FCG INTERVIEW | German Sustain Concept (messe frankfurt)

“Sustainable fashion is fun too”

Messe Frankfurt has a new sustainable baby: Neonyt, a new sustain platform at the interface between trade fairs, fashion shows and conferences, will be launched parallel to the Berlin Fashion Week in January. In addition to showroom.de and Bikini Berlin, Neonyt is therefore also the ideal partner for the sustainable, two-year promotional programme Fashion Sustain Concept, initiated jointly with the Fashion Council Germany, which starts in 2019. We spoke to Thimo Schwenzfeier, Head of Neonyt and responsible for Marketing and Communications for Messe Frankfurt’s Textile Division, about the new Sustain platform, the promotion of young talent, cooperation with the FCG – and why sustainability is so important in fashion at all.

Mr Schwenzfeier, with Neonyt Messe Frankfurt has just created a new platform where everything revolves around sustainability.

Neonyt is practically not even born yet – in January it will take place for the first time as a successor to the Greenshowroom and the Ethical Fashion Show parallel to the Berlin Fashion Week, as an interdisciplinary sustain platform and a programme consisting of trade fair, fashion show, conference and panel discussions. With Neonyt we want to show that a new era has now begun for fashion in the context of sustainability.

How is this to be understood?

The tradition of commitment to sustainability has existed at Messe Frankfurt since 2004. Back then, the Ethical Fashion Show was still held in Paris, initially as a contact point for ethnic and ethical fashion. In Paris, the mother of all fashion cities, the aspect of sustainability was not yet well received, at least not yet. There, the prejudice prevailed that sustainable fashion was more textile than fashion – often rightly so: “eco-fashion” was more a political statement and the aesthetic side was usually neglected. Messe Frankfurt, which itself has a more textile than fashion background, found the link between fashion and sustain very exciting, however, which is why we took over Ethical Fashion in 2009 and transferred it to Berlin.

Why Berlin?

Green fashion, such as natural cosmetics, has a long tradition and culture throughout Germany. Berlin in particular has long been much more progressive, open and transparent than Paris. And it has a completely different scene with different lifestyles. The vegan scene also plays its part, as does the upscale “green” middle class, which consciously wants to consume and do good. In addition, the Green Showroom was launched, which was later taken over by Messe Frankfurt and shown under the same roof as Ethical Fashion. We are now merging both platforms to form Neonyt.

What is so special about Neonyt?

Sustain is of course our basis – at least 70 percent of the labels we show must meet our sustainable criteria – at the same time we clearly focus on the design language: What doesn’t meet our aesthetic requirements is screened out. This means that dealers who come to us have the great advantage that they no longer have to worry about sustainability and can fully engage with fashion. So no one can get past us anymore. (laughs)

Why is sustainability being talked about everywhere right now?

Although the topic has been in the spirit of the times since the mid-1990s, it was less tangible: At that time, people were talking about environmental protection and child labour. In my childhood, the hole in the ozone layer was the great spectre of horror. Today, however, I can inform myself much more quickly and directly about the consequences of the negative impact. Companies have to follow suit. Until recently, it would have been unthinkable for a global conglomerate like Kering to announce that luxury would be unthinkable without sustainability – or for a fashion house like Chanel to do without fur in the future. I am firmly convinced that companies that do not adapt to sustainability will not survive the next 15 years.

Why is sustainability so important for the fashion industry?

Cotton production, water consumption, genetic engineering. Waste that is not cleaned but flows unfiltered into rivers and oceans. Dyeing processes using toxic chemicals whose vapours workers inhale unprotected. Precarious safety standards as well as the exploitation of textile workers in general – there is no need to kid yourself: We are the second dirtiest industry in the world! The fashion industry urgently needs to rethink its approach.

How can companies imply sustainable standards?

We often hear from larger companies that as a small design label it is not a problem to no longer be able to produce fairly once a certain size has been reached.

Full Interview in German