Running Neonyt the largest sustainable fashion trade show in the world - Interview with Thimo Schwenzfeier
What does it mean to run Neonyt the largest sustainable trade show in the world? We sat down with Thimo Schwenzfeier, Neonyt show director to find out more about Neonyt and their mission to be a hub for change in sustainability and fashion.
Hi Thimo! How are you today? We absolutely loved this edition of Neonyt! So many amazing brands doing wonderful things, really pushing boundaries and showing just how awesome sustainable fashion can be. What did you think about this edition of the show?
Many thanks for the compliment. We’re really pleased that Neonyt and therefore also our concept have been so well received. The response from exhibitors and visitors alike has been extremely positive. Both exhibitors and visitors seem to understand that Neonyt is much more than just a fashion trade fair. It is a hub for the issues of fashion, sustainability and innovation. An essential element of Neonyt is knowledge transfer, which we promote with the Fashionsustain conference and numerous additional discussion and information-related offers. We included exciting items on the agenda relating to the top themes of retail, water and denim and invited top-class speakers to the event. For the first time, we also set up a ‘production on demand’ microfactory on over 100 square metres as well as a ‘Makers Lab’ with studio solutions. A total of 170 sustainable fashion labels from 20 countries presented excellent, progressive and innovative collections at Neonyt.
Can you tell us a bit more about the brand selection? What were your criteria? We at Aequem have really strict environmentally sustainable factors that we consider - all our brands need to be made from organic / upcycled / recycled / sustainable tech materials. Having visited and spoken to many of the brands at the show we felt like you had very similar criteria. Could you tell us more?
Progressive, forward-looking, sustainable and fashionable. This is how we would describe Neonyt exhibitors. In short, all labels that are dedicated to the future issues facing the fashion industry, that portray a sustainable lifestyle and thus have a clear focus on fashion. Whether a leading brand or newcomer. The product range extends from contemporary, casual and urbanwear to denim, street and sportswear as well as business outfits and comprises the outdoor, shoes, accessories, jewellery and beauty segments in addition to womenswear, menswear and kids.
And as far as sustainability is concerned: for us, the term means being committed to social as well as environmental issues. Companies that exhibit with us must undergo a sustainability check. This involves completing an initial questionnaire that gives us information about the company's philosophy, collections, production methods and materials used. This includes looking at environmental and social criteria, certificates that offer proof of precisely these things and transparency in the supply chain. Far more than half the materials in a collection must be manufactured according to these criteria – simply using a bit of organic cotton isn’t sufficient for us.
Do you have any personal favourites? Were any labels that surprised you this edition?
As one of our main themes is water, it felt appropriate to focus on the issue of denim at the past edition of Neonyt. Whether in the form of a jacket, trousers or jumpsuit, denim is one of the most popular, versatile and robust materials in the fashion industry but at the same time holds records in terms of its use of resources and polluting the environment. At Neonyt, a number of progressive companies that are breaking new ground in denim production and developing versatile solutions were present. These included Feuervogel, Good Society, Mud Jeans and Wunderwerk. What all these companies have in common is that they focus on sustainable materials, resource-saving production methods, fair working conditions and short transport routes. Since 2013, customers have been able to hire sustainably produced jeans from the Dutch company Mud Jeans as well as buy them.
Many labels also have incorporated new and very exciting materials in their collections. The material innovation rose viscose was launched in July, introduced to the German market by labels such as Like a bird. The fibre is sourced from organically cultivated roses and combined with cotton to create a silky blended fabric that is easy to care for. The Austrian fibre manufacturer Lenzing also presented TENCEL and REFIBRA at its stand.
What is your opinion on the state of sustainable fashion? What changes have you seen in the past year? And how about the whole industry at large?
This edition of Neonyt in particular has shown that the theme of sustainability is currently the centre of attention within the fashion industry and has never been as present as it is now. Both at individual events in Berlin and in the press. A number of things are happening at the moment in this respect.
The German market is rather trailblazing when it comes to fashion. There are a number of excellent labels around. And this number is increasing all the time, plus the quality of the fashion is continuously improving – a very pleasing development. The number of dealers and manufacturers is also growing steadily. And this is reflected at our trade fair. The issue is now also ominpresent internationally. Most people know the luxury fashion label Stella McCartney and the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion was founded only recently. At Neonyt in July, we had labels from a total of 20 countries. We’ve also been working with the UN Office for Partnerships as part of the Conscious Fashion Campaign since January. Visitors to Neonyt regularly include representatives from international trade such as H&M, Galerie Lafayette and LVHM.
What can you tell us about the next Neonyt? When is it going to happen and what should we expect?
The next Neonyt will take place from 14-16 January 2020. Following our focus on the theme of water, we’ll be focusing on the theme of air for our next edition. The textile industry is responsible for 10 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Neonyt 2020 places a spotlight on the carbon footprint of the fashion industry, presents best practice labels and creates a framework for industry-relevant discussions relating to the increasingly digitalised future – always with the analytical perspective of inspiring pioneers and pragmatic professionals who focus on sustainability.
What were the biggest challenges with Neonyt along the years?
Neonyt was created from the trade fair duo Greenshowroom and Ethical Fashion Show, founded in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Messe Frankfurt has been organising both fairs together since 2012. At the start, this was a niche theme that we have continuously expanded and transformed into a unique selling point of Berlin Fashion Week. Today, the industry is on the brink of a breakthrough and change is becoming tangible. This edition of Neonyt in particular has shown that the theme of sustainability is currently the centre of attention within the fashion industry and has never been as present as it is now.
In order to convey this message, we have been focusing, for example, on fashion-related curating of the exhibiting labels at the Neonyt Trade Fair for the past two trade fairs. In addition, there is a strong content-related focus on the topics that drive the fashion industry, the retail trade and, above all, the end consumer. The hub that is Neonyt is more than just a trade fair. The focus is on exhibitors and their new collections. The sustainable fashion brands are accompanied by a progressive supporting programme comprising trendsetting conferences, the design thinking format Thinkathon, the innovative Neonyt Fashion Show as part of the MBFW and many networking events as well as influencer and blogger events. The added value of a sustainable lifestyle is tangible at Neonyt.
This process of change that has been undertaken together with exhibitors, visitors and partners has not always been easy and is not yet complete. However, the exceptionally positive response to our strategy confirms that we are on completely the right track.
What would you like to see more of in the industry at the moment?
We would certainly like the end consumer to opt for sustainable products much more. Surveys show that although consumers prefer sustainable products, they still choose conventional products far too often in their actual purchasing decisions.
In our view, trade, industry and politics should further intensify the exchange and pull together even more in order to bring sustainable fashion to the mass market. However, the latest issue of Neonyt has shown us that a lot is happening in this respect and that makes us feel optimistic.
One last message to our readers?
We are looking forward to the next edition of Neonyt, to many great exhibitors, exciting guests and interesting speakers, and are already working hard behind the scenes to continue pushing our agenda.