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Everyone uses it, but too few reduce it: plastic. Single-use plastic in particular has long since become an integral part of consumption and many products, packaging and materials can no longer be imagined without it. Despite widespread awareness, the reduction of single-use plastics remains a challenge. What cannot be recycled often ends up in nature, for example in bodies of water such as rivers, which carry the plastic directly to the ocean and pollute the oceans. But how can our oceans be protected?

From this realization, Plastic Fischer was born. The organization focuses on halting plastic pollution at its source – in rivers – before it reaches the ocean. Karsten Hirsch, CEO of Plastic Fischer, decided five years ago together with friends to do something to preserve our oceans and set up the first company to stop ocean plastic in the rivers. We spoke to him about how this works and how we at Spread Group are supporting him in this task.

Karsten shares the story of how it all began:

“I was on vacation in Vietnam with two friends and we saw how plastic flows down the Mekong. My co-founder Moritz and I were in Asia for the first time and didn’t know the situation on the ground beforehand and when we saw it, it really got to us. When we got home, we looked up which organizations were taking care of river plastic – and couldn’t find a single one worldwide. Then we thought about an idea of how to tackle the whole thing. The problem of river plastic can be imagined like an hourglass: The plastic ends up in the river, where it is concentrated before it then disperses back into the sea. We want to tackle this bottleneck and stop the plastic where it is still possible. ”

Reflecting on Plastic Fischer’s journey so far, we asked Karsten, “what successes are you particularly proud of?”

“Basically, I am very proud of the developments we have made as a team because we had no idea about the topic or the technology. We just threw ourselves into it and went for it with our idea. The awards from the World Economic Forum and the German Sustainability Award are great successes.

Nevertheless, the best thing is to create new jobs locally. We have been able to provide 90 people in India and Indonesia with jobs and security through permanent employment, health, and social insurance. We also give them planning security, respect, and recognition for what they do, namely clean these systems every day, manage the waste, and ultimately enjoy working for us. We have found the right people who treat the employees on-site well, which unfortunately is not always a matter of course in the waste management working environment, but works very well for us. That motivates me a lot and makes me proud.”

And where does Spread Group fit in?

The collaboration between Plastic Fischer and Spread Group marks a significant milestone for both parties. Initially, merchandising was a low priority for Plastic Fischer. However, recognizing its potential as a tool for raising awareness and generating support, they decided to leverage it. Karsten explains, “We told ourselves that nobody knew us yet. That’s why we did it as a one-off campaign for the first 3-4 years and sold about 50 T-shirts at the end of the year. Now we’re getting more attention, people like our logo and the work behind it. So, we wanted to offer it, but we couldn’t handle the fulfillment and didn’t have enough capacity. However, it is also important to us and the people who support us to avoid unnecessary plastic packaging and thus ensure completely plastic-free shipping.”

Therefore, Plastic Fischer decided to team up with Spreadshop – our business unit that offers customized merchandise solutions, using print-on-demand. Spreadshop’s service includes production, shipping, payment, and customer service. As Karsten provided insights into the evolution of merchandise within Plastic Fischer’s initiatives, we asked for a little throwback:

Would you share how the collaboration with Spreadshop came about?

“I met a colleague of yours at the NOAH conference in Zurich and told him what we were doing. He was so enthusiastic about it that he said he would take it with him and discuss with the team in Leipzig how we could come together. That’s how the idea came about that Spreadshop would become our partner and take care of fulfillment, offering good quality merch and giving people the opportunity to support us. Ultimately, it’s a multiplier for us: people wear our brand and message on the T-shirt, which is a great incentive for others to support us.

I’m delighted that we’ve also been able to initiate a process for you in which shipping is completely plastic-free for the first time. It was very good to have this flexibility. In addition, we are now using part of the margin to finance plastic-free fishing. For every product sold, we fish a certain amount of plastic. The merch is our means device of generating impact.”

Building on Karsten’s description of the collaboration’s genesis with Spreadshop, we wanted to know, “Looking ahead, what are your other wishes or aspirations for our partnership?”

“I hope that together we can find companies and influencers to help us sell merch and fund this positive impact. I think Spread Group has a lot of charisma and a great network of companies that can be inspired to cooperate, with co-branding or similar. I would like to work closely with you on what your partnerships have in store and how we can ensure that even more Plastic Fischer merch is sold so that we can really catch many more kilos of plastic.”

In conclusion, the partnership between Plastic Fischer and Spread Group exemplifies how businesses can collaborate to tackle environmental challenges effectively. As Plastic Fischer continues its mission to clean our rivers and oceans, the merchandising efforts serve as a powerful tool for raising awareness and mobilizing support for their cause. Together, we are making strides towards a plastic-free future.

Thank you, Karsten! #plasticfree

Hamburg-based association Laut gegen Nazis e.V. launches the “Fashion against Fascism” initiative together with Zalando and Spread Group.

Following the globally acclaimed “Recht gegen Rechts” campaign, Hamburg-based association Laut gegen Nazis e.V. is taking the next step in the fight against the spread of far-right codes in collaboration with Jung von Matt. Together with co-initiators Zalando and Spread Group and other partners from the fashion industry such as ABOUT YOU, Avocadostore, BAUR, bevh, bonprix, Fast Forward, Underpressure and Vinted they are launching the new “Fashion against Fascism” initiative. The aim: to create the largest online database for Nazi codes in order to curb the spread of right-wing extremist messages in the fashion industry. With posts on social media and on the campaign site fashionagainstfascism.com the initiative calls on the participation of the global fashion industry.

What’s behind the database?

The current database consists of almost 200 codes that are being used by far-right extremists to spread hate in society. This database is curated and constantly updated with insider information and anonymous user input on new emerging Nazi codes. Thanks to an API (Application Programming Interface), the database can be used by any brand that joins the initiative against the spread of far- right codes. A web crawler makes it easy for brands to check whether such codes are spreading through their own online marketplace without them knowing it.

More attention for the “Fashion against Fascism” campaign

The idea for the campaign was developed by the Berlin advertising agency Jung von Matt and is the follow-up to the successful “rights against the right” campaign. It was supported by 02100 Digital, responsible for programming the database solution, and the Berlin branch of the Swedish communications agency Redgert Comms. Together with Laut gegen Nazis e.V., the agencies are contributing pro bono in order to counter the rise of far-right ideologies in Germany, against which hundreds of thousands of people are currently demonstrating nationwide.

Jörn Menge, chairman Laut gegen Nazis e.V. explains:

“Experience from the ‘rights against the right’ campaign has shown that trademark law also reaches its limits in the fight against Nazis. But we aren’t satisfied with that. Where the legislator is not able to act sufficiently against the spread of right-wing extremist hate messages, we are now doing something. We also want to motivate other players in the fashion industry to get involved to help to create a safe environment for everyone.”

How Zalando, Spread Group, ABOUT YOU and Vinted use the new database

Zalando stands for diversity, inclusion, respect and openness. The ‘Fashion against Fascism’ initiative is a valuable addition to the strict product, content and brand guidelines we already have in place. Integrating the data from this new open source database into our systems will allow us to more actively combat right-wing extremism and its ever-changing symbols on our platform. We hope that our initial alliance with other players in the fashion industry will continue to grow in order to send a clear signal against right-wing extremist ideas. Only together can we prevent products with questionable imprints from being distributed or sold,” explains Pascal Brun, Vice President Sustainability and Diversity & Inclusion at Zalando.

The mechanics work in a similar way at Spread Group. The global provider of individualized fashion and lifestyle products is expanding its existing database in this way. This will make it even more difficult to print garments with Nazi codes from now on. “As an open platform, we defined community standards a long time ago and established review processes to exclude discriminatory or inflammatory content. A larger team uses a multi-stage, software-supported review process to ensure that anti- democratic motifs or texts are not published and produced on our platform in the first place. The ‘Fashion against Fascism’ initiative helps us to join forces to prevent the spread of right-wing extremist symbols and to react automatically and on a daily basis to newly developed symbols. Our support for the open source database demonstrates our commitment to finding innovative ways to actively combat hate and discrimination,” says Julian de Grahl, CEO of the Spread Group.

ABOUT YOU Group employs around 1500 colleagues from 77 different nationalities. For this reason alone, diversity is deeply rooted in our corporate culture. It is fundamental for us to take our corporate responsibility seriously, not only in relation to our colleagues, but also towards society. We firmly believe that collaboration and transparency are the keys to drive change throughout the industry. That’s why we support the idea of the new open source database and hope that many more companies will join the initiative,” says Tarek Müller, co-founder and co-CEO of the ABOUT YOU Group.

Adam Jay, CEO Vinted Marketplace adds: “We’re committed to making the Vinted platform a safe environment for every member of our community. This includes extensive policies and tools to prevent the dissemination of content associated with fascist ideologies. In line with this commitment, we fully support the initiative ‘Fashion again Fascism’, recognising the collective responsibility of online fashion marketplaces to help mitigate right extremism.

About Laut gegen Nazis e.V.

The Laut gegen Nazis e.V. association has been fighting for our democracy and freedom for 20 years with initiatives, concert tours and protest actions. In the process, many campaigns have been launched, such as “Recht gegen Rechts”, which have raised awareness among millions of people worldwide. The association’s biggest supporters include Die Fantastischen Vier, Die Sportfreunde Stiller, Peter Lohmeyer and Culcha Candela.

About Zalando

Founded in Berlin in 2008, Zalando is building the leading pan-European ecosystem for fashion and lifestyle e-commerce around two growth vectors: Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to- Business (B2B). In B2C, we offer an inspiring and quality multi-brand shopping experience for fashion and lifestyle products to about 50 million active customers in 25 markets. In B2B, we are using our logistic infrastructure, software and service capabilities to help brands and retailers run and scale their entire e-commerce business, on or off Zalando. As an ecosystem, Zalando aims to enable positive change for the fashion and lifestyle industry.

About Spread Group

Spread Group is a global provider of individualized fashion and lifestyle products. With the brands Spreadshirt, Teamshirts, Spreadshop and SPREAD, it offers consumers, companies and content creators digital services for the individualization of fashion and lifestyle products. The common basis for all of the Spread Group’s services is a flexible software platform that enables deep vertical integration along the value chain. This includes not only product design, marketing and sales via marketplaces and online stores, but also production, payment processing, global shipping and customer service. With the Fashion Tech Fund Spread Ventures, Spread Group makes targeted investments in young technology companies that share Spread Group’s vision of more sustainable fashion production or distribution. The made-to-order pioneer was founded in Leipzig in 2002 and today operates four production facilities in the USA and Europe. In 2022, Spread Group manufactured over ten million products to order for customers in more than 170 countries and generated sales of more than 175 million euros.

Press contact

Mayra Koziollek, Spread Group

t: +49 173 599 4108

e: presse@spreadgroup.com

Everyone can do their bit to protect bees – but it’s also a joint effort. Our partner Studio 100 sees it the same way and therefore calls on people to protect the habitat of bees and insects every year in the Klatschmohnwiese project. Maya the Bee is representative of the important diversity of species in our meadows. This year’s motto, “Let it grow,” leaves plenty of room for many actions. We have been involved in three different areas this year.

Greening the roof terrace of the Leipzig Office
Having already planted the roof terrace of our Leipzig office in 2022, we continued to do so in 2023, focusing on even more natural plant life. Wildflower seeds were sown on the beds and additional weather-resistant and insect-friendly perennials were added. The result of the newly created habitat was already evident by mid-summer at our bee hotel, whose closed cavities signal the nesting of wild bees.

Wildflower sowing together with the team Spread Group
This campaign also follows on from the previous year. Our spreadsters at the Leipzig site received free bags of wildflower seeds to sow in their gardens, neighborhoods or balcony boxes. In urban environments, habitats and food sources for insects are needed in many places. Anyone who takes a photo of their flowering variety and submits the picture by the end of August will be entered in a photo competition in which the best snapshots will be awarded prizes related to the topic of bees.

Planting tree beds with Ökolöwe Umweltbund Leipzig e.V.
We would also like to make our contribution to a green and insect-friendly community – in our case Leipzig Plagwitz. For this purpose, we cooperate with the local NPO Ökolöwe Umweltbund Leipzig e.V. and take over a flowering sponsorship for two tree beds. At the end of June, a small team of colleagues worked on the two tree beds near the headquarters and planted perennials on them. In summer, regular watering is a race against the heat and succeeds mainly because of the great team spirit of our employees. We also want to take care of the tree beds in the long term and maintain the habitat for insects.

We are proud that we were able to support our license partner Studio100 and Maya the Bee again this year in the Klatschmohnwiese project and thus make a contribution to the protection of bees and insects.

We all need to work towards equality, whether as a company or in society as a whole. When it comes to fair opportunities, treatment and pay, as well as proactive and mutual support, it’s not just about gender differences. These are integral aspects of making our world more diverse and our chances more equal. As Women’s Month comes to an end, we would like to share some thoughts and ideas from our team.

At Spread Group, we see ourselves in a constant learning process, and are fully committed to working towards fairness and equitable treatment company-wide. That’s why this year we have addressed the International Women’s Day motto, “Embrace Equity”, and asked ourselves, what does it actually mean?

#EmbraceEquity – “why equal opportunities are no longer enough”

When talking about gender parity, equality is the top priority. Women’s Day 2023 highlighted that equality and equal distribution of resources does not necessarily mean everyone is on a level playing. Instead, it is important to recognize different backgrounds, experiences, and individual challenges. In particular, women, the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, people with disabilities, and the financially disadvantaged are in need of specific empowerment. This is where justice, or “equity,” comes into play, which recognizes that not everyone has had the same experience or resources. As a result, we must find individual solutions while breaking down individual barriers – this is how fairness and inclusion can be achieved.

Discussion on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – our Women’s Day event on March 8th

At Spread Group we are also committed to deepening our knowledge on equality and learning from each other in the process. To get us underway, we hosted a hybrid event for Spreadsters at our Leipzig headquarters. Business & Family Coach Hulya Kurt kicked things off with a candid keynote presentation on Equity vs. Equality and Unconscious Bias. This was followed by insights into everyday life at the company, with Spreadsters from different areas presenting their own experiences with diversity and inclusion. Positive experiences at Spread Group were discussed, as well as ideas and suggestions for improvements. Fueled by some tasty snacks and drinks, many conversations took place afterwards, where we chatted about what we had heard so far. Overall it was an insightful day, giving us new energy and input as we continue to strive for equality.

Questions for our Spreadsters – What does Equity and Equality mean to you?

Besides the event, we asked various colleagues what equity and equality mean to them, and how they practice it in their daily lives. Colleagues of all genders had their say, with their responses clearly reflecting the diversity of our company. Different experiences and perspectives produced very different takes, and an excerpt of the statements can be seen here:

Ultimately, we can all do our part, but it is primarily a leadership task to create and follow up on structural changes. A task that also occupies Shazmin Hussein, our new Head of Talent Acquisition & Employer Branding. Her vision is to strengthen the influence of female leaders in the company. This requires the right tools “to better navigate the business landscape, develop and leverage talents, and step into roles of greater influence,” says Shazmin. This can enable lasting personal and professional development – because that’s possibly the most significant mandate and lever for companies like ours to practice real equity, equity. Addressing career development opportunities individually – empowering the entire Spread Group team.

Shazmin Hussein, Head of Talent Acquisition & Employer Branding

Hussam Tatari is the producer of our premium collection, and his family-run business has been devoted to the textile industry for over 100 years. When the political situation forced the closure of their factory in Aleppo, Hussam didn’t feel like quitting. Today he says: “What I love is to continue what my family has been doing for generations, and it fills my heart with pride that my family name has been standing for quality all the while.”

Hello! Can you briefly introduce yourself?

My name is Hussam Tatari, and in my company we are four partners: that’s me, my brother, my Italian partner Massimo Burdo, and Tobias Friedmann from Germany. On August 22nd, we had a video team here to document how the company produces. The footage also shows how we implement measures for sustainability, because this issue is very important for everybody and our future. We are already accepting this challenge today. It’s important to take these measures before our competitors do, because it creates additional value that will help us stay ahead of the market so that we can successfully sell clothes today and tomorrow.

How did you become a clothes manufacturer? And what do you love about your profession?

By profession, I am electronical engineer, and after my studies I decided to join our family business in textiles. For three generations and over 100 years, the Tatari family has established a textile business in Tangier, Morocco. In my time, this has been run by my cousins. And when I finished my studies, I established production facilities in Syria to continue the family tradition with a production site in Aleppo. In the beginning, it was a lot of hard work, and thankfully it became quite successful over time.

From what we hear, it has to do something with Queen Elisabeth as well.

There has been a long tradition of clothes manufacturing in Syria. We have been exporting fabrics to the United Kingdom for a long time, and Queen Elisabeth’s brocade wedding dress was made in Damascus of natural silk fabrics that stemmed from Aleppo.

And what do you love about your profession?

When producing a piece of garment, we start with quality yarn to make the fabric, and then we dye it to create something from scratch that hasn’t been there before. This is why I’m passionate about my products, and it is the main reason I wanted to become a draper. It gives me great satisfaction to create something with my own hands, so to speak. This is very important to me.

You moved to Turkey from Syria in 2011. How did you manage to put up your manufacturing company in such a short time?

Unfortunately, the political situation in Syria hailed an end to private businesses like mine: it was first nationalized and then closed. We relocated to Kahramanmaraş in Turkey, because it was only about 150 kilometers from my home city. There has always been the thought of going back to Syria one day – this is why I didn’t move further away. In the beginning, it was a completely new situation in a strange country. We came here with 50 people to start anew, most of them family members and former employees. We didn’t have any money or equipment, because everything had been taken away from us. It was a big challenge for us.

All our customers supported us from the start, when they gave us advanced payments. This trust was based on well-established customer relationships, as we’d been growing with our customers – or partners, which describes it much better – for over 20 years. Two of our customers and my German business partner lend us money so that we could get started again. We were blessed to be given a new chance. After only 18 days of relocating, we were able to ship the first container of new products we manufactured at our factory in Turkey. What started with just 50 people that travelled across the border has now turned into one of Turkey’s great clothes-manufacturing success stories. Today we have over 2,000 employees and generate an annual turnover of €70m.

You produce garments for well-known European companies, like Engelbert Strauss, Versace, Lonsdale, or Alpha Industries. How did the collaboration with Spread Group start?

Spread Group approached us in 2015. They liked the products and were interested in our ethics. We like assuming responsibility by not only complying with laws and regulations, but acting in a socially responsible manner. We want to ensure that everyone involved in the production process has a strong sense of responsibility to live up to our standards. These are ethical standards that include sustainable conduct and collaborative social responsibility, such as BCSI. We all want to have a bright future. After the CEO of Spread Group visited us to see for himself how we produce, Spread Group placed the first order and have been ordering from us ever since.

Are the third-party companies you use for spinning, knitting, and dyeing in the area? And what are their quality standards like?

As of this year, we’ve been doing everything mind spinning yarn inhouse. This is how we were able to shorten the supply chain and become more sustainable. And most of the cotton we source comes from Turkey and Greece, which is another way of having short supply chains. We expect the partners we work with to ensure the same degree of social responsibility that we have. We make sure our partners adhere to ethical and environmental codes so that the commitment is not limited to environmental and ethical compliance, but also facilitates an improved socioenvironmental setting for the workforce.

Sustainable clothing is becoming more and more important. Do you have any goals to become more sustainable?

It is very important to us to guarantee a high degree of product standards to our partners, because we want to ensure that our production conditions meet the expectations of both our staff and our customers. We are very happy that these measures helped us be awarded the OEKO Tex and GOTS certificates. Moreover, in the section where we dye our fabrics, we use gas instead of coal until the installation of solar cells has been completed to supply electricity. This will result in higher production costs of 50 cents per kilogram, but we are fully committed to reducing pollution wherever we can. We are also installing a green hydrogen station. This way, we will manage to obtain renewable electricity by means of electrolysis. Hydrogen gets separated from the oxygen you find in water, which is a great alternative to traditional energy resources. We are hoping to start using it next year.

It feels like you have a great passion for creating garments. What makes you happy about it?

I am happy when I get the job done perfectly. This is when I feel supportive as a service provider. I always ask my partners and customers for new ideas, so it doesn’t feel like we’re a photocopy machine that keeps producing the same things over and again. Currently, it’s the sourcing of organic cotton and using recycled materials to create new garments. I really like exploring those new avenues. We undertake these efforts to make sure that our customers are completely content with the products, because happy customers keep coming back.

Final question – will you still be a family-run business in the future?

[laughs] Yes, absolutely. The next Tatari generation is already eagerly waiting in line. One of my sons is about to finish university, and he will then join the team. It makes me extremely happy that he feels like joining us. My other son, Abdullah, graduated from university last year, and he has joined us already. He currently does a language program at a school in Germany, seeing that most of our customers are based in Germany.

Two planting drives for biodiversity and the environment

We’re delighted to see our cooperation with licensing partner Studio 100 Media blossoming. Starting with the Maya the Bee X Spreadshirt collection in 2021, we have since begun to take active steps towards educating employees and the wider community on key environmental topics. This is part of Studio 100 Media ’s Projekt Klatschmohnwiese (Project Poppy Meadow). The goals of the project are simple: educate children on the importance of insects and encourage them to help biodiversity with the motto “let’s make it buzz and hum together”.

Led by Licensing Success Manager, Annina Vettermann, Spread Group got involved by themselves with two planting drives. On Plant a Flower Day (12th March), they turned our rooftop terrace into an insect-friendly biotope, with more digging and planting taking place on World Bee Day (20th May). All 500 Spreadsters who work in Leipzig were given seed bags with wildflowers native to the region. These little starter packs were the basis for the task of trying to create the best bee paradise on their balconies or in green spaces. The winners will get a cute little surprise from Maya the Bee’s partners, all to be announced at the end of the summer.

Tips and tricks can be found on Maja’s insect protection website: www.projekt-klatschmohnwiese.de

 

Quick, strong and independent: it’s not exactly a coincidence that 7 years ago Annina Vetterman helped set up “Wonder Woman”, the first licensed topic for Spread Group. Thanks to a remarkable amount of willpower, she finished her bachelor’s in Media Production, a master’s in Media Management, all while working with us as a graphic designer. Oh, and she was a young mother at the time, too. This eventually turned into a permanent job as a graphic designer for licensing. Today, she’s the Licensing Success Manager, a role which covers a range of topics, all focused towards successful merchandising strategies. Annina also develops marketing campaigns, organises donation drives and cooperates closely with our over 200 partner brands, including many with core sustainability values.

Spread Group: How would you define sustainability?

Annina Vettermann: For me, sustainability starts in the mind. It’s wrong to think that small scale changes don’t make a difference – our actions have an impact on our entire environment. We can easily change a few things in our everyday lives, such as separating waste properly or drinking more tap water.

Spread Group: What drives you to live a more sustainable lifestyle?

Annina Vettermann: My son! When we go shopping, ecological factors always influence what we buy and what we don’t. I’m impressed with how knowledgeable this generation of young people is. I wouldn’t have been able to reflect on my consumption like that when I was 14. In a lot of ways he’s right, to keep our planet intact and liveable, we need to consider how we consume. When it came to getting a Christmas tree, he eventually managed to convince me that it doesn’t make sense to take a healthy, living tree and put it in your living room.

Spread Group: What sustainable projects are you and your team working on?

Annina Vettermann: At the minute, our biggest project is the cooperation with Studio 100 Media as part of their educative initiative Projekt Klatschmohnwiese (Project Poppy Meadow) with Maja the Bee. This year, we also planted created our own wildflower meadow on the roof terrace at our Headquarters in Leipzig. Then we called on our employees to take part in a competition to find the wildest flower meadow, as well as offered competitions boosting awareness of  Spreadshirt’s organic collection.

In terms of our internal processes, we have cancelled our license partners’ printed brochures and publishing programs, switching to digital magazines. In fact, the licensing team even sometimes received certain print issues three times because colleagues had subscribed to them independently. Most of it went straight into the garbage can. I find the digital brochures much more practical anyway, because I can also read them on my smartphone.

In addition, the Licensing Team is often on the road a lot, at trade shows and conferences. Due to the pandemic, these have taken place completely digitally in the last two years, which has saved travel time between appointments, among other things. Within the industry, it appears that some events will now be permanently digital, and many will be hybrid. I’m curious to see if this trend is here to stay.

Spread Group: What are your concrete sustainability goals?

Annina Vettermann: We are working to reduce our paper consumption to a minimum. We also pass on requests and suggestions from our license partners to our purchasing and product range departments. For example, for a larger range of organic products. Currently, our colleagues in the purchasing department are already working on finding sustainable alternatives for each product type in our range, such as our plastic lunch boxes. We also want to establish long-term cooperation with our license partners. Whether it’s a big brand or a “niche” brand – we are not interested in short trends, but in sustainable brand building. To achieve this, the licensing team needs to take to strategically develop the right themes.

Spread Group: What would you recommend to readers who are looking to delve further into sustainability?

Annina Vettermann: When I go shopping, I often ask myself the killer question; ‘do I need it, or just do I just want it?’ A lot of impulse buys disappear when I do this.

Related links
Corporate Social Responsibility at Spread Group: www.spreadshirt.com/sustainability
Projekt Klatschmohnwiese: www.diebienemaja-bienenschutz.de

Words can be a weapon: political statement T-shirts make their stance clear – openly, loudly, and boldly. Our look into fashion history with Katherine Hamnett, the inventor of the statement T-shirt, on International T-shirt Day 2022 shows how far the impact of a simple T-shirt can reach.

In simple black and white, Katharine Hamnett achieved her international breakthrough as a designer: when the Brit met then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984, she openly displayed her criticism of the US-made Pershing II guided missiles. Her statement T-shirt “58% Don’t Want Pershing” became a fashion legend and Hamnett herself a role model for all activists who express their protest with words rather than fists. Although the political statement T-shirt does not seem like a fashion revolution at first glance, it contained two important moments: typographically, its striking capital letters symbolize an outcry, and its simple design invites imitation. It was, and still is, one of Katharine’s central design tenets that her designs should be reproduced; more important to the designer than the question of original and fake is that as many people as possible carry their messages out into the world.

Her commitment was and is manifold. From “Think Global” to “Stop Acid Rain” to “Choose Life”, Katharine Hamnett turned political and social protest into it-pieces in the mid-80s. After a break from the scene, Hamnett celebrated her big comeback in 2008, once again capturing the social zeitgeist; whether “Second Referendum Now” or “No War”, there are just as many reasons today as in 1984 to make a statement in bold black and white. But is it enough, in these times, to stick to a “fashion statement”? No, says Katharine Hamnett, who rejects any form of “slacktivism”. In addition to her clear political stance, sustainability has been playing an increasingly important role in her designs in recent years. It is important to her that her products are produced using the most ethical and environmentally friendly methods available. Her collections use organic cotton, recycled polyester, or sustainably sourced silk and avoid the use of any pesticides in the production process.

For fans of the fashion icon and those with an affinity for political statement T-shirts, we’ve put together a collection of expressive organic T-shirts in the spirit of Hamnett. We are offering 22 percent off a Spreadshop purchase and 15 percent off a Spreadshirt purchase today only in honor of Katharine Hamnett and T-shirt Day.

Some of our political statement T-shirts

T-shirt “Stop Climate Change Go Vegan”
T-shirt “Choose life”
T-shirt “No More Fashion Victims”
T-shirt “No War”

Same goal, different approach: Spread Group and their new neighbours in western Leipzig “war mal deins” offer unique products to their customer bases. Yet only the latter work with 100% used material for their creations. Their philosophy and commitment to sustainability was an eye-opener for us and ended in us collaborating for an upcycling project. We met up with Iris Ebel and Lisa Koops to talk about contemporary fashion and why it’s a topic which affects all of society. 

Spread Group: First of all, we’re interested in knowing how you got into fashion design? 

Iris Ebel: I’ve been making my own clothes since I was 13 years old. Since then, fashion has been a big party of my life and I ended up applying for a design degree at the Art EZ University of Arts in Arnhem. Being half Dutch myself, it seemed like a pretty easy decision. Just like Lisa, I made it through the tough application tests. 

Lisa Koops: It’s a pretty similar story for me. I have always been into fashion, and was drawn by the vibe in the Netherlands, there are a lot of highly renowned fashion schools there. Back then I couldn’t speak Dutch but that wasn’t necessary as all the courses were in English. 

Spread Group: Were you always primarily focused on sustainable fashion, or did this occur during the course of your degree? 

Lisa: The internships I did during my studies showed me that I didn’t want to be part of the fast fashion industry. When I worked at events like London Fashion Week 2019, I noticed just how tough some of the working conditions in the industry are. The long working hours just became normality: There were times in the degree when I was working for 9am to 9pm on some designs. My atelier was essentially my home. 

Iris: Yup, it was pretty crazy. I had an internship which involved sitting at a computer, editing designs and sending them off to manufacturers. The design process consisted of converting technical drawings onto the computer. Not exactly what you’d expect, and not particularly creative. 

Lisa: That’s true. But we still never even considered completely giving up on fashion design. We love fashion, especially the creativity of it. 

Iris: Exactly, and then the second-hand shops in the Netherlands began to catch our eye. They really inspired us and made us realise how amazing it is to work with used materials. 

Lisa: It’s also cheaper. The material was simply given to us by friends. We had built up a network and some proper orders just started coming in. For our graduation project pieces, we naturally used designs we’d made from used materials. 

Spread Group: Is this where the idea for your own fashion brand “war mal deins” came from? 

Iris Ebel: Effectively, yes. We took the English phrase “used to be yours” and translated it into German. We had already thought about opening our own second hand shop, which we recently opened up on Weissenfelser Strasse. Additionally, we offer screen printing as well as embroidery and sewing workshops. These are all ways for us to show our approach to fashion with people who want to learn. 

Spread Group: Is there really such a big difference between your approach and classic fashion design?

Lisa Koops: Of course. Our approach flips the design process upside down. Normally, you think of an idea, draw it, and then look for the right materials. For us, the materials – which customers can bring along themselves – dictate the design process. We develop our ideas based on the materials and then start drawing. It’s a very intuitive process.

Spread Group: We gave you a box full of new T-Shirts and hoodies from our returns and were blown away with what you did with them. You’ve really got your own style. How would you describe it?

Iris Ebel: The logo print and the patchwork is typical of us. We’ve got a big denim collection and the material is extremely reusable. If we look at our donations, it seems like the skinny jeans era is coming to an end.

Lisa Koops: A bit of a street style, a bit of elegance. Just contemporary fashion – not only through our sustainable goals.

Spread Group: That’s a nice description of contemporary fashion.

Iris Ebel: Thanks, we agree. We’re seeing the consequences of the fashion industry through the donations coming in. Sometimes we even get unworn products, still in their original packaging because people have missed the deadlines for sending them back. Others bring bags full of used clothes. On the other end of the spectrum, we had a woman who brought a piece of silk clothing that was over 100 years old. Apart from a small hole it was impeccable.

Lisa Koops: We don’t want to judge anyone’s behaviour. Fashion is often a personal topic but not always. Our actions influence different processes all over the globe. Tons of our old clothes are sent to Africa, where there’s a lack of infrastructure for the fashion industry to develop. Others are sent to Indonesia, including brand new clothes, where they are burnt. That means it’s much more sustainable to keep clothes and try to locally make something nice out of them.

Spread Group: How can our readers learn more about you? And how can they get hold of some the unique items from our upcycling project?

Lisa Koops: Best thing to do would be to swing by our shop or send us a message on Instagram if you want us to reserve something for you. You can also take some photos of some of your old treasures or just bring them round. We’ll then think about how we can upcycle it.

Iris Ebel: The costs depend on how long the task will take. T-Shirts cost about €30, and trousers can be anything up to €150.

Spread Group: Sounds amazing. Thanks for the talk and those stylish pieces you designed for this collab!

Further links
Website and online shop: https://www.warmaldeins.com/
Contact: info@warmaldeins.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/warmaldeins
Instagram: www.instagram.com/warmaldeins

Our oceans have become a landfill site and the numbers are not looking good. According to 5 Gyres, there are around 5.25 trillion bits of plastic floating in the sea, and it’s getting worse every day.German organisation BeachCleaner has decided to tackle this problem head on. Since 2021, they’ve been selling plastic free products with Spreadshop.

Anne Mäusbacher wasn’t expecting a Mediterranean holiday to be so life-changing: “On the beach in Ibiza there just seemed to be so much plastic rubbish around – much more than I’d seen in previous holidays. That’s when my husband and I started pulling out floating bits of plastic using our son’s fishing net.” This experience was what kickstarted BeachCleaner. Since 2015, Anne has been campaigning, alongside several volunteers, for plastic-free oceans and more awareness of sustainability. BeachCleaner are driven by their slogan “Act – Learn – Transform”. They “Act,” by conducting educational work and initiating trash collection campaigns around regional bodies of water. They “Learn” by sharing their knowledge on how to carry out effective clean ups and make (organic) DIY care products. And they “Transform” by starting young, with a program called “Kids for the Ocean” which targets school children.

“Plastic is one of the biggest dangers and challenges of our lifetime. Every minute a truck-sized load is dumped into the sea. BeachCleaner aren’t just here to educate people about the state of the oceans, remove plastic or engage with people, we are here to find effective solutions to the production of single-use plastics. Together with Spreadshop we can make and offer sustainable products which assist the transition towards a plastic free and conscious life”, explained Anne. To get people acquainted with this issue, she recommends people to start tracking their own plastic usage through a Plastic Footprint Calculator. People often underestimate just how much plastic rubbish results from their everyday activities.

Every purchase in the BeachCleaner Spreadshop contributes towards helping the organisation. The shop itself is, like all Spreadshops, completely free. That means the organisation of the tasks, production, shipping, payment, as well as the customer service are carried out by Spreadshop. As such, we can give more time to Anne Mäusbacher to do the things that matter: “We also do regional clean-ups, especially in and around Nuremburg. The reason for this is simple: 80% of the plastic waste ending up in the sea originates from inland, coming from lakes or rivers. Therefore, we go to the route of the problem and are grateful for the many volunteers we have supporting us. Only together can we win the fight against plastic waste!”

For further information:
Shop “BeachCleaner”: www.beachcleaner.de
Website: www.beachcleaner.de
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/beachcleaner
Instagram: instagram.com/beachcleaner.de/