A conversation with Michael Spitzbarth, founder and CEO of bleed clothing.

Founder and CEO Michael Spitzbarth addresses the public with a letter. He warns, "The entire sustainable industry is at risk."

Bleed Clothing is not only a long-standing partner of Sympatex. The company is one of the fair fashion labels the industry needs and has been a true pioneer for 15 years. But the economic situation is not easy for bleed and many other socially and ecologically conscious companies. We had a conversation with Michael to share his message and call for collective action.

1. Michael, please introduce yourself and your company bleed.

My name is Michael and I am the founder and CEO of bleed. I founded Bleed Clothing 15 years ago. It all started at ISPO, as a Brand New Award winner. So ISPO was our starting shot into the sportswear and streetwear scene. For 15 years, we have been strongly concerned with the topic of sustainability. The collection is thought out from front to back and includes the topics of circular economy, CO2 reduction and durability. We also continuously deal with where further action is needed. Even with us in the collection! This is what drives us at Bleed.

2. A few days ago you published a letter in which you discuss bleed’s current situation. In it, you also ask the question whether real sustainable fashion is threatened with extinction in Germany. Why?

For us, the economic situation has worsened in a very short time and I’m afraid I won’t be able to close this year. Not without a capital provider. But the problem doesn’t just affect us, the entire sustainable industry is at risk. In the last year, I have spoken to many fellow campaigners on the phone. They come from many different sectors, such as cosmetics, shoes and sportswear. It’s probably worst in the fashion industry. Here you see big drops on all sales channels. The reasons for the developments are price increases, high interest rates, inventories, but also very price-conscious shopping by consumers. Of course, one has to understand the consumers. But this has disastrous effects on small, sustainable brands. We don’t have the capital cover to endure this lean period financially. And that is fatal! There are many brands that have joined us in pioneering social and environmental sustainability. It would be a shame if these pioneering brands were lost.


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3. What does « real sustainability » mean to you and what problems do you see here?

When I talk about real sustainability, you have to think about the whole word. Because sustainability has become a buzzword. Due to all the greenwashing in recent years, we also use the word in our language with mixed feelings. On the one hand we need it for SEO reasons etc.. But for consumers it makes it very difficult to decide where and from whom to buy. The good news is that greenwashing will become harder and will come under scrutiny. As an honest, ecologically and socially responsible brand, this will hopefully be noticeable at some point. Consumers ask me again and again: How can I decide whether it is sustainable or not? My answer is that you have to look at the Care Label. Here it is noted whether the products are, for example, single-variety and also PTFE and PFAS free. My second tip is to ask the brands directly. It is very easy to send direct messages to the companies via social media. Ask through these channels how the supply chain can be made transparent. The more informed the answer, the easier it is to make a purchasing decision. True sustainability goes into all areas of the business and is not just limited to the product. For example, we also make our photo shoots sustainable, eat a vegan diet, pay attention to short distances, and offset any CO2.

4. How can we as an industry work more closely together and support each other?

I have always said, the very honest brands, are very small companies. The incentive of these collaborations is logical. Because when very small companies work together, they become bigger together. It starts with the minimum order quantities (MOQs), which are hardly feasible for small brands. That’s where it helps when different brands with the same mindset join forces. In the supply chain, the unit quantity issue is really the biggest problem. The more sustainable you approach everything, the more expensive it becomes. Solving this sticking point is extremely difficult. I can imagine government subsidies being helpful to offset these disadvantages. With small companies, margins are usually weak, there’s not enough money to invest. I really see the state as having an obligation. Tax relief and subsidy programs would be an important step.

5. What role do consumers play in this?

Consumers play the biggest role! But if you take money out of customers’ pockets because of current developments, there is simply not enough money for sustainable investments. We are currently noticing this very clearly. With the checkout receipt, the customer has the ballot paper for the future in his hand.

6. You say it’s time for change. What do you wish for the future?

The future I want is a livable planet for all future generations. Sustainable business must become the standard. We need more honesty and less greenwashing.

Come to the Speaker Corner at Outdoor by ISPO (MOC Munich, Atrium 3) and join the discussion with Kim Scholze, CSMO Sympatex and Michael Spitzbarth, CEO bleed. The discussion will be recorded and made available to all via the Sympathy Lab.

Guest tickets for Outdoor by ISPO 2023 are available to all Sympatex partners via marketing@sympatex.com.

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