When Michael Spitzbarth founded German streetwear brand bleed, he created the flagship of German eco-fashion brands – as in comparison with most of his colleagues, Spitzbarth took one aspect into consideration most other eco-brands choose to ignore: not only are all bleed products made from GOTS certified cotton or other sustainable materials in fair labor in Portugal, but the whole line has been a 100% vegan from day one.
The crowdfunding campaign Spitzbarth and his small team launched for their version of the classic black leather biker jacket made from dyed cork in 2015 went through the roof – the most successful German fashion crowdfunding of all time is a good example how innovative design and the use of surprising, superior materials can create attention.
Hi Michael, please introduce yourself and tell us a little something about your company bleed.
My name is Michael Spitzbarth, I’m the CEO as well as the head of design at bleed clothing. After majoring textile design, I worked as a freelancer in that sector for a couple of years. I was able to take a close look of the machinations of the textile industry during that time and then finally decided it was time to create change. I founded my own brand in 2008 and the name says it all – bleed; because for our entire product-line, no human, animal or any part of mother nature has to suffer. I wanted no harm, no poison, no living being harmed in the process… that’s part of our DNA, anchored within the production of our goods through the entire supply-chain. Eco-friendly, vegan and fair production of GOTS certified sports- and streetwear straight from the heart of Upper Franconia.
It’s safe to say that you’re one of Germany’s leading eco-fashion brands – all organic and sustainable and you’ve also been vegan forever. How come you go that extra mile?
First off, thanks for the compliment. To answer your question, it’s just common sense to not “just” go organic, but also fair and vegan. These three pillars are what bleed stands on. Sustainability and a fair production process, free from animal suffering, these things just go hand in hand.
Can you tell us more about your biker jacket, about the material and how all this came about?
We always saw a great potential in the use of cork – not just as an alternative for leather, but also as a sustainable substitute for already existing, toxic imitations. That is why we already used it for accessories and patches. But the idea to create even more items with this amazing material has always been in the back of our heads. We finally made that step with the Montado Black Edition, a fashion- and accessory collection with cork as the main constituent.
“Cork is the 21st Century version of leather”
The highlights of this collection are the two vegan “leather” a.k.a cork jackets. They are as stylish as the original – but they’re the renewable and vegan version. All items are free from animal suffering, toxic chemicals and have not been made under exploitative working conditions. All of this makes cork the leather of the 21st century. It’s not just a sustainable resource with an extraordinary appearance, but it’s value to the environment is priceless as well. The bark of the Portuguese cork oat protects the land from erosion and increases the absorption of rainwater. Furthermore, it binds CO², a process which is even increased every nine years due to the peeling of the bark. The cork tree has all these great benefits and allows us to create these sustainable and vegan products. And we don’t to chop it down, either.
You put together the single most successful fashion crowdfunding in Germany for that jacket, is that right?
That is actually right, the Montado Black Edition became the most successful fashion crowdfunding in Germany. We collected close to € 74.000 , which was 14.000 more than we originally were hoping for. We are convinced of our products and their quality, of course – we wouldn’t sell them otherwise. But the success of the crowdfunding campaign still came as a bit of a surprise. It looks like the people were just waiting for a sustainable and vegan alternative and it’s overwhelming to see what has been set in motion here.
How’s the general feedback? And did you get a lot of requests from mainstream media? Is that topic interesting?
Fortunately, most of the feedback we got was very positive. A lot of people who got in touch were simply surprised, what cork is actually capable of. The majority just didn’t expect that you can actually make clothes out of this material that seems a bit fragile at first glance. But after they’d touched it, they were all very positive.
Most people associate the material with corks for wine bottles or even floor tiles, which made it surprising for a lot of folks, so it wasn’t a topic for the sustainable media outlets only, but for mainstream media as well. We had a lot of press.
What do you answer when people claim that vegan items “try to emulate non-vegan ones”?
I would say that this is nonsense. Just because we don’t want anyone to suffer for our consuption, be it human beings, animal or nature, doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to dress stylishly. That has actually been one of our goals from the start: Prove that fashion can be both – sustainable and well, fashionable.
Visit the brand’s website: bleed-clothing.com