Interview with Max Gilgenmann Interview with Max Gilgenmann
On the occasion of the Berlin Fashion Week / January 2021 season we talked to Max Gilgenmann. Max Gilgenmann is the founder of studio MM04 and also a designer, consultant and sustainability expert.
202030 Berlin Fashion Summit is taking place for the first time. What vision inspired you in its creation?
First of all, I would like to emphasize that this is not my vision, but a joint vision that we at studio MM04 have developed with the Beneficial Design Institute and the innovation agency Sqetch. We agree that the reorientation of Berlin Fashion Week holds promising opportunities - for local creatives with a fashion and sustainability focus as well as for resident international platforms like Fashion Revolution, Highsnobiety, Reference Studios or Wear It and last but not least for the city of Berlin, whose immense cultural diversity has hardly been shown to advantage in the context of Fashion Week so far.
The name "202030" is an allusion to all the past and current sustainability and climate goals. The 202030 Berlin Fashion Summit underlines the importance of shared visions and concrete target values of the fashion industry and conveys how important it is to critically accompany the goals from start to finish. A little bit we take the current focus on numbers for a ride, but at the same time we of course know that such simplifications are needed to be able to win people for visions. And last but not least, 202030 also stands for the fact that, in addition to a common goal, what is needed above all is a common path!
As an international discussion forum and network, 202030 The Berlin Fashion Summit will critically and constructively reflect on the current sustainability debates, paying particular attention to ensuring that culture and science, as important stakeholders, are given a greater voice. We believe that meaningful solutions must be approached systemically, collaboratively and glocally. Here, the two pillars "Envision" and "Encouragement" describe our principles well.
How can sustainability and digitization be combined?
There is no holistic sustainability without digitization and there is no meaningful digitization without sustainability. From our point of view, sustainability and digitization do not have to be united first, because they have never been separate. And that is an important sticking point.
As a company, we build expertise in different fields separately, so it's even more important to bring the knowledge together. That's the only way we can successfully shape a more sustainable future together. To do this, we need more intermediaries or actually "translators" between different disciplines, between cultural groups or between generations, and very fundamentally between companies and civil society and politics. Specifically we have developed a format for this, the Policy Lab, which runs in the Pre-Summit program. There, politicians present their initiatives on how representatives of civil society can influence politics.
Is it possible for sustainability to function without digitization?
My answer is a counter question: Who seriously wants digitization without sustainability?
Why did you choose Berlin as your location?
Together with my business partner Magdalena Schaffrin, we chose Berlin as the location for our studio MM04 because we have both lived here for a long time and Berlin inspires us a lot. And it is very lively and direct. Moreover, Berlin combines democracy, freedom and diversity in an amazingly cultivated ambivalence.
The strong sustainability scene, which has now grown into its own ecosystem, is also very important for the 202030 Berlin Fashion Summit. The ecosystem is characterized by critical and networked thinking, which is reflected here not only in the field of scientific excellence, but also in the creative industry and in the activism of many citizens.
To what extent do producers and consumers need to rethink in order to make the fashion world more sustainable in the long term?
The rethinking is already underway and, as in other areas, the Covid-19 pandemic is reinforcing the move toward greater sustainability awareness among consumers. The exciting question now is: how do industry, politics, associations and other relevant stakeholders manage to shape the framework conditions in such a way that the clear desire for a sustainable lifestyle can also be lived. These framework conditions must be jointly developed, created and established.
Why is Berlin so important as a location for German fashion?
Berlin is a melting pot for different cultures and subcultures, which are important sources of inspiration for creative people, including fashion designers. In addition, there is a pronounced ecosystem for sustainability here; the topic is lived out concretely in many places in Berlin. In Berlin, there is the proximity to national and often European politics, which is gaining in importance especially in the context of the sustainability debates that are once again gaining in importance, currently for example around the topic of due diligence along international supply chains. It is to be expected that many important trend-setting discussions will take place here in the coming years.
And with regard to young talent, we should not forget the dozen or so schools and universities that train countless young talents every year and involve them more actively in the future - because that is where the future of the industry is being trained. So far, the high start-up density and innovation dynamics in Berlin have only had a few intersections with the fashion and textile industry. We assume that this will change quickly. Berlin is well positioned to help invent one of the most influential fields of the future: Virtual Fashion.