by Claudia Rojas
Are we helping to create a better neighbourhood or are we dispensable in its development? This is a question that we ask ourselves when analysing city development projects like Nemona.
Nemona is a project that fosters a sustainable partnership between seamstresses and fashion designers in Neukölln, Berlin, and it has already been presented in this blog (see here and here). One year after beginning the project, we thought it would be a good idea to make an analysis of what it has been achieved so far. Therefore, we will offer a series of 3 articles with an overview of the venture. Today, we start presenting an analysis of whether the project has contributed to neighbourhood development in Neukölln (part 1). In the upcoming weeks, we will submit integration stories from the fashion producers (part 2), and stories of the fashion designers (part 3).
Achieving neighbourhood development
With Nemona we intend to promote the development of Neukölln, through three main aspects: creation of a network between the fashion producers and designers, the improvement of the image of the neighbourhood, and the creation of added value. Let’s take a look at each one of these components.
The network between the seamstresses and the designers has been successfully created. However, the construction process was not quite the same for all the network’s actors. On the one hand, the designers already had networking activities, since the Fashion Network of Neukölln existed before Nemona. On the other hand, the seamstresses and tailors did not have an established fashion network in Neukölln. A couple of associations already existed and they are cultural centres where people (mostly women) meet to sew, knit and spend some time together. However, they were not working as fashion networks.
Once Nemona began to create the producer side of the Network (seamstresses and tailors), it was evident that the modus operandi was going to be different, when comparing it to the designers network. Due to a previous study (CIMON), we knew that Turkish women were important actors for our project, not only because of their outstanding knitting skills, but also because the Turkish community is highly represented in Neukölln.
Emails were not a very useful tool to get in touch with our future Turkish Neuköllner fashion network members. Mouth to mouth propaganda was the most effective tool we had and the role of multipliers (key people who knew seamstresses and tailors) was vital for the creation of the network. In this context, Nemona has offered them an opportunity to develop a professional network complementary to their familiar and social one.
Nowadays, not only seamstresses and tailors are part of Nemona. Additional actors have joined, and their abilities include also knitting, and crochet, among others. Even clothing technicians and cloth handlers have now a place in the network.
Even if Neukölln is still partly seen as a problematic neighbourhood, we want to outline that its image has strongly shifted. Neukölln has slowly changed and some even say that it is going through a gentrification process. However, this is still to be seen.
In particular, the fashion design scene has grown at a very important pace in the neighbourhood, and even if one cannot say that the solely cause is Nemona, the role of the Network has been very important in this process. After the first Neukölln Fashion Weekend, the media informed how the fashion designers have slowly moved to the neighbourhood, clustering themselves. Not only the relatively low rent prices are an important factor, but also the idea of Neukölln being a designers’ corner have helped this migration.
In short, the image of the neighbourhood has gradually changed, with the network been part of this process. Nemona has been helping giving a more integrated picture of the neighbourhood, in which different cultures can work together. This brings not only economic growth, but also social and cultural development.
What is exactly the added value of Nemona in Neukölln’s fashion industry? The network activities itself are a worthful ingredient of its existence. However, Nemona has also contributed to the economic development of the fashion industry in the neighbourhood. Between 20 and 30 mediation processes have taken place, in which Nemona matches producers looking for a job, with designers looking for producers of their collections.
In a sort of way, the network is working as a job centre for the fashion industry in Neukölln. It does it on a free basis, which is attractive for both sides of the relation – producers and designers-, and it is highly qualified since the needs of the actors are known. The network also understood the cultural characteristics involved in the daily life of the neighbourhood.
Through Nemona fashion internships and jobs have been able to be filled with people from the neighbourhood. So, if it is true that Neukölln is going through a gentrification process, then Nemona is helping to react to the negative effects of this social change.
We have presented a short overview of the objectives of Nemona that have a clear link to the city development. Nevertheless, the work is not yet finished. The labour market and public policies influence the network´s existence, which challenges its actors on a regular basis. The network is practically created, and now its sustainability is the main topic to be tackled. Because of this, the members of Nemona are working on a collective concept to define the future of the network. How Nemona will evolve is decided through a bottom-up approach, which implies a direct participation of its members.