Why do Primark clothes shrink

Opening of the Primark branch in Berlin: Protest is in fashion

The rush to open the second Primark branch is less than expected. Right next to it there is a demo against “fast fashion”.

The protest against it is at least as colorful as the cheap clothes. Image: dpa

You don't see clothes racks on Alexanderplatz every day. “Fast fashion kills” is written on a board, on another “clothes exchange”. If you want to hand in your old clothes and go home with new ones, this is the place for you. The clothes exchange is the counter-event to the opening of the second Primark branch in Berlin on Thursday on Alex.

"We expect up to 10,000 customers", says Wolfgang Krogmann, Germany boss of the Irish fashion chain, during a sneak preview two hours before the official opening at 11:45 am. The opening of the first branch in July 2012 saw such a huge rush. But there is no rush of shoppers at Alexanderplatz. There are only queues shortly before the opening.

Fire protection problems

Primark was supposed to open a year ago on Alexanderplatz. But problems with fire protection delayed that, Krogmann said on the tour for the journalists. The new three-storey branch employs 800 people, most of them part-time. The design is completely adapted to Berlin's image: graffiti is attached to the pillars. Krogmann calls this "local touch". Even politics is having a rendezvous. Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny traveled to Berlin as a guest of honor. It cuts the ribbon of the second Berlin branch, it is the 13th in Germany and the 276 worldwide.

Outside, blue Primark balloons are distributed. For 13-year-old Steffi from Berlin, one argument counts above all: the price. "The best thing is that you can get a lot of stylish things for little money." The protesters a few meters away see it very differently: “They're clothes to throw away,” says the clothing exchange. A banner reads: "Fast fashion is unacceptable". The working conditions of those factory workers who produce for Primark, especially in Bangladesh, China and India, count less than the price. In Germany, almost six billion pieces of clothing are sold annually, the clothing industry generates around 18 billion euros in sales. But even though more and more people are buying, spending on clothing has barely increased for 30 years, says Berndt Hinzmann from the campaign for clean clothing: "The price is paid by the seamstresses."

The prime minister and the Primark boss do not say a word about the protest on the square in front of the branch. Krogmann assures, however, that one adheres to ethical standards in the production of Primark fashion. "We manufacture in the same factories as our competitors," he says. "Only we're cheaper because we buy cheaper because of the high number of items." The most expensive item on the Alex is a jacket for 38 euros.