An Interview with Mareike Ulman of FORMAT

FORMAT features products with clean shapes, defined details and confident lines for relaxed but well dressed women and men. The FORMAT collections are partly independent from seasons and every style is made of organic and fair sourced materials and produced in and around Berlin.

How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?

While studying fashion design (2003-2008) I found out about the conditions in the industry and decided not to develop and design that way.

Format Acre Cardigan

ACRE cardigan
loose, long, capelike cardigan that can be closed with one button.
made out of super soft organic wool fleece.
100% organic wool
the ecological fabric of this item is made by a GOTS certified manufacturer

What is FORMAT?

FORMAT’s designs are essentially minimalistic. This minimalism is accentuated by details that make a freedom of movement possible while giving the clothes their laid-back look. FORMAT products stand for the distinctive, individual, and unmasked style of each individual. They bring out his or her best qualities and thus remain a durable companion.

All FORMAT products are made considering high ecological and ethical standards. Our raw materials are organic; the cotton fabrics are certified by GOTS or produced according to similar organic standards. All of our clothing is made locally in Berlin, Brandenburg and Poland.

The FORMAT collection is partly independent from seasons because sustainability implies for us that clothes not ought to be old-fashioned after 6-month. We aspire a high level of eternalness in our styles: Some few items won’t be reproduced again. Some pieces accomplish the collection since the early beginning of FORMAT and this collection keeps on growing by about ten pieces, new fabrics and colors every season.

Primarily we are concentrating on B2B business. We sell our clothing to mid and higher priced shops and retailers in Germany and now to retailers in other European countries. Nevertheless, anyone can have a look at the clothes in WESEN showroom, which is our base and an insiders’ shopping tip for Berliners and visitors since July.

KIND dress
casual and elegant dress with a small sporty laple collar and a belt
100% organic cotton
the ecological fabric of this item is made by a GOTS certified manufacturer

What inspired the title of the organization?

It fits to our style. Graphic, minimal, simple but comfortable.

We neither want to be millionaires nor rule the world. We just want to be able to do what makes us happy. With amazing colleagues in a comfortable work environment. Currently we have to make compromises to create this. While sticking to our quality standards, fair production and realistic retail prices aren’t quite at our dream wages, yet. Our prices are calculated reasonably. Decreasing costs leads to decreasing prices. We reinvest our profits in new machines and slowly but surely increase the wages. We don’t do any advertising and we don’t pay anyone to wear our clothes or to say or to write good things about us. Our customer service is always honest because we are convinced that short-term economic successes are not sustainable and valuable. We believe, maybe somewhat naively, that we are able to influence single people or even larger society with what we do.

What are the main fibres and fabrics used in the products?

Organic cotton wovens and knits by GOTS certified manufacturers.

Not only our clothes are supposed to be ecological and fair. One of our most valued goals is for the designs to be timeless. Our clothes aren’t only available for one season. We live sustainably at WESEN the same way we do in our private homes. We recycle and try to avoid waste, we use eco electricity and gas and for lunch we take turns in cooking (mostly eco and always vegetarian/vegan) for the whole team. Quite undogmatic.

Format Long sleeves tops

LANE sweater
longsleeved shirt or sweater with contrasting shoulder parts, folded cufs and snap fastened closure in the back
100% organic cotton
the ecological fabric of this item is made by a GOTS certified manufacturer

 

Will the fibres and fabrics for the products from the company biodegrade?

Most of them. Unfortunately, we could not find biodegradable sewing yarn so these threads are still made of plastics, for longer living of the seams and the clothing itself.

 

What personal fulfilment comes from this work for you?

Every day is different. that’s exciting.

How can ethical and sustainable fashion contribute to the long-term sustainable future for the atmosphere, the biosphere, and the environment?

Having a circular usefulness including waste and recycling should be the aim when developing any product.

Certifications, or standards and labelling, remain important, which associate with analysis. These include Fairtrade International, MADE-BY, the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code, the Soil Association label and the EKOlabel, the Oko-Tex standard 100 mark, and the European Eco-Label for Textile Products, and more. There’s many. Do these help systematize and clarify, or obfuscate and confuse?

I think that it is necessary to work on such topics from many directions so as in many different organisations. It helps to find a winder angle on looking at problems and solutions that can be found. sooner or later if organisations work in same fields they anyway connect and coop. so it will lead to a clarification anyway.

What seems like the greatest emotional struggle in business for you?

Staying alive 😉 It is not so easy to compete with a little company as mine on a market as big as it is. but it is also exciting to proceed.

Format Lock dress

LOCK dress
knee-lengthed dress with a pleated neckline, pockets and a curved hem
the soft semi-transparent fabric allows you to have fun layering
can be worn with the belt or without
100% organic cotton
the ecological fabric of this item is made by a GOTS certified manufacturer

What seems like the greatest emotional struggle in personal life for you?

Staying optimistic becomes not easier while becoming older.

Thank you for your time, Mareike.

Thanks for asking.

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