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INTERNATIONAL: Interview to Frans Prins, co-founder THEKEY.TO, Berlin

How did the idea of THEKEY.TO start?
The idea to start THEKEY.TO started from the need to build a strong, international platform for sustainable fashion in Berlin. After organizing network meetings and workshops, it was time for the next step, and so we started to brainstorm about a trade fair and a knowledge platform. Soon, THEKEY.TO was born, having a strong creative and innovative drive that suits quite well the the city.

What can you say about this third edition?
The third edition of THEKEY.TO was for all an acceleration of quality. The selection of brands we showcased was wonderful and showed again the theme of sustainability is still growing strong, the location was good, the looks especially upstairs with the Gallery and Magazine stands was special and light and inspiring. It was very hot, and that lead to some decrease of visitors on all fairs in Berlin, but those who where there where good visitors: buyers, press, agencies, consultants. Also with the Academy we have built up our knowledge platform to a higher level, with speakers like Tony Tonnaer, the ex-CEO of Kuyichi, Peter Ingwersen from Noir, Dr. Otto von Busch from the Götenborg University and Tamsin Lejeune from Ethical fashion Forum we had some high profile speakers, a very intense 6-day-expert program in a futuristic venue.

Why did you feel there was the need to organize a six day program of workshops and talks? Which are the most important outcomes of the ACADEMY discussion?
Well, we organize this project with a strong drive to change and innovate the industry. So it makes sense to push this change on a knowledge level. The next generation of designers and fashion professionals should and will be much more aware of the impact of production. That's just going to become much more normal in our whole society. Those who have the better knowledge and experience on this topic, have an advantage as well. The discussions and speeches at the Academy where intense. I think the most important outcome was a strong awareness among the participants of the complexity of the topic. It is not only about buying a nice organic fabric, it is also about discussing what really is the most sustainable solution in the end and how to get there: back to organic, natural fibers or a revolution in the chemical production? The contents of Academy where a big success, considering it was the first time we organized it, and I would definitely like to develop this into something more.

Among the different price segments (mass market, bridge, diffusion, pret-a-porter, couture) where most of the brands that partecipated to THEKEY.TO are positioned?
We show a portfolio that reaches from urban and street fashion brands to more premium and upscale brands. I think we have a particular good portfolio for Berlin citizens; some cool shirts and hoodies to hang around with in a park in Kreuzberg. Some avant garde brands like Milch to wear at a Gallery opening in Mitte, some basics for the weekend, some chic jackets and dresses for your visit to Charlottenburg, and some trendy stuff to always do well in Prenzlauerberg.

“The winning outfits fit perfectly with the ideas of the two award initiators - that green fashion has to convince not only for its fairness and sustainability, but just as importantly, for its style and design”. This is the concept that THEKEY.TO and DaWanda want to transmit with “READY TO GREEN” Award.Do you believe there is still a paradox to be solved between green fashion and aesthetics?
Well, there's always a reality far beyond the stereotypes. Over the last five years, the possibilities to produce sustainable, to source the right materials and the quality of these materials increased a lot, meaning there's a lot of varieties in green fashion, from a more natural style and coloring, which is a strong segment and also has very stylish and premium examples such as the brand Banuq from Italy, Eelementum form Holland or Flavia Aranha from Brazil. But there's also a lot of brands that have a style that doesn't show this natural profile at all, that are edgy or freaky or just very fashionable. Take a Studio Jux from Holland, a Article23 from France or a Pants to Poverty from the UK. More and more brands show a trend away from any "organic look" towards a more contemporary look. Off course some things are hard to do sustainable, but if I look at my own wardrobe, I have thrown out most synthetic clothes just because I don't feel like this weird plastic stuff on my skin.

What are the main changes that took place in green fashion in the last years? What do you expect for the future?
The production of organic cotton has been rising rapidly, and there's more and more brands to work sustainable or plan to go more sustainable. Although the economical crisis also hit the green brands, it is amazing to see that the market of green fashion products has still been growing. More and more brands will start to commit themselves to a more sustainable approach, and the impact of new sustainable fibers will be larger. And as with the other industries, there's no way back, although in fashion there's still a long, long way to go. This revolution of greening our economy will be in the history books for sure. I hope also social issues will be more on the agenda again, cause the talk is a lot about green and not too much about labour conditions, another topic that still needs to be dealt with properly.

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