Reap What You Sew This Berlin Fashion Week

By David Knight |

Amidst all the glitz and glamour of yet another Berlin Fashion Week, it’s worth getting away from the red carpets and parties full of designer wannabes and checking out the foot soldiers of the city’s fashion industry.

“I’ve been doing sewing jobs for some designers for Fashion Week, but it’s not the way I want to work,” said Swantje Wendt, who has broached the gap between style and startup. A tailor by profession, Swantje founded the Nadelwald Co-Sewing Space last September on the model of the many co-working spaces used by tech startups across Berlin.

Look for inspiration from the many fashion books and pattern making magazines.

Nadelwald includes a shop offering designs from different Berlin designers.

The idea is simple – if you need to use a sewing machine, either regular or heavy duty, or you need some help with things like pattern making, you can rock up to Swantje’s place in Neukölln and pay to use the facilities by the hour, day, week or month.

Swantje has transformed the place into a shop-slash-inspiration lounge at the front with two rooms at the rear containing sewing machines and a pattern-making table. “You can come here and sew your projects and get some help for pattern making, and you can be inspired here by books and magazines and I will help you in any way you need.”

Since she opened, most of the customers have been hobbyists needing help making alterations or making small items like laptop cases, but Swantje is hoping she can soon start selling things actually made at Nadelwald. At the moment, she has items from up-and-coming Berlin designers on sale.

She said: “It’s a chance to go outside with what you create, to show them to other people.”

The four sewing machines in the first room are the normal kind, while the four in the back room are more powerful and can be used, for example, on leather. “I am a tailor, I studied pattern design, and I worked for six years in industrial firms,” Swantje added. “So I have a lot of experience but it wasn’t creative. I had to change the way I was working.”

So where did she get the inspiration from to combine co-working and sewing? “My first idea was to start a fashion label for things like scarves, but I couldn’t find a suitable place. It was really difficult to find somewhere where you can bring your material and all your stuff, can work properly and can leave it all there. There was a gap in the market so I decided to get my own space and open it for others.”

Whilst there are several so-called sewing cafes in Berlin, Swantje wanted to attract a different clientele by avoiding what she calls the “grandma touch.”

“I wanted more modern and I think that by defining it as a co-sewing space rather than a sewing cafe is something which linked me up to the co-workers. I wasn’t necessarily looking to become part of this co-working scene, it just happened. I’m glad it did.”

She is certainly aware of how important her online presence is, using a well-designed website and her Facebook page to attract new customers. And as with any self-respecting startup founder, Swantje’s face lights up when asked what she has in mind in terms of future growth.

“Plans? I have a lot of plans, but less time to carry them out! I would like to do more workshops for beginners and maybe launch an online shop – there is a lot of potential to grow.”

That’s sew true.