Bread & Butter by Zalando (B&&B) is gearing up for another season in Berlin this year between September 1 and 3. Showcasing all things 'BOLD', the Festival of Style and Culture, will feature over 40 brands with over 10 of them hosting their own fashion shows. There’ll also be exclusive product launches, global street food and live music from hyped acts and cutting edge artists.
With the upset to the fashion industry through, among other things, social media and the rise of streetwear, traditional trade and fashion shows are becoming obsolete. Fashion has been democratized and opened up. But now the old model is dead, what comes next? The revived Bread & Butter attempts to answer just that. B&&B is open to everyone. It's aimed toward and actively invites everyday people on the street. It’s a bold break from tradition and represents a continued disruption and dismantling of a worn out system. Because, at the end of the day, we’re the ones buying the clothes and the street is where the clothes we wear matter the most.
To honor this disruptive approach, its 'BOLD' motto and to build up to the three-day event, the festival is working with some of the most inspiring and challenging voices in the industry through its ‘Bold Minds Speak’ project. Inspired by figures in fashion who’ve changed the conversation by following their own paths, Bread & Butter by Zalando celebrated its preview with a panel discussion last month with individuals whose approach to their craft has switched things up and laid the groundwork for others to follow.
Following the pre-event, B&&B has now released a series of videos with those voices, including with designer Aitor Throup, Sukeban magazine founder Erika Bowes, model, activist and GURLS TALK founder Adwoa Aboah and illustrator Fergus Purcell, where each speaks on what being bold and outspoken means to them. Each 40-second clip provides a brief glimpse into the mind of the subject and explores the value of being able to break the mold and be bold, whatever you do.
Having previously worked on a collection for seven years before even releasing it, Aitor Throup has a pretty firm understanding of what it means to be completely uncompromising in pursuit of your own personal ideal. In his case, it certainly paid off, with his New Object Research collections sending shockwaves through the fashion industry and selling out at rapid speed.
As can be seen through Throup’s constant theoretical, experimental approach to modern fashion design, his craft is never a case of simply making clothes. "Being bold means using your voice, and doing so in a way that inspires others," He explains. "If an artist, or a musician, or a designer has something to say, that’s when you create timeless work."
One of the most fascinating individuals in the series due to his relative anonymity in day-to-day life, it’s precisely Fergus Purcell’s raw individuality which has made him such an untouchable figure. Of course, he might be best known as the creator of the Palace "Tri-Ferg" logo, now a globally-recognized symbol of streetwear, but throughout his career he’s worked with and at the helm of brands like Silas, Aries, Stüssy and McQ by Alexander McQueen.
An avid collector of pop culture ephemera, comic books and all manner of whacky artifacts, Purcell’s strength is in his ability to translate all these unique references into a brand’s specific context. As he explains: "I’ve tried to have a career where I’ve worked like an artist, but in the commercial zone." Couple this with an irreverent approach to his appearance and style – "I think Jesus is a great style icon." – and it’s hard to imagine why somebody wouldn’t want to work with him.
Likewise, Adwoa Aboah made her break onto the scene a few years back working with young photographer Tyrone Lebon, and hasn’t shied away from pushing the envelope since. This year, she launched Gurls Talk, a new platform empowering women in the industry to talk about the issues affecting them candidly, constructively and, most of all, comfortably.
As someone who has herself battled depression and addiction, Aboah doesn’t pay much mind to anxieties about taboo and off-color topics. "Orgasms, celebrating your period, the body, pleasure, making space, making space for the youth and everything that they’ve got to say […] there is no theme that’s too bold for Gurls Talk." It’s a philosophy which she’s replicated in almost every aspect of her life, eschewing trends or passing fads. "If I could dress like Tupac on, like, a daily basis, that’s the route I’d go."
As co-founder of Sukeban Magazine, as well as photographing her own Asian Women zine series, Erika Bowes’ decision to break the mold arguably originated less in a stylistic or aesthetic choice, but as a bold, political statement – creating platforms by Asian women, for Asian women, focusing on the issues that affect them.
As one might imagine, a lot of Bowes’ work focuses on deconstructing stereotypes and preconceptions surrounding women like herself, and this couples with her razor-sharp understanding of social media to create a powerful online voice. "Remember that an online persona and an offline persona are completely different" is a particularly important piece of advice in a world where young people are feeling increasingly pressured to perform and present the best versions of themselves online. To Bowes, it’s important to find a safe balance. "Being bold is saying what you think without hurting someone else’s feelings."
Zooming out on the Bold Minds Speak project as a whole, what becomes apparent is the importance of valuing individuality and non-conformity in the fashion industry and beyond – particularly in a world where social media, the Internet, and online culture is increasingly nurturing echo chambers of opinion and tribal factions.
What resonates in the sentiments of each of the people interviewed is that the term "bold" – with its connotations of being loud, outspoken, rebellious and disruptive – actually portrays something much more profound. For each of these people, being bold is actually much more about simply being comfortable in your own skin. Once you’ve accomplished that, learned to accept and enjoy your own self, it becomes that much easier to use that self to create something authentic and true.
Zalando's engagement with these issues is telling: a large online retailer, that doesn't necessarily need to enter the fray, is doing so and uncovering some fascinating revelations in the process. And with Adwoa Aboah set to host a special Gurls Talk discussion at this season’s Bread & Butter, alongside a range of other initiatives, it’s encouraging to see some genuine engagement with the importance of being bold and outspoken at a time when silence is becoming an ever-safer option.
Bread & Butter 2017 takes place from September 1 to 3 at Arena Berlin. Tickets are available online now for €20 per day, per person. adidas, Converse, Hilfiger Denim, Nike, Reebok, VANS and more are presenting special designs and collectibles available only at Bread & Butter. Customization workshops, sports classes, augmented reality experiences and interactive fashion shows run across the three days and Nike is inviting visitors to join an immersive experience around the brand's most iconic performance and fashion styles. As a weekend highlight, Bread & Butter by Zalando is hosting a Vivienne Westwood Exhibition.
For a full run-down of everything we know so far about Bread & Butter 2017, check it here.