“Fashion collections from Berlin carry the city’s reputation around the world”
Interview // Ramona Pop, Senator for Economics, Energy & Public Enterprises
The Senate Department for Economic Affairs, Energy and Public Enterprises is not only a supporter, but also a key facilitator, of the Berlin fashion scene. You have supported Der Berliner Salon since it was founded in 2015. After a two-year break, the project is back as part of Fashion Week – and the partnership will also be ongoing. Why is it important to you to continue to support this initiative?
We support Der Berliner Salon as an important group exhibition of emerging and established fashion labels. The German fashion industry needs a platform that showcases the high quality of the collections and takes a media-savvy approach to spreading the word about our country and our city.
MBFW Berlin and Der Berliner Salon are now being held in a completely digital format for the first time. What potential do you see in this new approach?
I see the January 2021 digital format as an important test run for events under pandemic conditions. Corona could change the way we host events altogether. We now have the chance to do a test run. That’s anything but easy under pandemic conditions. I would like to thank not only the designers and creative professionals involved, but also the organizers who took on this challenge.
Our view of solidarity and mutual support has certainly changed since then – on a social as well as an economic level. You were quick to act here concerning Berlin’s creative industries…
With 33,500 companies and 236,000 employees, the creative sector is part of Berlin’s essence as a brand – which also makes it an important growth engine of Berlin’s economy. From an economic policy perspective, it was essential to focus on the self-employed and creative professionals as soon as possible and to provide immediate assistance during the pandemic. We have supported Berlin’s creative enterprises with well over 600 million euros in immediate assistance and corona aid since the beginning of the pandemic and transformed dozens of events into hybrid and digital events. And we haven’t stopped there; we’ve decided on even more funding measures. These include additional funding for Berlin Fashion Week.
You once said: “Our city owes a lot to its fashion industry.” What did you mean by that exactly?
Mercedes Benz Fashion Week and all the other events have enormous media reach – hundreds of millions of impressions. Fashion collections from Berlin carry the city’s reputation around the world. In turn, this positive image helps to get companies and well-qualified professionals excited about Berlin.
The location offers a lot of opportunities, especially in the fashion industry…
Around 3,100 companies with 25,000 employees are currently active in the fashion industry here in the capital. Berlin continues to have the highest density of fashion companies in Germany. Within the last ten years, 1,000 companies, 10,000 employees and €5 billion in annual sales volume have been added, primarily due to the increasing number of online vendors. I am convinced that this development will continue after a recovery phase.
There is often talk of “sustainable” support for the fashion industry. What exactly do you mean by that?
We have been supporting fashion in Berlin for well over ten years with a comprehensive package of measures; no other federal state has a comparable set of support programs. These include education and coaching services, sustainability efforts and showcase opportunities for selected fashion labels at Fashion Weeks in Berlin and Paris. We are currently making significant investments in the visibility of Berlin’s many sustainable fashion labels and stores. The measures are being developed largely in direct consultation with industry stakeholders. In addition to the funding I mentioned, we will also be setting up a Fashion Hub this year as a year-round central contact point for local designers, experts and international delegations. From the outset of the pandemic, we have reached contractual agreements with event organizers that allow them to switch to hybrid or digital formats. For companies, we offer workshops to support the digitization of business processes and, with our digital bonus, subsidies for IT purchases. Our goal is to get as many companies and creative professionals through the crisis as possible.
Where would you like to see Berlin go as a creative hub?
With the Corona immediate assistance, we want to secure the continued existence of the industry and its jobs as best we can. If we can do that, Berlin fashion has every chance of continuing on its growth path after a recovery phase.
text by Sophia Steube
translation by Melissa Frost