Environmentally friendly manufacturing and ethical standards are the principles on which the fair trade clothing sector is based. The idea that saving the planet has to mean looking as though you are dressed in old potato sacks, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. Leela Cotton, a successful German-Turkish textile company, produces clothes for children and adults that are not only stylish, but also make a positive contribution to the environment in the way they are manufactured.
As you step inside Leela Cotton, you are greeted by the radiant glow of warm colours and a cosy, cordial atmosphere. There are plenty of things that catch your eye: wooden racks filled with stripy, colourful children’s clothes, pictures lining the walls, an assortment of instruments that includes two pianos and a saxophone. It’s a workplace that looks more like the inside of someone’s home – a place where you can feel at ease. And the laid-back owner Kemal Bektas certainly appears comfortable as he begins to recount the story of his success.
The Bremen-based textile company Leela Cotton has produced items of clothing made from organic cotton since 1993, selling a range of products that includes children’s clothes, yoga wear, nightwear and towels. The people behind Leela Cotton are Kemal Bektas and his wife Susanne – but what’s behind the name itself? “In Sanskrit, Leela means ‘divine play’. My grandma was called Leyla, and so is my eldest daughter,” explains the business owner.
Bektas has lived in Germany since 1976. He was initially based in Cologne, completing his studies in architecture there in 1984. A job offer then led him to Bremen, where he not only met his wife, but also fell in love with the city at first sight.
I used to walk through the streets in the twilight, fascinated by Bremen’s houses.
Kemal Bektas, Managing Director of Leela Cotton
The couple discovered their interest in the textile industry while they were producing T-shirts for Greenpeace. Hoping to create something sustainable themselves, Susanne and Kemal Bektas founded their own small production company in 1993. Bektas sees a link to his architectural studies in his work, focusing on artistic elements and the way that shapes and colours interact with each other. He produces the majority of his designs in Turkey, where Leela Cotton’s production site is located, and examines new materials at the site himself. Years of experience have given him an idea of which designs and materials go down particularly well with customers.
All of Leela Cotton’s manufacturing operations take place in Izmir, Turkey. The finished shirts, pullovers and duvet covers are then transported to Bremen by lorry. The cultivation and processing of the cotton and the production of the clothing all takes place within an area of 100 square kilometres. This facilitates a sustainable manufacturing process that would not have been feasible otherwise. “Nowadays, there are many suppliers selling products made from organic cotton at extremely low prices. This is only possible if you save on manufacturing costs,” Bektas points out. He explains that the cotton is often flown over to another country, where workers are poorly paid. “Transporting goods by air as part of the production chain goes against a sustainable approach, and therefore everything we do takes place close together,” he says, explaining the compact nature of his business.
We don’t just want to live well off the business – it’s important that we can stand behind it and feel good about what we’re doing.
Leela Cotton is certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). This means that its manufacturing procedures are subject to strict guidelines that are re-assessed every year – guidelines that cover every stage of the process, from the farming of the cotton to the finished article of clothing. In order to receive a GOTS certificate, a business has to meet certain social and ecological standards, such as paying its workers a living wage and forgoing the use of pesticides. “I believe that what I’m doing makes sense. Not just for the whole environment, but for my own little ecosystem, as well,” Bektas says with pride.
Since the 1980s, the demand for eco-friendly fashion has risen considerably. Having chosen to base himself in Bremen, Bektas took advantage of the boom to expand his business, and he now manages around 1,000 square meters of warehouse and office space. He is assisted by ten employees, who help him to dispatch products that are sold all over the world. About 60 per cent of Leela Cotton’s goods are delivered to locations in Germany, though the company also has customers in Sweden, France and Switzerland. Even as far away as Japan and Australia, people are buying sustainable clothing made by this Bremen-based company.
Bektas admits that Leela Cotton could have ridden the wave of demand for organic and fair trade products to grow even bigger as a company, if they’d wanted to. However, he ultimately decided against further expansion. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to play my saxophone anymore,” he explains, proudly pointing out a poster on the wall that shows him with his saxophone group, the ‘Bremer Saxen’.
What Kemal Bektas enjoys most about his work is the contact he has with his customers. “We have a very friendly relationship with them. You can always get feedback through your customers’ reactions, and that’s very nice.”
There’s no online shop as of yet. “That’s a project for the next generation,” he chuckles. Nevertheless, it’s still possible to purchase items at the site itself – Leela Cotton opens its doors at Georg-Wulff-Strasse 15 every Thursday between 9am and 3pm for its warehouse sale. The products on offer here include discontinued lines and items with minor stitching defects, which are available at reduced prices. The best way to get your hands on Leela Cotton’s latest collections is to hit the shops in Bremen, with Fairtragen, Naturzwerg and Prinzlinie all stocking the company’s products.
Bremeninvest has established field offices in its key countries of China, Turkey and the USA. Our colleagues at these offices will be happy to advise you on all matters relating to investment in and/or setting up a business in Bremen, as well as facilitating cooperation with Bremen-based companies.
If you are interested in investing from Turkey, please contact Kolja Umland, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel.: +49 (0)421 9600 339.
Click here for further information on relocating to Bremen and setting up a business in the city.
Companies wishing to access the European market should be careful about their choice of location. Brexit could result in significantly higher financial and tax burdens for UK-based companies. Under these circumstances, setting up a base on the continent might be a better option. Find out what challenges companies will be facing.
Keen to remain in Bremen? Then why not combine residency status with self-employment? Manuel Kühn from Bremeninvest’s welcome service knows all about how a start-up could allow British citizens to beat Brexit and kill two birds with one stone.
Photography studios, workshops and professional kitchens are rarely fully occupied round the clock. So why not let others share them? The german start-up Craftspace brings together providers of production spaces with entrepreneurs, small business owners and artists on a single online platform. It’s an arrangement that benefits everyone.
It’s an adventure playground for kids, an idyllic sanctuary for couples, and a quiet retreat for those looking to escape from stress – from joggers and Nordic walkers to lovers of nature and culture, the Bürgerpark in the centre of Bremen has something for everyone. For the last 150 years, this protected heritage site in the centre of Bremen has relied solely on the support of donations to keep it open and well-maintained.
A great deal of manual labour goes into aircraft construction. Despite this – or perhaps even because of it – Airbus is changing its approach to make increased use of digital technologies. It’s also researching the applications of new manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing. And not a moment too soon, as Airbus’ site manager in Bremen, Dr André Walter, explains in our interview.
GeoSea, a subsidiary of the Belgian DEME group, is helping to construct of some of the largest offshore wind farms in the German North Sea – and in Bremen, the company has found the ideal location to carry out its work.
Art, design and people with disabilities make up the fascinating focus of the work of two young designers from Bremen. Working together with employees from community-based workshops, they develop and improve on designs for handmade products – and are continually thrilled by the potential they see in their co-designers.
Why have so many IT companies chosen to establish themselves in Bremen? We asked five key business figures and researchers from various organisations to tell us what makes the city such an attractive location for the IT sector.
3D imaging with millimetre accuracy for underwater industrial activities and deep sea exploration – company founder Jakob Schwendner has a very clear goal. The first prototype of a camera with brand new sensor technology was built in Canada and presented to industry professionals at the Ocean Business conference in Southampton, United Kingdom, in April.
The Bremen Hansalinie Industrial Estate is a successful business park that is currently undergoing expansion. Several major logistics companies have based themselves here, developing increasingly sophisticated processes that aim to optimise just-in-sequence production for the automotive industry.
Of all the states in Germany, Bremen has the highest density of major research institutions in relation to its population – a fact that also benefits those who study there. It offers a range of international education opportunities for prospective academics with strong practical relevance and research activities that span a diverse range of fields.
Weatherproof displays for transport services, and screens that don’t produce glare in bright sunlight – these are just some of the devices provided by AlfaNet Computer und Electronic Handels GmbH, a Bremen-based company founded nearly 25 years ago by Thomas Lie.
They came, they saw, they marvelled – Chinese business people in Bremen visited the Mercedes-Benz plant and were surprised to find that an automotive manufacturer with a vast robot workforce was also Bremen’s largest employer, with just under 13,000 (human) employees. But where do they all work?
Three continents, four countries, and Bremen at the centre of it all – a start-up could hardly be more international. The young entrepreneurs Ahmed Cheema and Stefan Kuzmanovski want to make sustainable manufacturing and the use of ethically sourced materials standard practice.
Bremen: Down-to-earth, yet always ready to surprise you. An attractive place to live, a city through which we can move easily and without stress – on foot along the river Weser, on two wheels through the many parks, or by tram through the city centre. People from different cities and countries tell us why they fell in love with Bremen and have made their lives here.
Lighter, more bespoke and more intricate: for companies open to new ideas in manufacturing and construction, metal parts produced by 3D printers present an economic alternative to conventional die cutting, rolling and milling. Leading the way is Materialise, a company with its own metal printing plant in Bremen.
Bremen has been twinned with the city of Dalian in north-eastern China since 1985. Find out more about the similarities and connections that the two port cities share.
Up to now, cricket has been very much a niche sport in Germany. But that is changing. In Bremen, a woman is calling the shots in this male-dominated sport – with great success. Her men’s team are the 2016 German cricket champions.
Wearables and smart glasses provide hands-free digital information. A visit at the headquarter of the global market leader for Industrial Wearable Computing, Ubimax in Bremen.
In 2016, companies invested a combined total of €229 million in the federal state of Bremen. Where do these investors hail from, how many jobs have they created, and what is their line of business? Our infographics provide an overview.
How will the UK’s impending exit from the EU affect the logistics sector? Günther Hörbst, Managing Director of the Via Bremen Foundation, on the economic links between the United Kingdom and the EU
The Chinese designer Haoyu Li combines his German design degree with Chinese business acumen. Now he is opening a design office in Bremen, with the aim of making it easier for Chinese products to enter the German market, and to bring German brands to China.
The colours of the local football team are not the only thing that's green about Bremen, as you'll see when you take a stroll around its parks and open spaces. A look at the statistics shows that Bremen is not only Germany's tenth-largest city, it is also its third-greenest, offering plenty of space to enjoy nature.
The high standard of logistical expertise in the state of Bremen functioned as a key to open doors, making this a successful year for Bremen. 2016’s successes were marked by automobiles and steel, welcoming ambitious international companies.
From initial idea to successful move. Andreas Gerber, who heads up the international relocation team at Bremeninvest, knows what international companies need to do to set up a business in Bremen. Here he tells us about the most important steps on the ...
Hard facts take top priority when it comes to the choice of location for international or domestic businesses. But the faster we feel comfortable outside the workplace in the everyday routines and culture of a foreign country, the sooner we feel at home. In addition to trade, science – and of course its port, Bremen has plenty to offer when it comes to quality of life.
BLG LOGISTICS GROUP AG & Co. KG’s AutoTerminal in Bremerhaven is a record-breaking automotive hub. Every year, the terminal handles some 2.3 million vehicles. But that’s not all.
Going it alone is rarely an easy option. Co-working enables entrepreneurs to work in a shared space and experience the benefits and synergies that come with this. There are nine co-working spaces in Bremen – which one is right for you?
Permits and authorisations, a mountain of applications and a language barrier too. These are just some of the difficulties you face when starting a business abroad. Luckily, an advice centre opened in Bremen in early 2015 that can help you through the jungle: Bremeninvest’s welcome service.
Geographical distance and cultural differences make it hard to relocate or start up a company in another country. Luckily, help is at hand from the team at the World Trade Center (WTC) in Bremen. They'll do all they can to make your international business a success.
In December 2016 ministers from the European Space Agency (ESA) member states met to determine the roadmap for the European space sector for the years ahead. Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Bremen submitted joint recommendations. In the following interview Dr Peter Vits, Bremen's State Coordinator for the Space Sector, talks about Bremen's strengths and opportunities.
The sky is not the limit, at least not in Bremen. All parts of the aerospace sector are represented in the city, from R&D to production. Aeroplane wings, Ariane rockets and Galileo satellites – Bremen is one of the leading locations in the international aerospace industry. Here are five factors behind Bremen’s story of success.
In 2015 Bremen won the right to host the International Astronautical Congress for the second time, after having successfully held the event in 2003. Its bid was the result of a collaboration between the Bremen regional government and Bremen’s space industry and space research sector. Event partners include the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the German Aerospace Centre.
The Bremen region has long been a pioneer in electric mobility and is now set to enjoy further success after Mercedes-Benz and Borgward announced that they will be making electric vehicles in the city.
Bremen knows how to make cars: the Mercedes-Benz plant by the Weser river has been in operation for almost 40 years, is the focal point of the city’s automotive industry and automotive clusters, and is now the company’s biggest global facility in terms of vehicle production numbers. Reason enough for an ever-growing number of suppliers and logistics firms to base themselves in Bremen.
Sometimes you have to learn from other people's mistakes and trust your instincts. That is what Muhammad-Farhan Aslam believed when he took over his father's business. Not only did he change the business model, but he also shelved his own plans to move to England. Instead he stayed in Bremen. And it turned out to be one of many good decisions that he made.
For 30 years, the Cargo Distribution Centre in Bremen has delivered excellence – as an investment location and a logistics hub. Today more than 150 companies employing approximately 8,000 people are based at the site. It offers direct links to the ports, the autobahn and has a close proximity to Bremen City Airport.
Language barriers, unfamiliar legal and fiscal systems, qualifications that need to be recognised. There are many additional hurdles that entrepreneurs have to overcome when setting up a new branch or a new company in a different country. Bremeninvest is committed to offering you advice and support from the outset.
You might expect a Bremen-based company specialising in innovative instruments and implants for spinal surgery to be located at the Technology Park. But you'd be wrong. NuVasive Germany GmbH has its head office at the heart of the city centre next to Wallanlagen Park. Now employing a team of 44 people, the company generates annual revenue of more than €10 million – a figure that looks set to rise.
David Zhou came to Bremen three years ago with the aim of conquering the market – and a new continent – with LEDs. He started his business selling LED lighting and electronics at the World Trade Centre at Bremen Airport and has gradually built it up over the past few years.