People Berlin gives street children and adolescents struggling with addiction or mental illness the opportunity to create fashion and art. Together with designers and creatives, they collaborate on special collections that voice the ideas and concerns of modern youth. The result? Truly powerful fashion and a discussion about fixed social norms and prejudices.
We caught up with the founders of People Berlin to learn more.
Tell us about People - how did it get started and what is your mission?
Coming from a background in fashion, we were always curious about an alternative approach to the artificially created fast pace of the industry, as well as the democratisation of the elitist fashion scene has always been a big topic for us. Therefore we initiated People Berlin in cooperation with KARUNA Int.e.V. three years ago.
People Berlin is a crossover-project that enables the exchange of ideas from people with different social backgrounds through their shared passion for design. Encouraged by designers and creative minds, teenagers in the offside society express themselves in "Editions", which range within the social environment of the adolescents, fashion and art. In our popup stores, the visual dimension of these collections becomes a bridge into a relaxed yet fundamental discussion about fixed social norms and prejudices.
For the young participants this encounter is almost as important as the work itself, because it allows honest feedback from society on their current values, ideas and visual expression - without any moral pre-concept regarding their past.
The current collection “Unlike You” stands for the wish to be visible. Can you tell us a little more about the collection?
The wish to break free from a system of rules, to feel misunderstood, not seen by society, being treated unfairly by life and feeling invisible, is the base of the participatory self-concept of People Berlin. Unlike you melts these contradictions together. Soft, hard, loud, gentle. Loving, hating. That's how moments of rebellion touch established fashion classics, take them apart and put them together again. Against - you, against - the - existing, against - what - you - think - of - me!
For one year the young people participating in the fashion project People Berlin worked on the collection. With the 3rd edition People Berlin returns to its roots - to give a voice in design to the ambivalent life situation and story of young people. Unlike you stands for the wish to be visible. - Like you, still different. Included, but free.
Where does the inspiration for a collection come from?
People Berlin always works in cooperation with the teenagers, to strongly pull in their content on the concept of each Edition. In different workshops and through a lot of conversations, the goal is to find out what they are thinking or feeling about their environment and what are being the subjects they dream about.
Their lives and their state of view is always the main inspiration for us.
Mainly the themes are circling about how the teenagers feel in our society. They are talking a lot of feeling like outsiders, being stamped about how they look or how they behave, feeling invisible, different, having fear or being left alone. As everyone has their own story and a different and often difficult background there are always a lot of different ideas and thoughts. People Berlin tries to give them a creative valve and a voice by connecting with the elitist fashion world.
Could you share some insights surrounding the process - how do the designs go from idea to reality? Where does fashion come in?
After finding a general consensus there are always a lot of workshops in which different manufacturing and design processes are in focus. Out of all of these different ideas, inputs and work samples, we develop a more concrete idea of what an actual piece might look like and start working on plans for these individual pieces.
Each piece is based on the idea of one of the teenagers, which is why they are named after the person. In our atelier, the pieces finally come to life, while the teenagers join all the different steps of manufacturing, from pattern making, sewing to selling the edition in the end. The handmade pieces are available in our Popup Stores, while the total revenue will flow back into the project.
How do you connect with the young people that design the clothes - do they come to you?
There is not only one way, but many different options. Basically we are there for all teenagers in need from the age of 13-27 years, no matter if they are homeless, addicted to drugs, struggling from mental issues or if they have dropped out of school. Sometimes they are sent by other institutions from the youth welfare service, but sometimes they are come to us on their own. Our atelier is part of a social institution of KARUNA Int.e.V. where we team up with social workers to help those people finding their way back into life.
What has their response been to People Berlin?
The feeling of having an impact in society, of having a voice that can be heard actually means a lot to these teenagers, who many times have been traumatised, stigmatised or simply not listened to in their childhood.
Working with us helps them to rediscover their creativity, but also to achieve self awareness. With people listening to and believing in them, they do not only gain trust in themself, but also in their environment again. Working creatively can often times be a healing experience for them, as there is no right and no wrong, you are not being judged, but you can simply be who you are.
What has been your social impact to date?
People Berlin provides an open space to develop self awareness for teenagers in the offside society. In close contact with the social workers, we try to find concrete solutions for the individual cases and concerns to empower the teenagers for their further path of life. Furthermore, People Berlin combines the very different realities of two diverse environments. On the one hand teenagers struggling to find their part in life and on the other hand the very elitist fashion world. The project is not about pity, its goal is to sensitize the upper society about the democratization of fashion or thinking about the set of problems a lot of teenagers in the offside society are dealing with. In 2015 we were given the „BKM Preis für Kulturelle Bildung“ for our concept which means a lot to us.
What’s next for People Berlin?
For a long time we have been working really hard on our Edition 3 „Unlike You“, which we are planning to launch in the coming months with a new store concept. So there is a lot of stuff to be done as usual...
Where can we buy your clothes?!?
We are really happy to announce that on March 1st 2018 we are finally settling down in our new store in Berlin Mitte!
You'll be able to find us at:
Hackesche Höfe/ Hof 7
Rosenthaler Str. 40-41
And of course, you can always follow along on Instagram: PEOPLE BERLIN.
Credits: Photos: Jana Gerbering / Makeup: Eva Dieckhoff / Hair: Gregor Makris / Models: Sarah I Viva Models, Ella I Girls Club Management