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Neonyt Lab: working together for a more sustainable fashion industry

27 Jun 2022

“Sustainable fashion makes a difference. We make a difference!” – these were two of the most important messages that the Neonyt Lab community took away after three colourful days of events under the motto “New Patterns” in the Union Halle in Frankfurt am Main. The premiere of the direct-to-consumer format as a great success: Neonyt Lab counts designers, activists, consumers and content creators as well as representatives from the fashion industry from 22 countries amongst its visitors.

A lab of a special kind: Yesterday, Sunday, the first Neonyt Lab in Frankfurt am Main came to an end. Like in a laboratory, you could experiment with sustainable fashion from Friday, 24 June to Sunday, 26 June in the Union Halle in Frankfurt am Main: put together sustainable fashion styles and buy them directly, dive really deep into the sustainability discussion, inform yourself and network or join in and get involved with lots of good ideas. The concept of the Neonyt Lab to open up to consumers was new and it worked: The sustainable fashion scene from a total of 22 countries – including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Poland and Denmark – attested to it. Among them were designers, activists, consumers and content creators as well as representatives from the fashion industry. On an exhibition and shopping area of 1,000 m² with more than 30 sustainable fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands as well as a comprehensive event and talk programme, a lot was offered during the three days of the event. The Neonyt Lab was supported by Engagement Global and Oeko-Tex.

“The first Neonyt Lab was a complete success. We had three great days with an inspiring programme of fashion and lifestyle, knowledge exchange and of course lots of fun. A fashion community that is serious about wanting to transform the fashion industry met here in Union Halle. And we all know that this is easier said than done in this industry with its complex global supply chains, chemical and water-intensive processes, social injustice, often high return rates and overproduction,” says Bettina Bär, Show Director Neonyt.

“It is all the more important that sustainable fashion pioneers and visionary start-ups on the one hand and consumers on the other hand, with their business models and ideas, rethink old processes and show more environmentally and socially compatible ways – in the spirit of the Neonyt Lab's motto “New Patterns”. The Neonyt Lab has shown in an impressive way what power is generated when the right people come together,” adds Mirjam Smend, Founder & CEO Greenstyle, cooperation partner of the Neonyt Lab.

Neonyt Lab, 24 to 26 June 2022, Union Halle, Frankfurt am Main
Neonyt Lab, 24 to 26 June 2022, Union Halle, Frankfurt am Main

Create your own sustainable wardrobe

How effective collective brainstorming is and what it can achieve was also made clear by Germany's first "TU DU" wall: What can each of us do for a more sustainable wardrobe? Engagement Global with the #17Goals campaign compiled numerous tips on a huge wall. The visitors of the Neonyt Lab could add their own ideas during the three days and the supporting partner Frankfurt Fashion Movement also contributed many creative approaches. When it comes to a sustainable wardrobe and outreach, everyone who knows Neonyt immediately thinks of Prepeek, the successful networking event for content creators. With their posts and stories, they achieved a reach of about 780k in three days.

Let's talk about: honest words on the Fashionsustain stage

From critical to inspiring, from impulsive to informative – the numerous discussion panels, interviews and workshops at Fashionsustain, the conference format of the Neonyt (Lab), were an important source of inspiration and were well attended by the visitors. “The fashion industry is uniquely positioned to engage on the Sustainable Development Goals due its global outreach and connectivity. One major milestone that must be achieved by the sector is better treatment of women and deliver on livable wages, occupational promotions, educational opportunities, and safe working conditions. Thanks to the Neonyt Lab for centering this important conversation at the Fashionsustain conference," said Kerry Bannigan, Executive Director of the Fashion Impact Fund – a key partner of the Neonyt Lab. After all, the Neonyt Lab under the umbrella of Messe Frankfurt raises awareness towards the Sustainable Development Goals in global cooperation with the Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network and the United Nations Office for Partnerships.

A highlight on Saturday was the award for Michael Spitzbarth, Founder & CEO of Bleed, as Designer of the Year for Sustainable Collections. The Sustainability Award is presented by the VDMD – Network of German Fashion and Textile Designers – to designers who have committed themselves holistically to the topic of sustainability with their designs and collections.

Fashionsustain, 24 to 26 June 2022, Union Halle, Frankfurt am Main
Fashionsustain, 24 to 26 June 2022, Union Halle, Frankfurt am Main

The Sustainable Development Goals, living wages, greenwashing, local fashion, the impact of our consumption, rental fashion, virtual fashion, transparency and diversity – all these were topics addressed by speakers such as Kerry Bannigan (Fashion Impact Fund), Sydney Emeka Nwakanma (Emeka Suits), Julian Hermsdorf (Monaco Ducks), Annabelle Homann (Lanius), Kiala Kanzi (NNB), Meriem Lebdiri (Meriem Lebdiri), Sören Maihack (Goodlabels), Safia Minney (Fashion Declares), Karlin Obiango (Tresor by Karlin Obiango), Annika Sauerhöfer (Oeko-Tex), Henning Siedentopp (Mela Wear), Dominik Sothmann and Christian Salewski (Flip), Heiko Wunder (Reinstoff / Wunderwerk), Juliane Ziegler (Global Organic Textile Standard) and many more on the Fashionsustain stage – discussed together with the audience.

Kristina Löhr (Engagement Global), Olaf Schmidt (Messe Frankfurt), Kerry Bannigan (Fashion Impact Fund), Stephanie Wüst (Councilwoman Frankfurt)
Kristina Löhr (Engagement Global), Olaf Schmidt (Messe Frankfurt), Kerry Bannigan (Fashion Impact Fund), Stephanie Wüst (Councilwoman Frankfurt)

Progressive fashion show inspires sustainable fashion scene

Already on Thursday evening, Neonyt kicked off with a trend-setting multimedia runway show. Under the motto “Biosphere-Technosphere”, the Atelier Lihotzky in Frankfurt's East end district was transformed into a symbiosis of nature and technology. The theme was the interplay between humankind and the environment. In 31 multi-brand looks and a multimedia runway, around 50 brands showed the future of (sustainable) fashion.

Three days of Neonyt Lab, three days full of valuable impulses for a more conscious approach to fashion – that's what the community of exhibitors, speakers, experts and visitors said:

Safia Minney, MBE Founder People Tree and Fashion Declares: “It is not a problem to increase the amount we pay for clothes to cover a living wage for workers – this wouldn’t add much and would help to slow down fashion – which in a climate, ecological and social crisis is key!”

Alexandra Svendsen, Founder & CEO, Alexandra Svendsen: “Neonyt is the future. And finally, here in Frankfurt, we were able to continue with the future. We were very pleased about the numerous, high-quality dealer visits on the very first day of the Neonyt Lab. Moreover, it is particularly nice to meet extremely interested and enthusiastic end consumers who come here to inform themselves, ask questions and purchase sustainable clothes.

Annabelle Homann, COO & Head of Marketing, Lanius: “If we want a breakthrough in sustainability, we need a new normal. We can achieve this with state subsidies for sustainable products and a scoring system similar to the one in the food sector. This is the only way to make sustainability comprehensible to consumers. And, we need to change business models in a sustainable way: The number of collections is a core problem of the industry. Lanius produces no more than 2 collections per year, so a largely complete sell-off is possible.”

Christian Salewski, Co-Founder & Chief Reporter, Flip: “We at Flip are now developing a verifiably sustainable recycled sneaker with partners to help clean up textile waste in Africa. We will report openly and transparently about this “sneaker experiment” to educate people about problems but also solutions on the way to a sustainable textile industry.

Inga Bleyer, Head of Marketing & Communications, Oeko-Tex: “The Neonyt Lab gave us the opportunity to engage in direct exchange with consumers and experts. We really appreciated the stimulating conversations and input on the topic of sustainability, and we were particularly inspired by the Fashionsustain talks. We are looking forward to next year.”

Julian Hermsdorf, CEO, Monaco Ducks: “The term “sustainability” is often used vaguely or even misused. Not only does sustainable production play an important role, but especially the recycling and environmentally appropriate disposal of textiles.”

Juliane Ziegler, GOTS Representative GSA, Global Organic Textile Standard: “In order to support industry change and sustainable development in the sense of the SDGs, joint exchange and collaboration is so important. The Neonyt Lab gave us a special opportunity to discuss the opportunities and challenges of fair production with brands and consumers. Thank you for these three exciting days!“

Kristina Löhr, Project #17Ziele, Engagement Global: “It is great to see how interested the visitors were in the 17 goals and how to apply them in their own wardrobe via our TU DU-Wall. Many took the colourful stickers as inspiration to share and give away.”

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Background information on Messe Frankfurt
The Messe Frankfurt Group is the world’s largest trade fair, congress and event organiser with its own exhibition grounds. The Group employs approximately 2,300* people at its headquarters in Frankfurt am Main and in 30 subsidiaries around the world. In 2021, the company had to contend with the challenges posed by the pandemic for the second consecutive year. Annual sales will be approximately €140* million after having been as high as €736 million in 2019 before the pandemic. Even in difficult times caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we are globally networked with our industry sectors. We have close ties with our industry sectors and serve our customers’ business interests efficiently within the framework of our Fairs & Events, Locations and Services business fields. One of the Group’s key USPs is its closely knit global sales network, which extends throughout the world. Our comprehensive range of services – both onsite and online – ensures that customers worldwide enjoy consistently high quality and flexibility when planning, organising and running their events. We are expanding our digital expertise with new business models. The wide range of services includes renting exhibition grounds, trade fair construction and marketing, personnel and food services. Headquartered in Frankfurt am Main, the company is owned by the City of Frankfurt (60 percent) and the State of Hesse (40 percent).

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* Preliminary figures for 2021