds, “no one should buy them out of pity.” “
High quality, sustainable fashion
LANIUS Collection autumn/winter 2015 | © LANIUS
A statement, that Claudia Lanius, of the Cologne fashion label bearing the same, can certainly underscore. She has been producing high quality fashion collections made of silk, wool, leather or linin since 1999. All of her materials are certified GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and the wool she uses has been farmed in an animal-friendly manner. Organic cotton, for instance, is purchased via the Swiss company Remei AG, that supports cooperatives in India for improving infrastructure and building schools.
LANIUS Collection autumn/winter 2015 | © LANIUS
Part of the proceeds from Lanius print shirts goes directly from Lanius to the respective projects, and not just through the supplier, Remei. The collections are timeless, fashionable pieces of clothing with some trendy items that also appear in German fashion magazines. Alongside Alma und Lovis, Lana or the newcomer, Johanna Riplinger, Lanius is one of the few German labels that has successfully combined sustainable materials, fairly paid work and fashion trends for women.
Success with basics – thanks to the backing of German celebrities
Something that is often only accomplished in Germany with lower-priced T-shirt labels, like the already mentioned Armed Angels. Due to renowned actors and musicians endorsing the label, Cologne-based Anton Jurina and Martin Höfeler have been able to raise awareness for sustainable working conditions and raw materials in the fashion industry among the under-thirties. With their fresh and lively designs, and the high recognition value of their logo, they have stormed some of Germany’s big stores.
Still an eco product but without an eco-design
Alma & Lovis, Collection, spring/summer 2015, Eco Fashion | ©
Up until now, Berlin-based Gundara has only operated an online shop. As from autumn 2015, the label’s bags, carpets and tea bowls can be purchased from the shop premises in Berlin Kreuzberg. This is particularly important for the bag label and its leather products because some customers have returned items “due to the presence of small spots on the bag”, as Jean Amat Amoros puts it. The problem is that customers want to have naturally tanned leather that has been traded and manufactured with fairness. “Even small structural lines or natural leather darkening are considered defects”, Amoros adds, who has even had articles sent back because “they give off a slight animal smell”. Leather bags can have a slight animal odour that may be perceived just after opening the packaging, although this dissipates afterwards. This is something fashion shoppers will just have to get used to again. Even if the design is no longer seen as typically “eco”, the material used to make it still is.