8beaufort.Hamburg shows a clear edge when it comes to sustainability. Because there is an urgent need for a change in the fashion industry. And because founder Sabine Moormann knows that she has nothing to lose
Text: Laslo Seyda, photo: Niklas Marc Heinecke
She likes it when the wind blows around her ears; when rain sprinkles hands and face; when the cold creeps up the sleeves and trouser legs and tickles so wonderfully
Sabine Moormann has made herself comfortable on the gray sofa in the living room, in her favorite corner, snuggled up in an oversized hoodie. Your apartment is not very big, but very comfortable. Everything here is furnished in Nordic style, reduced, tasteful, lots of wood, lots of white. There is another bedroom, a dining room, plus the small tiled kitchen with the old cupboards. Through the small mullioned window and from the balcony there is a wide view over hills with fishermen's cottages and thick villas that are crowded together. Further down, the river laps at the beach with thick brown sand.
Even though Moormann originally comes from North Rhine-Westphalia, she has felt at home here in the north, ever since she was a child. Her parents Wilhelm and Christel work as youth workers in their free time and take their daughter to the holiday camp on Amrum every summer. There she and the other children collect shells all day long, go out on the North Sea with the shrimp cutter or visit the bird berth where geese, ducks, deer and wild rabbits live. Being in nature, exploring it, learning to respect it: for little Sabine, this is a matter of course.
At home, in Westphalian Herzogenrath, life is very conscious, economical, resource-saving. The parents belong to the war generation. You don't waste food; repair what is broken; recycle what can be recycled. "We can't afford to throw it away," it's often said. When father gives mother new blouses or skirts for Christmas, it is always something special, the highlight for the whole of the following year. The appreciation for everyday things is high in the family. And things that are too expensive, christening robes or wedding dresses, for example, are simply sewn by hand. Grandma Frieda is a trained seamstress, she does it all. It is also Frieda who teaches her granddaughter Sabine the first stitches on the old Singer machine, which still runs with foot pedals. As a teenager, Moormann sewed her own pants and carnival costumes. "I've always had a strong connection to practical work, I just want to do it!" The origin of her entrepreneurship. From then on, every job is another step towards becoming a founder.
In the mid-1990s, while she was studying to become a teacher in Aachen, Moormann worked for a small mobile phone provider. Together with a few fellow students, she hires employees, opens shops, establishes processes and structures, and develops her own advertising campaigns. As the company expands, she is sent to Frankfurt as a marketing manager. Three years later, in 2001, Sabine Moormann moved to Cologne, this time in the fashion industry. For a number of major brands and producers, she takes on the purchasing of materials, product management, sales, advice, the full program. And Moormann is successful. Because she is motivated, flexible, inventive and resilient. "Besides, I get bored easily. I always need something to hand, always new challenges.”
With every new job, with every new task, however, the headwind is getting stronger. “The bigger the fashion company was, the less I was able to move things, change things. It frustrated me a lot,” she says, adjusting a pillow on the sofa as if trying to regain control after the fact. "I was also appalled at how many items of clothing just ended up in the trash." It is estimated that around 230 million items of clothing are destroyed every year because they were not sold. "Great, isn't it?" says Sabine Moormann. At some point her vision takes on concrete form: build her own company, but a sustainable one.
To be in nature, to explore it, to learn to respect it: for Sabine Moormann this is a matter of course
Then comes the hurricane that turns everything upside down.
Moormann says that she always wanted a family of her own; that she and her partner bought and renovated a small farm near Aachen; that everyone wants to leave something behind. But the couple's dream remains unfulfilled, despite the long wait. When asked what that did to her, Sabine Moormann looks out the window, out into the fog. It has started to rain. Moormann smiles, somewhat depressed. Her eyes aren't quite as bright as they used to be. "Well, you can wish for a lot in life." Then she quotes the writer Gorch Fock, who became famous with his descriptions of danger and pain and death at sea. "The waves and the wind are given, but the sails and the rudder to gain the harbor are yours."
Sabine Moormann understands: she decides her own fate. So, at the age of 40, all of a sudden, she starts all over again, changes direction and moves to Hamburg. For now, she's in a long-distance relationship, taking in a puppy from the shelter that looks a bit like a drowned poodle. In 2016 she enrolled in a distance learning course in environmental sciences, sustainability management and fashion. At the same time, she founded fashion-evolution GmbH, with which she wants to develop and advise sustainable brands. The 8beaufort.Hamburg brand also emerged from this company in 2018. On the Beaufort scale, which seafarers use for orientation, the number 8 means that all signs point to a storm. Soon the slogan "Sail your course" will adorn the brand, loosely translated: set your own course.
The idea of producing sneakers from old sails is obvious. Nobody else does that. In addition, Sabine Moormann was responsible for the shoe department at her previous employers for many years and built up enormous expertise. And, having been sailing since she was young, she knows that the laminate sails that hang from most boat masts are a major environmental problem. Because the cloths are considered hazardous waste, which is usually burned. Sabine Moormann believes that something beautiful can still be made from sails. "Above all, I wanted to prove that this idea can become big and profitable." For her, upcycling, the recycling and upgrading of used materials, is more than a hobby or mere handicraft. It's a business model. A business model that corresponds to their values: "I want to leave the world better than I found it."
Together with a designer, she analyzes sneaker trends, draws patterns, chooses colors and materials. Moormann's advantage: She already has many contacts in the trade, knows the production processes, even knows a few companies in Portugal that produce relatively cheaply but at the same time responsibly and deliver reliably. The founder made the first samples herself – with an old sail that she hauled in from her wooden boat Nanuk, which is anchored in the Wedel marina.
As she builds her business, Moormann scours the classified ads in newspapers and online portals for her most important material. At the weekends, she patrols sailors throughout northern Germany. They pull little treasures out of dusty attics and the furthest corners of boathouses. Moormann now gets most of the scarves through her national and international network. "It's hard to believe how many sails are just rotting away."
»The perfect product simply doesn't exist yet; one that is high quality and durable, comfortable and free of harmful substances, fairly produced and completely sustainable and then also affordable. But I do everything I can to create this product.«
Things are a bit more complicated with the other materials. Some shoes from 8beaufort.Hamburg have natural rubber soles. Although this raw material is biodegradable, rubber trees often grow in plantations for which tropical forests were cleared. On other models, the insoles are made of leather. That is why Sabine Moormann relies on transparency and an open dialogue with her customers in her communication. So far she has been able to take the wind out of the sails of any criticism. “The perfect product simply doesn't exist yet; one that is high-quality and durable, comfortable and free of harmful substances, produced fairly and completely sustainably and then also affordable,” says Moormann. "But I'm doing everything I can to create this product."
Until then, Moormann will run its company as ecologically as possible. She has hired a quality manager who regularly keeps an eye on the production in Porto. In this way, she saves herself and the environment from unnecessary business trips. She only flies down once a year to release the new collection. She offsets the outward and return flight – as well as the CO₂ emissions caused by the shipping of her products. And the padding in the recycled shipping boxes isn't plastic, but shredded cardboard, which doesn't pollute the environment. The entire supply chain is well thought out: from the materials and production, to transport and the lifespan of the respective products.
The entrepreneur has plenty of ideas for new products: »Let’s see what else we can find in the ports«
And the brand with the distinctive eight in the logo seems to be going down really well: While Sabine Moormann had a few hundred pairs of sneakers made for her first collection in 2019, there are now tens of thousands. Customers seem to like the concept, and demand is high. In the meantime, there are also high-tops and vegan models in the range, as well as shoes and bags made of old canvas, in all sizes and shapes. And in 2022 the first collection for autumn and winter will come. The entrepreneur has plenty of ideas for new products: "Let's see what else we can find in the ports."
Even if sustainability is still seen as a market niche for many: She is not afraid of failure or panic of bankruptcy, says Sabine Moormann. “There are worse things than driving a company into a wall. I know from my own experience.”
Then she gets up from the sofa. Carlos has to go out the door again. Thick drops are now pouring out there, whistling around the corner of the house. Sabine Moormann slips on her bright yellow Friesian mink, pulls her hood a little lower over her face, smiles again and then steps out the door into the Schietwedder.
Defying the odds, not afraid of taking risks, there is an expression in sailors' language for this: Close to the wind.