Celebrating ten years of Wertvoll Berlin – An interview with its owner Judith Finsterbusch
I’m standing in the store where even the interior supports its concept: it is local, recycled, fairly made and indeed beautiful. Wertvoll was founded back in 2009 as the first fair fashion shop in Berlin. Ten years ago it found its place in Prenzlauer Berg and became an essential part of local infrastructure. I’ve talked to Judith Finsterbusch, owner and managing director of Wertvoll, about how it feels to be one of the pioneers in sustainable fashion in Berlin.
Would you tell me how the store was founded? What was the main idea behind?
Judith: It all started in 2009. Back then “fair fashion” was not even a term, it is actually quite funny to talk about it now, everything is changing very quickly. Ten years ago I was fed up with the way the fashion industry operated. I studied design myself and I was working in that field ever since. Thanks to that, I had a chance to see the fashion industry from the inside. And what I saw back then was quite enough to realise that I want to do things differently, create something valuable, something that fit my idea of good.
How did you find brands with shared values when you started with “Wertvoll”?
It was quite a process. Me and my business partner started with one whole year of market research. We checked what already existed, how fair fashion worked at the time. Back then even the definition of this term was quite an issue, it was interpreted in different ways. Of course, we found many companies that were producing clothing in an alternative way. But some of those products were not really fashionable. Ten years ago the situation with fair fashion was completely different and we somehow had to start in this context. Of course, today the market is much bigger, but we still have to be picky.
“Brands we are working with not only have to be sustainable, they also should share our style-vision.”
How do you pick the brands now?
We are very strict with that, there is no other way. We are trying to work with brands as close as possible. Knowing the people behind the production processes is the best way for us to check their transparency. We do not focus on every item or on every specific certificate. We work with smaller brands very often and, needless to say, it’s hard for them to have the whole production process certified. It’s too pricy, for some of them not affordable at all. But “good” brands still need support. We are happy to support them if we are sure they are doing a nice job and fulfill our criteria.
Fair fashion is really complex, you can’t just be focused on one thing. Of course, materials and supply chains are important, but it’s not everything. We are constantly looking for fashion and style, real designs, attention to details. Knowing people behind help in this research a lot, it’s an essential thing.
Do you work closely with your customers, too?
We do, that’s how we are trying to step out. We are quite a small team, but we all have some sort of fashion background. We are experts with ten years of experience. We were growing up in a fair fashion field, we know who we work with, our brands, new trends, and style waves. Our customers are mainly local citizens but not only. Nowadays a lot of tourists are coming to visit us, too. It definitely has to do with this growing interest in sustainable fashion in general, which has its advantages and disadvantages: Fast fashion misuses this in marketing a lot.
“Our ten years of experience proofs that we can really change the fashion industry.”
What kind of advantages and disadvantages are you talking about?
Well, people are starting to be more thoughtful, they think about what and how they consume. Ten years ago we were so happy when just one out of, let’s say, twenty clients knew at least something about fair fashion. People became more aware over the past years. On the other hand, the commercial fashion market really gives us a hard time. Now we have to explain a lot what the difference between our T-shirt and the one from the fast-fashion shop labeled as recycled, organic and so on is. Sometimes people don’t even know, what does it mean exactly, what’s behind these words, what are the other issues with conventional fashion? So I would say now we are facing slow development, but we are still not there where we want to be.
Do you have an idea how we can strengthen this development process?
I think we really need to talk to people, be friendly and attractive. We need to be educated as well and give a lot of information. We have to teach the value of clothing, show the difference between a cheap product and a fairly made product. We have to explain what the real price is and what’s behind it, why when we buy less we actually gain more. That’s the point where development starts.
On the 25th of May Wertvoll is celebrating its ten-year anniversary. A wonderful party will take place in the store (Marienburger Str. 39, 10405 Berlin), starting at 5 pm. Participants can expect a short talk with Carolin Ermer who is going to present her freshly released book “Modedesign neu Denken” (Re-thinking fashion design). On top of this, the guests will have the chance to hear the story of Wertvoll and find out how “it all started with an organic T-Shirt”, to participate in a quiz and win some little gifts. “We invited friends of the store and people who are interested in the topic, but of course, everyone is more than welcome,” – says Judith.
We are already looking for the party!
But if you don´t make it, you can visit Wertvoll, check out their beautiful products and support this important piece of Berlin’s sustainable fashion scene every day
Monday-Friday from 10 am to 7pm (Saturdays from 11am)
For more information visit https://www.wertvoll-berlin.com/
About the blog author:
Polina Korneeva is from Russia and is currently studying environmental planning in Berlin. She is highly interested in sustainability, natural resource management as well as in alternative art and music. Polina supports civic activism and tries to express herself as a creative writer.