Nemona: Integration through fashion in Neukölln, Berlin

Photo by Augustin Teboul 

by Claudia Rojas

This article is the second of a series that analyzes Nemona – Network for fashion designers and seamstresses -, in which we present stories of integration in Neukölln around fashion production.

As we have written before, the target group of our project are fashion designers and producers. The members of these two groups are mostly women, in particular because of their abilities and long experience in sewing and knitting, among others. Women with migration background often suffer more obstacles / difficulties when entering the labour market – that is why we decided to focus our initiative on this particular social group. This way, we could contribute to the integration process in Neukölln.

Photo by Nemona

With the intention to reach the fashion producers, we based ourselves in local neighbourhood structures. In the vicinity, several groups of women who meet regularly to produce clothes and other fashion products have existed for years now. Nemona has connected with those groups and integrated them into the network. This enabled the producers to make collections for the fashion designers (all within the neighbourhood). In order to illustrate this, let’s have a look at some concrete examples of how we reached our target group:

At the beginning of 2012, we ran into a newspaper that covers neighbourhood news and topics interesting for the neighbourhood. Through this publication, we knew about a crochet club called Rize, named after a city located in the coast of Turkey. In this club, Turkish women gather themselves regularly to crochet and to spend time together. Through Neukölln’s management authority a women´s breakfast was organized so Nemona´s crew could meet Rize´s members. We made a presentation, explained what our work is about, and the women began to show some interest. It was then when they showed us several bags full of hand-made (self-produced) fashion goods.

Photo by Common Works

This was the starting point for us to connect those women with fashions designers of the network, like Rita in Palma, ea-seawear and Augustin Teboul. These designers have entrusted part of their collections to Turkish women of Rize´s Club, and we estimate that approximately five women from the Club are still working with the designers.

More examples of women’s groups in the neighbourhood could be enumerated. For instance, the janitor of the building where Nemona is located was informed about the project. Her children go to a school where there is also a group of women that meet frequently to knit. After the school break, a meeting will take place with this group in order to inform them about the Network and the possibilities of joining it. Also, Nemona already met with members of the Akarsu Association, who also produce fashion goods.

This is just a short overview of the social fabric that exists in Neukölln. Smaller networks that already existed are being connected through Nemona. This is part of the added value that we offer the community. And even if the network concerns only fashion, we’d like to point out that it has led to social integration at a broader extent in the neighbourhood.

Photo by Payet & Hartmann

Nevertheless, Nemona has not only contributed to match producers and designers in the fashion market, but also to the formation of producer enterprises with social responsibility. For instance, „Sieben auf einen Streich“ is a social enterprise that offers services for the fashion business.  This project came from the Sewing and Work Studio (Näh- und Werk Studio), where women are not only being trained to produce fashion products, but they also get involved in integration processes in the quartier. Nemona accompanied the whole process in which „Sieben auf einen Streich“ was founded and also worked as a consulting partner sharing available information in order to make this project happen. The multiplication of such initiatives is important for Nemona, not only because the network acquires new members, but also because the number of multiplicators increases.

To sum up, Nemona has brought together networks that used to work separately. This opened hidden possibilities to actors of the fashion business in Neukölln. Especially regarding fashion producers, women with migration background acquired the possibility of working and earning their own money. But more important is the fact that they are producing collections for designers, which makes them proud of their job. It must be rewarding to see in the media products oneself has knit!

About Ares

Ares Kalandides holds a PhD in Urban and Regional Studies from the National Technical University of Athens. He is the founder and CEO of Inpolis, an international consultancy based in Berlin, Germany and has implement several projects around the world. Ares teaches Urban Economics at the Technical University in Berlin and Metropolitan Studies at NYU Berlin.
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