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Culture

Clothes for your conscience

The fashion industry produces tons of waste. One small label in Berlin is making the most of it, however, and creating chic tops and accessories from discarded materials.

New fabrics, new colors, new cuts - the fashion industry reinvents itself every season. And as soon as the latest designs have gone down the catwalk, they're practically out of style already, so basically you can throw them away.

Trash, however, is something the industry already produces more than enough of. "At the big labels, if any small mistake happens, then hundreds of pieces are created with a wrong seam," explained fashion designer Luise Barsch. "That's dead merchandise and waste, since it would be too expensive to have them altered."

This kind of rubbish is catastrophic for the environment. Luise Barsch, however, has been able to turn it into something useful. Together with friends, she co-founded the label aluc, which creates designer clothing out of discarded flawed pieces.

Sustainable fashion presented at the Berlin Fashion Week

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Barsch explained her label's upcycling approach like this: "We develop something out of trash that has a higher value. That means each one of our products is sustainable."

Berlin's green catwalks

Aluc is presenting its environmentally friendly collection this week at Berlin Fashion Week - and they're not alone. More than a hundred brands and initiatives are taking to the catwalks and trade fair halls with sustainably produced cotton, shorter production processes, and fairer wages for textile workers.

Buyers and fashion journalists alike are mingling in Berlin at events like the Green Showroom (pictured above) and the Ethical Fashion Show. Each year, more and more Fashion Week events are dedicated to fair trade and ecological products.

But just how sustainable are the items presented at Germany's biggest fashion extravaganza? For the purchaser, it's often hard to tell. The term "green fashion" is not legally protected and, unlike food and other items, the fashion industry has no standard way of labeling clothing as sustainable.

The price of sustainability

Luise Barsch and her partners at aluc deal with the lack of standards by being transparent. On their website, they detail the entire production process of their clothing, proving that not just the materials but also the production itself is "green."

Luise Barsch

Luise Barsch runs a small shop in downtown Berlin

Their shirts are sewn near social institutions, like workshops for disabled people. The waste they produce is used to make the accessories they also sell.

"We have nothing to hide," said Barsch, "From the very beginning we've put our whole heart and idealism into it, so we can do this as well as possible."

Barsch sells her creations in her own shop in Berlin's downtown Mitte district. Highlights include bags made from old printing blankets and designer tops made from worn socks. At first glance, it doesn't seem to fit in with the glitter and glamour that turns the German capital into a fashion hub twice a year.

But aluc doesn't aim to compete with the big labels. "At the moment we can only produce very few shirts," said Barsch.

And being ecological isn't cheap. An aluc shirt costs more than 100 euros ($130). Still, the one-of-a-kind pieces sell well.

"People buy the story behind our products," explained Luise Barsch. "Those who wear our shirts haven't just bought a cool, unique design, but they've also done something good."

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