photographer Cherie birkner
founder of Real Matterz grew up in South Oregon's counter-culture community Trilium. After moving to Berlin at the age of thirteen Birkner studied fashion design at Lette Verein. She later turned her focus on art direction and photography. Real Matterz is a photography campaign designed to shine a radiant light on the people behind emerging sustainable brands and eco advocates.
Co-Founder of Kleiderei
and Founder of Did You Ever
CB: Can you explain the concept of Kleiderei?
TW: Kleiderei works similar to our beloved libraries, only it’s for clothing. Means, we are renting a package of clothing for a monthly fee of €39 (in our Store in Cologne 25-) to our subscribers. It can be vintage or a designer cooperation; the idea is to mix and match to avoid boredom in your closet or buys you regret later. Understanding, that fashion has to do with the idea of reinventing yourself; Kleiderei is a fun and yet 100% sustainable alternative to fast fashion.
CB: What inspired you to start this? Was there any specific experience you had which had a greater impact on your stand towards fashion and sustainability?
TW: I guess for some reason my Co-founder Pola Fendel and I were always sensitive to the ways of how fashion is produced. We developed a reluctance towards shopping, which led us to flea markets or sharing or clothes with each other when we needed/wanted a new outfit. Growing older we saw ourselves trapped – time for flea markets got less and finding a cool sustainable outfit on demand was a challenge. So one night over a glass of wine we came up with the idea of renting clothes to everyone, it seemed so logical. It would be our job to have a destination were girls who wanted something new could go.
CB: You are not only a businesswoman but also a single mother. In our youth we have experienced peer pressure when it comes to fashion and wearing the popular labels. What advice would you give to parents with children facing these pressures?
TW: Oh my, sometimes I already talk about this to other parents, although Dante is only three years old and far from those influences, but I can really remember this pressure from school. I think the most important thing is to set a good example and get your kid used to a moderate sustainable lifestyle early like; sorting garbage, saving water, making things last, buying good products.
For example, I remember there were times where my mom had to spend so much money on me in a drugstore, I was telling her I needed all these creams with vanilla scents and so on. Today, I know one good product is all you need, just like my mom tried to tell me. So in conclusion I would say: be an idol and stay calm when there are crazy moments in your kid’s life. Don’t pressure them from the other side, just keep on going with your lifestyle, I’m sure they will come around to it in due course.
CB: The slogan of your blog 'Did You Ever'– Is the magazine for courage', how did you come up with this, and what does courage mean to you?
TW: To me, there is two very important aspects of didyouever.de: Its courage and the open end: many texts that you can read today always lead to a conclusion: like “but in the end, it will all be okay” – so it seems that many magazines, blogs and so on feel the responsibility to talk about a topic that scares - just to lead up to a gentle conclusion, to avoid that the reader may be irritated or left sad or scared. But life is not like that and especially not when you’re right in that situation. Sometimes you just need to accept that going through something is hard. So didyouever.de is asking DID YOU EVER? Without giving a conclusion, it may but it doesn’t have to. For me it’s courage if a friend doesn’t bring out quotes like “don’t worry, it will all be okay”. It will be, of course, but sometimes it helps so much more to say: “this is real shit” and it feels so much more like honesty. So I would say: more open ends in writing, thinking, talking, please.
CB: "Every person you meet has a story to tell" - a thought which means a lot to you, how does this fit in with your work at Kleiderei?
TW: It’s great you’re asking. I feel it fits perfectly, not directly in our concept, but in starting a business that is totally new to the world, and to myself. Being open minded is the number one thing, because there are no rules to play by. We try to listen to every customer and designer, and every person that have ideas for KLEIDEREI. And this is why I try to remember the phrase, because sometimes it’s easy to think that someone has no stories, but in fact the person does have a story, or a great story. You never know. And you can’t tell by their age, their looks or interest in fashion. So that’s why my credo is: EVERY person has a story to tell.
CB: What are your predictions for the future of fashion?
TW: I strongly believe that big fast fashion players and brands have to rethink their morals in business because through the transparency of the Internet people are asking so many more questions. It started with nutrition but it will go on to fashion, people want to know where the things they consume come from and if they do any harm. Yet there is a long way to go and every single person should try to find a way to take on responsibility, for our planet, for other humans, for us and especially for our kids.
CB: Anything I forgot to ask that you would like to share?
TW: Non merci & your questions were great !