March 13, 2014
After finding out about the bad working conditions in the fashion industry, Mareike Ulman founded her own shop and showroom WESEN in what might still be one of the most changing parts of the city. Yet, together with her team she produces clothes which last more than one season. „Additionally, running my own little company is an exciting combination of theoretical, creative and artisanal tasks.“
I came to Berlin to study fashion design right after school about ten years ago. I always wanted to live in this city and I will never regret this decision. To me, Berlin is a place which feels normal, nice and sometimes a bit rude and rushy when you actually live here and then as soon as I go somewhere else, I realize sooner or later how cool and free and easy Berlin really still is. So usually I don’t leave this city too often and if so, it has to be somewhere quiet and green.
My favourite neighborhood is of course still Neukölln, where I live and work for 6 years now. This area is a fast-changing, spectacular and surprising part of the city. Unfortunately, renting a new apartment or a shop-location becomes more and more incredibly expensive because gentrification did a good job. But for now, I would say that the area is still really experimental, so let’s celebrate this as long as it’s possible. My favorite place is, of course, our own shop: Since July 2011, WESEN is a showroom where we exhibit clothing from FORMAT as well as products from likeminded creators e.g. jewelry and shoes.
WESEN showcases sustainable products manufactured according to ecological and ethical principles. Our raw materials are all organic, the cotton fabrics are certified by GOTS or produced according to similar organic standards. All of our clothing is produced in Berlin and Brandenburg. Our minimalistic FORMAT collection is partly independent from seasons because sustainability implys for us that clothes aren’t to be old-fashioned after 6 month. We aspire a high level of eternalness in our styles: Some pieces accomplish the collection since the early beginning of FORMAT in fall 2008 and this collection keeps on growing with pieces, new fabrics and new colors every season.
While still studying, I found out about how bad the working conditions for factory workers in the clothing industry were and still are. I would have never expected this since it is perfectly outsourced and out of our Western view. But after knowing about how hard people work for the fact that Western shoppers can have everything as cheap as possible, I decided that I don’t want to be part of this industry as a product designer and rather make my own business with principles and conditions that are more respectful for the environment and people involved in the process of making clothes. Additionally, running my own little company is an exciting combination of theoretical, creative and artisanal tasks.
Opening a shop was the next step after starting my business from home in the first years. FORMAT grew bigger and my apartment is little so I needed more space to work for me and the others. I decided not just having a workspace but also a showing and selling location because I did work in shops before and I wanted to see what people are doing with the stuff I’m developping. We also get a lot of feedback from our customers in the shop which helps us a lot to work more and more on our whole collection.