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Micro Fashion Breweries

Cities are in their nature the shambolic labs in which new concepts and trends of clothing styles emerge. Amsterdam is no different. For decades the city withstood fierce competition from other fashion capitals like Antwerp, Paris, London, Copenhagen and Berlin with its unique expressions in streetwear. The city houses globally known fast fashion chains such as G-Star and Scotch & Soda. Local designers like Patta, ETQ, Filling Pieces, Olaf Hussein, and Daily Paper are known worldwide. The up and coming urban creatives of The New Originals enable an adolescent generation to reinvent the city’s streetwear identity. The way people adapt to the various rhythms of the city, its ever-present diversity and unpredictability of styles, form a great basis for experimentation in garments.

However, like many other cities, Amsterdam is threatened by urban sprawl in the center and is losing touch with the production process of clothing. Other than food and household utensils, clothing does not have an evident consumption cap. Overconsumption of fast fashion is easy, while the more pressing challenges related to human rights in the production processes remain opaque. That is why the city is aiming for change.

Amsterdam acknowledges the city’s potential as a catalyzer for a circular clothing industry. The Dutch Circular Textile Valley named Amsterdam the Circular Brands & Business hub of the Netherlands. Not only does the city want to avoid overconsumption, it will encourage high-quality recycling and focus on long-term use of products. Amsterdam is expanding local craft centers for the repair and reuse of products as well as encouraging modular product design principles. The city is allowing a shift to take place in the manufacturing process of textiles. Also the biofabrication of textiles already taking place in Waag Society’s TextileLab present a fundamentally new approach to the production of wearable materials.

The right balance between a strong ecological awareness, an ambitious designer community and performative city inhabitants will allow for these micro brewery-like fashion spaces to become the new normal. The creative sustainable fashion undercurrent has been active in Amsterdam for a while already. Clothing reuse hotspots such as IJHallen, Waterlooplein, Episode, WeAreVintage, Kiloshop and Zipper attract people from all over the world. Monday morning the Westerstraat and Noordermarkt transform into clothing and textile markets.

The number of sustainable fashionistas are growing at a rapid pace. Bottom-up sustainable fashion platforms, such as Lena, LOOP.ALIFE and Stoere vrouwen are up and coming. At the same time, identity politics is becoming a citywide phenomenon; Hijabi, LGBTQI, black arts individuals and collectives are expressing their own life styles and fashion traits. Ruba Zai, StylesScrapebook, Hashtag By Lily, Conscious explorer, Firma Nozum, BrokeAssMillionaires and Awakati are just a few shades of this hyper diverse online pastiche. The more experimental Betty Liu’s Join_Collective_Clothes and Anouk Beckers’s modular garments are giving a new stylistic swing to reused clothing. Grounding, connecting and facilitating all these initiatives in urban space and linking them to distributive logistic networks will guarantee their success within the future of sustainable fashion.

In other words, hacking a global industry is not impossible. We have seen this take place in other markets. The number of micro beer breweries in Amsterdam has almost increased tenfold in the last decade, counting 45 breweries in 2017. A traditional Heineken Lager is no longer the romanticized norm of the city, these alternative local brews are. With the aim of the clothing industry to become more localized and sustainable, the same development that took place with microbreweries could take place with the clothing industry in the coming years.