Inside the Gen Next Playground: Bread&&Butter 2018

An insider’s view of what to expect at Zalando’s pop-up of style and culture

Bread&&Butter returns this year with a new “see now, buy now” concept and a laser focus on “Gen Next.” In its third outing with Zalando, the three-day event promises to be a big one: 40 plus brands and over a hundred exclusive drops, performances from the likes of Ms. Lauryn Hill and Princess Nokia, and on-pulse talks featuring Jaden Smith and Jérôme Boateng; all in the industrial cool of Arena Berlin. Ahead of the event, we catch up with Head of Partner Activation, Zalando Creative Lab, Kai Zollhöfer, who guides us through the extensive streetwear playground.

Head of Partner Activation, Zalando Creative Lab, Kai Zollhöfer

24 hours before the doors open and the buzz is palpable. “Isn’t this cool?” Kai yells over the sound of construction as he leads us into the East Side Hall. Some 850 booth-builders are at work across the site, putting the final touches to booths ranging from Diesel’s gloriously Berlin-savvy Mustafa’s Kebab pop-up, to a giant washing machine that highlights the Pepe Jeans sustainable fashion collaboration with Dutch water-saving company, Wiser Wash. Production has seen 1,500 lamps rigged, 12 km of cable rolled out, 212 trucks come and go, and 5,000 crew dinners distributed. Kai speaks to the magnitude of the operation: “What can I say? On a European scale, this is completely unique.”

Zalando SE B&&B Walkthrough
The adidas "FALCON" exhibition recalls bold '90s cool
850 booth-builders are on site to bring B&&B 18 to life

Directly inside the entrance, a retro Mercedes car with the number plate “FALCON” floats amid neon signs bearing the iconic adidas logo; an unapologetic nod to the ‘90s in vibrant pinks and purples to celebrate its iconic Falcon model. The pre-millennial nostalgia is no mistake. Bread&&Butter is all about the conversation between the vintage and Gen Next, a demographic well-educated on classic looks and ready snap up tomorrow’s collectibles. Kai explains: “When you look at what’s happening today in fashion, all brands are focused on streetwear, and streetwear is invariably related to youth. Look at the styles people are chasing now: it's about sneakers, urban living. The cool stuff. The big trend now is the ‘90s: big logos, bold aesthetics. We’re seeing this come together at Bread&&Butter in the biggest way. It’s super exciting.”

Moving through the East Side Hall, the niche focus is evident: a monochrome Dennis Loesch exhibit where the Berlin artist will combine brand logos on a limited 10-piece sweater collection, an innovative personal workshop from British designer Christopher Raeburn at the Timberland booth, and the North Face’s heart-rate raising “Pinnacle Store,” so-called because of its position high above the crowds, where 66 Nuptse jackets await those visitors with nerves steel enough to climb there. Towards the East Side Hall exit is Nike’s impressive stand, where products by an all-female design team are available in a first for the brand.

The Timberland booth highlights sustainable fashion
The Nike stand will have models from the brand's first all-female design team

Stepping into the West Side Hall we’re immediately faced with Reebok’s kitschy donut parlour, complete with a huge cartoon donut statue. It’s this kind of confidence and charm that defines Bread&&Butter. Brands are invited to be as unafraid as the Gen Nexters they’re speaking to. Zalando is happy to provide the platform, says Kai. “It’s the idea of connecting brands with consumers; enabling them to make their own stand and allowing them to speak directly to the consumer via Zalando. I think this is totally unique. The brands are shining at B&&B. Zalando as a retailer takes a big step back, and I think that takes a lot of guts.”

Kitschy cool from the donut diner themed Reebok stand

Zalando draws on its considerable logistics experience and key partnerships to make the event as frictionless as possible. A team of runners from the Zalando Erfurt logistics center are on standby across the weekend to restock booths from an in-house 200 sqm warehouse. For visitors who feel weighed down with exclusive steals, a dedicated DHL booth offers free delivery directly from on site.

We approach the enormous 1,400 sqm House of Vans pop-up store that will host customizable sneaker workshops, a skate park, and music from international acts and Berlin-based favorites like Slow Steve and rising stars, Gurr. Just outside and past the bumper cars, the soundcheck is already taking place for Friday night’s Ms. Lauryn Hill performance. Vintage and Gen Next, global and local, all-access fashion with the hottest exclusive, Bread&&Butter lies at the nexus of culture and style.

Bumper event: a carnival atmosphere is further enhanced by bumper cars in front of Arena

We ask Kai if there are any events in particular he’s interested in. “Come on!” he laughs. “It’s almost impossible to answer this! For me, it’s all about the brands. I’m super proud of what they did this year. The brands trust us, and because of that we created something really special together: the message, the concept, the product. But for some specific must-sees, Ms. Lauryn Hill, the voguing ball, and the bumper cars.”

Kai leaves us with one final piece of wisdom for the weekend. “I'm not Generation Next, but I don’t have to be. Bread&&Butter is all about trusting the experts, and in this case, that’s the youth. They’re the king-makers when it comes to cool. So follow them. You’re already doing it anyway.”

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