RIFT Summit Berlin 2017

Under the slogan "Responsible Innovators for Fashion & Textiles", the first Berlin RIFT Summit combined the forces of 80 pioneers, creators and multipliers in the overlap between sustainability and technology.

The expert forum took place on Thursday June 8th, 2017 at Kulturbrauerei Palais Atelier in Berlin, as a satellite event to the Wear It Festival.

Innovators of the fashion and textile industry combined their expertise to discuss the latest developments to influence a responsible transformation of said industries. Forerunners in the fields opened the sessions, concentrating on three main themes: Market, Values and Technology. Referring to these topics, round-table groups, consisting of both guests and experts, discussed responsible and technological innovations and developed strategies to improve the industry in a sustainable way.

The first edition of the Berlin RIFT Summit was a great success for all participants and partners. Max Gilgenmann (Future Fashion Forward e.V.) and Marte Hentschel (Sourcebook) welcomed the more than 80 participants and underlined the core questions of the summit: "What will the future be like if we keep everything we know a secret? What would radical transparency and a sharing-is-caring attitude bring to an ever changing industry? And how can we handle innovation responsibly?”

The introduction was followed by short lectures by Carolin Bohrke (Hessnatur Foundation), Christopher Doering (Fraunhofer Center for Responsible Research and Innovation), Dr. Carolijn Terwindt (ECCHR) and Anne Prahl (PhD/Design Research) to give the audience an initial input on themes such as “Textile Ecology”, “Legal Arguments in the Textile Sector”, "Digital Change in the Fashion Industry", "Smart Materials" and "New Technologies".

After the introduction, everyone got together in three different work sessions divided into the major themes Market, Values and Technology. Each work session was supported by several experts.


The MARKET table focused on sustainability as a value driver, economical indicator and success trigger. Hosted by David Schmelzeisen (RWTH), Thimo Schwenzfeier (Messe Frankfurt) and Thekla Wilkening (Kleiderei) everyone agreed that to sell sustainable fashion to the market, the products have to tell their special story, be sexy and cool in their own right, be of high quality and the producers have to teach their suppliers that they can earn more by sustainably produced products. Even if the participants see it as important to support the sustainable efforts of big market players like Adidas, H&M or C&A, they also see the worth in trying to change the consumption habits of the customers. This might be another key for a fundamental change. A forerunner example is Kleiderei, who is already working according to a sharing is caring attitude.


© Sourcebook

Maybe if the big players support a new economic model, like sharing is caring, they could bring more transparency to the supply chain and by slightly lowering their big margins the production costs for sustainable materials would drop and everyone in the market could win. Unfortunately the Fashion industry doesn’t seem to be open minded enough at the moment, most of the participants agreed.

“When it’s about market potential, all stakeholders need to come together and work together – cooperation and collaboration is key.”
– Thimo Schwenzfeier (Messe Frankfurt)

Later there was talk about the possibilities to change this consumer mindset sustainably by using influential social entities such as education or legal restrictions, which would then be major stepping stones for a groundbreaking shift in the mindset of the consumer. The sustainable companies can’t educate the consumer, only perhaps sensitize them via storytelling about the sustainable elements of their value chain or specialities in their eco-friendly production process.

“I appreciated the collaborative spirit of the discussion and agree that using technology is the way to join solutions and create new value chains for designers, customers and all stakeholders. We need to grow all together to create a strong, big scale momentum.”
– Ina Budde (Design for Circularity)


In comparison to the topics MARKET and VALUES, the TECHNOLOGY table constantly focused on how the core stakeholders need to achieve responsible innovation and what the core user needs in the future of fashion and textiles. Following these questions the technology table discussed who the stakeholders for responsible innovation are. Agreeing on the point that there is not only one “expert“ who needs to reinvent the wheel – the speakers stated that especially consumers, companies, manufacturers, designers, hubs, investors and also the non-textile industry should be included in fostering responsible innovation.

Concerning opportunities and main obstacles, everyone agreed that collaboration and cooperation are key to engage in customer empowerment and heighten the desire for responsible innovation.

Technology could become a game changer as soon as the value of innovation in terms of education, space to create and the shift in consciousness is ensured. To conquer the speed of innovation, storytelling and customer integration could also be tools for revolutionizing customer needs. That’s why everyone agreed, that responsible innovation always needs to have an holistic approach in order to close the gap between design and technology.

Additional statements included the strong need for innovative business models, frameworks in terms of legislation and authority.

„It’s not enough to educate, we must empower. We can do this by being more inclusive, by shattering the idea of the “expert” to encourage the power of co-creation and collaboration.”
– Lusi Ajonjoli

After three inspiring workshops and some networking, the intermediate results of this first RIFT session were presented and discussed on stage in front of an intrigued audience.

Marte Hentschel in the name of Sourcebook and Max Gilgenmann in the name of Future Fashion Forward e.V., as the main hosts and organizers of the RIFT Summit, want to thank all participants and our partners hessnatur stiftung, Textpertise Network by Messe Frankfurt, Kreativwirtschaftsberatung Berlin and Wear it Festival for making this outstanding event happen.
Hopefully, all of you will take part again at our next RIFT Summit!

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