Katharina Wehrli and Mark Starmanns have been involved in the field of fair and sustainable fashion for many years. In April 2013, the two of them started the German-speaking website GetChanged.net, a platform that enables retailers to identify fair and eco-oriented fashion brands for their stores as well as helping consumers locate shops in their surrounding where they can buy fair fashion. To be featured on Get Changed, brands and retailers have to fulfil strict sustainability criteria. In the interview for our Website of the Month category, Mark Starmanns defines these criteria and talks about the development, successes and struggles of the platform and his dreams of going international. Interview by  Maria Hunstig

Please describe the concept and structure of your website. Who is the website addressing?
The portal www.getchanged.net turns towards consumers, retailers and an interested audience. It offers a label and store finder and a magazine about fashion and sustainability topics. The Fair Fashion Finder, is in particular for consumers who would like to buy fair fashion in their region and inform themselves about brands and stores that offer such products. Additionally, in the magazine we offer founded background information on brands, materials and trends as well as on sustainability in the textile industry.

Why and when did you start the website in the first place?
We have recognized that the interest in fair fashion is growing, but the consumer only has little opportunity to gather information from reliable sources about where they can buy it and which brands produce according to strict social and environmental criteria. That's why we wanted to provide more transparency with Get Changed and close this gap. The consumer platform with the Fair Fashion Finder was launched in April 2013. Shortly before this we started the business portal for registered retailers to facilitate their search for collections that have been produced fairly.

Which criteria do brands or stores have to fulfil to be featured on Get Changed?
Together with further experts, for instance the Ethical Fashion Show, we have defined detailed sustainability criteria in the segments of ecology, human rights & labour standards, and transparency for the choice of brands. In each segment we determine which standards or certificates document a fair and sustainable production. A fashion company has to fulfil two criteria along the supply chain to meet our needs. Our sustainability criteria are published on the platform. And of course design plays a big role for us. The Design Council - currently designer and founder of the Green Showroom Magdalena Schaffrin and Prof. Friederike von Wedel-Parlow, designer and director of the Master's program Sustainability in Fashion at the ESMOD Berlin - advise us in the selection of brands.

To become a partner store, the stores must stock at least 60% of brands that meet our sustainability criteria. In addition, the partner stores offer a 10% discount for holders of the Get Changed card, which you can order on our portal. With the purchase of the Get Changed card consumers support our site and benefit permanently from lower prices at over 80 partner stores in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
GetChanged.net was launched in 2013
GetChanged.net was launched in 2013

How is the co-work with brands/stores established – who approaches who?
At the start of the platform, when only a few knew about us, of course we had to make a move towards the brands and stores. Meanwhile, our site is known through numerous media and social media and we get many requests from stores and fashion companies, too.

How many visitors does the site currently have and how many are you looking to have in the long run?
We have about 10,000 visitors a month and 50,000 page views. This number is expected to grow steadily, so that we have at least 100,000 visitors per month in three years time. Fair fashion is still a niche topic unfortunately. Which markets does Get Changed cover? Do you plan to go more international? Currently we appeal to the entire German market. However, we are planning to expand to other countries with Get Changed and to translate the website into English…

What new services or columns are you planning to add in the short or long-term?
The most important extension will be to build an online service where visitors can watch and buy products directly. We are under discussion with various partners and investors.

How do you stay in touch with your users? How important is the social network aspect for this website?
Currently we primarily use Facebook to get in touch with our fans and visitors. Every two weeks we send out a newsletter that contains information about new brands and stores on our site and other relevant news concerning the textile sector. The personal networking and dialogue with users, brands and other experts is immensely important for the credibility and the development of the platform. Therefore, we are also present at many fairs and often accept invitations to lectures.

What have been the biggest challenges of running the site thus far? What have been the greatest joys?
The biggest challenge we share with many young start-ups: We have to manage the test of the first lean years and we need investors for the further development of the portal. One of the main problems is that few consumers are willing to pay money for the preparation of sustainability information. Right now we are planning a crowdfunding campaign and are seeking long-term partners. Since we went gone online seven months ago, we have had a lot of things going on, mainly with volunteer work and we still have a lot of ideas that we want to implement. The huge interest by consumers and the media is great for us - that shows us that we are on the right track and promote a very important theme with our work. It motivates us to hang on in difficult moments and gives us hope that our work will soon receive more recognition, also in a financial sense.