• Many creative ideas and approaches

In the IFAF project Fairfaktur teachers and students from ASH Berlin and HTW Berlin are researching in an interdisciplinary team, how smaller companies in the Fair Fashion sector in particular can market their products better and are also supporting them in doing so. For example, by means of the development of toolkits and prototypes. Prof. Dr. Uwe Bettig, Professor of Management and Business Administration at ASH Berlin, heads the project.

Interest in sustainable fashion and design products that are produced fairly under humane conditions is growing worldwide. “Fair Fashion” sees itself as a counter-movement to mass-produced “Fast Fashion”. However, smaller Fairtrade suppliers in particular have hardly benefited from this development to date. The reason: A lack of experience in design and marketing prevents companies from reaching new target groups and exploiting their market potential. The Fairfaktur project, funded by the Institute for Applied Research Berlin (IFAF), aims to support Fairtrade companies in the fields of Crafted Fair Fashion and Home Decor in developing appealing products for new target groups and in opening up new sales channels. The head of the project Prof. Dr. Uwe Bettig tells us more about it. The Brain City Ambassador heads the Fairfaktur project, which was launched at the end of 2022, together with Prof. Johanna Michel from the Fashion Design course at the HTW Berlin University of Applied Sciences (HTW Berlin).

Prof. Dr. Bettig, until now, your research has focussed primarily on the health and social services sector. How did you come across the Fairfaktur project? 

That’s right, I haven't dealt with fashion in my research so far. However, the concept of the IFAF funding is to conduct cross-university and interdisciplinary research. So I didn’t have to think long when I was asked to look into business models in the area of fairly produced fashion. Actually, I have also been involved with the topics of company start-ups and business model development for many years. I myself am learning a lot from the project.

Which companies are you working with as part of the project – and how were they selected?

We run the Fairfaktur project together with our colleagues from HTW Berlin, Prof. Johanna Michel and Lina Pfeifer. Our practice partners include FOLKDAYS, a Berlin-based social enterprise for contemporary Fairtrade design, and the Fairtrade pioneer El Puente. Both offer fair and handcrafted products and have supported the content of the seminars during prototype development at the HTW – as did the Forum Fairer Handel. The Berlin-based energy consultancy studio mm04 and the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) will help us to disseminate the project results. In addition, the WFTO put us in touch with producing Fairtrade companies who participated as interview partners in the prototype development. All project partners are also available to contribute their expertise to the development of the toolkits in order to ensure target group-orientated, practice-relevant outputs. 

What questions does the project ask? 

We assume that small, Fairtrade producing companies in the Crafted Fair Fashion and Home Decor sectors will only find limited access to the market for social-ecological products. This is where Fairfaktur comes in. We ask the following four research questions: How can the needs of the target groups be addressed better and new target groups be reached? How can Fairtrade companies be supported in modernisation processes in order to develop aesthetically pleasing and marketable products? What skills do Fairtrade companies need in order to be able to adapt their products and marketing strategies continuously to market needs? And: How can the up-and-coming social entrepreneurship scene in Berlin and traditional Fairtrade companies cooperate better?

Are there already specific results? 

Specific support needs and wishes were derived from the qualitative interviews. This is an important basis for our further work, because assumptions and gaps in skills have been confirmed. With a survey among consumers, which was carried out by an external provider with a random sample of 402 participants, we were also able to identify existing and potential target groups including their needs, motivation and requirements. We also asked socially and sustainably oriented Berlin fashion companies about the topics of promoting cooperation and integrating Fairtrade structures into the emerging social enterprise scene. 

In the summer semester of 2023, you developed a prototype collection with fashion design students at HTW Berlin. What was the outcome? 

The design brief was: What can contemporary Fairtrade fashion look like in order to appeal to new target groups? And what skills does a modernisation process require in product design? The result was prototypes for clothing and accessories that were inspired by the arts and crafts organisations involved. In the current winter semester, a Master’s course is also developing various products from the fields of fashion and home textiles and producing prototypes. In both seminars, the students also dealt with the topics of cultural appropriation in textiles and fashion and the challenges of Fairtrade. This also enabled them to strengthen their own skills for the Fairtrade market.

How are the participating companies supported beyond the project? 

Fairfaktur develops the low-threshold toolkits already mentioned. In these, we provide expertise in the areas of design, market access and communication for arts and crafts organisations and Fairtrade producers in a target group-oriented and practical way. Our starting assumption is that small companies in this sector have few financial and human resources to take advantage of consulting services. The toolkits therefore serve as a guide. They include instructions and tools that can be implemented independently across all sectors. The toolkits will be distributed via the WFTO, other project partners and networks and will be publicly accessible in the long term, as we want to reach as many other organisations as possible in addition to the participating organisations.

To what extent is Brain City Berlin a good location for the project?

Berlin not only has an outstanding university landscape, but there are also exciting companies here that cooperate with universities and which are very interested in working on practical issues. At ASH Berlin, we work together with many companies, associations and organisations on common issues. Students also benefit from this, for example as part of their final theses.

What have you particularly enjoyed about the Fairfaktur project so far?  

I really enjoy the exchange within the ASH team. We also maintain regular, collegial contact with our colleagues at HTW Berlin. My particular highlight, however, is the prototype collection. I was amazed at what great ideas the students developed in such a short time. Students also work with us in the area of consulting and business model development as part of a course. This gives rise to many creative ideas and approaches that we pursue further in the project. (vdo)

More Stories