Sema Gedik Auf Augenhöhe Photo by Özlem Özsoy

Dress to progress: how Sema Gedik ’s label shows the changes of our society

Explore the inspiring journey of AUF AUGENHOEHE, the Berlin-based label redefining fashion inclusivity. Discover how their unique approach to adaptive clothing is not just a style statement, but a powerful force driving societal change towards a more diverse and equitable future.

What is “AUF AUGENHOEHE” and what motivated you to start it?

Ever since I was young, I noticed that the fashion industry didn’t offer enough variety and suitable designs for people who don’t fit the usual fashion standards. My cousin Funda, who is a person of short stature, showed me that we didn’t have equal access to fashion. This motivated me to make a change. I wanted to create fashion that includes everyone.

“The main idea of this brand is to make clothes that are unique for each person” Sema Gedik

While I was studying at the fashion school at HTW Berlin, I realized my idea by starting “AUF AUGENHOEHE.” It’s a brand based in Berlin that initially focused on making clothes for people who are short. The main idea of this brand is to make clothes that are unique for each person, without them needing to be changed. Over time, “AUF AUGENHOEHE” has grown to serve a wider range of people. Our goal is to make fashion accessible for everyone.

“AUF AUGENHOEHE is definitely an Impact Startup.” Sema Gedik

To me, it’s more than just being a fashion label. It’s about creating a real community where everyone feels beautiful, beyond just how they look. Seeing my vision become a reality has been deeply meaningful. The name of the brand, which means ‘at eye level,’ shows my goal to make the fashion industry more inclusive and open to everyone.

Could you explain what an “Impact Startup” is? And, would you consider „AUF AUGENHOEHE“ an Impact Startup?

Sema Gedik: Yes, I would say AUF AUGENHOEHE is definitely an Impact Startup. This kind of startup addresses a social need, like we do by providing clothing for short people. The main purpose is to offer clothes that are suitable and inclusive for a diverse group of people, focusing on making fashion accessible and inclusive for everyone.

Sema Gedik & Models from Auf Augenhöhe
Sema Gedik Photo by Jens Kaufmann

An Impact Startup is known for its dual goals: making money and also having a positive effect on society or the environment.

These startups care about things like sustainability, including everyone, and being ethical. They aim to help society in a broader sense.

I believe it’s important to understand that Impact Startups don’t just measure their success in money. They also look at the positive impact they make on communities or the environment. They try to balance making money with their commitment to have a meaningful and lasting positive effect.

GICA: Many investors are skeptical of Impact Startups and call them “money eaters,” although there is a huge potential market. Sema, are Impact Startups really such bad investments?

The idea that profit-focused people have, seeing Impact Startups as ‘money eaters,’ is not looking far enough ahead. Impact Startups have a lot of potential and offer great opportunities. These opportunities are not just about making money quickly. They are about long-term benefits for society and the environment. Supporting Impact Startups can lead to lasting positive changes. We need to think about smart ways to support them financially.

“The idea that profit-focused people have, seeing Impact Startups as ‘money eaters,’ is not looking far enough ahead.” Sema

A big question is how we can get investors to put more money into Impact Startups and really support social impact investments. This could start a new kind of cooperation between the government and the business world.

Together, they could work towards a future that is sustainable and positive. Offering funding programs and partnerships could help get more money into Impact Startups.

While there are already funding programs available for Impact Startups, making these programs better and easier to use could help a lot. Having new ways of financing and partnerships could also offer more support. It’s important for us to remove obstacles to investing in Impact Startups and encourage working together across different sectors to build a sustainable and positive future.

“AUF AUGENHOEHE is entering a market that hasn’t been focused on before. This makes investing in our impactful business very valuable.” Sema Gedik

Talking about potential profits: can you give us some facts and figures about fashion for little people and “adaptive fashion”?

AUF AUGENHOEHE is entering a market that hasn’t been focused on before. This makes investing in our impactful business very valuable. Our research shows there’s a target group of over 1 million Little People worldwide, leading to a market size of at least 105 million euros.

Our long-term plan is to grow and also focus on adaptive fashion, which is clothing designed for people’s specific needs.

“The global market for adaptive clothing was worth about 1.07 billion euros in 2022 and is expected to grow by 6.7% every year from 2023 to 2030.” Sema Gedik

The growth in the number of older people and the increase in disabilities among children and adults are big reasons for this growth. At AUF AUGENHOEHE, we have developed a sizing system and have the expertise to make adaptive clothing that can be widely used.

Are you exporting your products? How is your international business developing?

Yes, we ship our products to many countries around the world and have seen our international market presence grow a lot.

Auf Augenhöhe Photo by Anna Spindelndreier

After Germany, most of our customers are from the USA, Canada, and Australia.

Recently, we’ve also started getting customers from Japan, which we’re really proud of. Our products are liked in many places, and we’re always working on expanding more internationally. The good feedback from different countries encourages us to keep improving our international efforts and to keep finding new ways to meet the changing needs of our customers worldwide.

Sema, how important is networking for young entrepreneurs like you?

Networking is very important. It helps you get resources, expert advice, and chances for new business.

I’m really thankful for all the support and amazing opportunities I’ve gotten by networking. I’ve worked with NGOs, fashion brands, and even big companies like Porsche and LinkedIn. These kinds of partnerships usually happen because of a strong network.

For example, my training at the 17ACADEMY by Foundation AusserGewöhnlich Berlin was possible because of the people I met through networking. It gave me lots of useful knowledge and skills. That’s why I think it’s important to show who you are, talk about your business, and make connections.

This helps lift up AUF AUGENHOEHE. Meeting different people leads to new business chances and helps build valuable partnerships. I’m grateful to have inspiring people in my network, like business partners, mentors, teachers, colleagues, and pro bono lawyers. They’ve helped us do great things and try new ideas.

Networking isn’t always easy, and sometimes it’s hard to put yourself out there. But when you connect with people genuinely and openly, you find opportunities you wouldn’t want to miss.

Is there any advice from experienced people that you’re tired of hearing?

I often hear things like “Follow your passion,” “Bootstrap as long as possible,” and “Fail fast, fail often.”

Moreover, I often come across empty phrases like “fire fast, hire slow.” When I imagine having such advice at the entrance of my office or on my desk, I truly wonder what they say about our system and how urgently we need change.

Where do you see yourself and your company in three years? What’s your vision?

In three years, I want AUF AUGENHOEHE to be the top brand in adaptive and inclusive fashion, known for our innovation and focus on the customer. Since 2013, we’ve been working hard to grow sustainably, enter new markets, and build strong, lasting partnerships.
Our long-term goal is to make a big positive impact on society and to build a successful, ethical company that values working together.
We’re just starting.

Connect with Sema Gedik on LinkedIn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Out Related Posts

Receive GICA’s regular impact digest for free.