Interview with Olaf Schmidt

Olaf Schmidt
Olaf Schmidt
VP-Textiles & Textile Technologies
Messe Frankfurt
Messe Frankfurt

Europe strong in sustainable fashion scene
Messe Frankfurt's Greenshowroom is an international trade fair exclusively for environment-friendly designs and has been held during the Berlin Fashion Week since 2009. The Greenshowroom presents high fashion and matching accessories while the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin highlights streetwear and casualwear. Both shows together form the largest platform for sustainable fashion in Europe. Olaf Schmidt, vice president, textiles & textile technologies, talks about the challenges in sustainable and ethical fashion and gives us a scoop of the latest in green fashion in Europe.

What is the current size of the global sustainable fashion industry? What is the expected growth rate by 2022?

I can mainly speak from the perspective of a trade show organiser. We started our activities in the field of sustainable fashion in Berlin with the acquisition of Greenshowroom in 2011. Half a year later, we launched the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin and extended the range of sustainably-produced fashion by progressively including street and casual wear. Having started as a niche topic, sustainable fashion is increasingly changing the shopping habits of our society. This change is reflected in the growth of our trade shows and, indeed, in terms of exhibitor and visitor numbers. Today, the Greenshowroom and the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin, held as part of the Berlin Fashion Week, form Europe's biggest B2B platform for ecological and fairly-produced fashion.

What were the highlights of the recently held Greenshowroom? What was the footfall and the number of participating brands?

With 170 exciting and highly committed labels, a wonderful audience of trade visitors and an unrivalled thematic spectrum, the last edition of the Greenshowroom and the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin exceeded all expectations. This year, for the first time, we held our shows at the erstwhile power station, 'Kraftwerk', in the centre of Berlin. With the successful premiere of our new FashionSustain conference and the collaboration with the Premium Group and their #Fashiontech conference & exhibitions, we have also found the perfect partner to transform 'Kraftwerk' into the foremost hub for tomorrow's fashion. Anyone who did not come to these shows has missed something. What were the highlights of the recently held Greenshowroom? What was the footfall and the number of participating brands?

Which were the standout brands and why?

In Berlin, we achieve a good mix of young and aspiring labels with fascinating design concepts and long-established labels. The Greenshowroom and the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin stand for sustainable, technical innovations and material developments representing resource-friendly alternatives that show the way to the future.

Which geographical areas are the brands and buyers from?

With 61 per cent of exhibitors coming from outside Germany, the Greenshowroom and the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin were more international than ever before. Most of the foreign exhibitors came from other European countries, in particular, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia. We are also noticing a growing interest from Indian exhibitors and already have several labels that have their origins in India or feature traditional Indian craftsmanship.

Can you give us a percentage breakdown of menswear, womenswear and accessories displayed at the showroom and at the shows?

Women's outerwear still accounts for the better part of the spectrum to be seen at the shows. However, suppliers of men's fashions are catching up. Beside suppliers with collections for both sexes, we had some exciting labels with urban outdoor clothing and companies with high-grade, business-oriented fashions for men. The number of exhibitors offering accessories, such as shoes, bags, belts, caps and jewellery, has also grown from event to event.

What went into curating the shows? How did you screen the participating brands?

In addition to our expectations on exhibitors regarding design, we also expect high standards in terms of environmental protection, social responsibility and transparency at the shows. Together with 'Get Changed! The Fair Fashion Network', we have developed a set of sustainability criteria. At least 70 per cent of the collections showcased must meet these criteria. Before we admit an exhibitor to one of the fairs, we check that it uses bio-materials, the production is socially responsible, recycled materials are used or they promote outstanding projects or traditional textile crafts. During the fairs, we conduct supplementary random checks.

Which were the top three sustainable innovations displayed in January 2018?

When it comes to innovation, I really like the labels in the shows. Trade visitors can see high-grade fashions made of recycled PET bottles, not to mention shoes made of bracket fungi, stone and maize, outdoorwear made of biodegradable fibres and bags made of pineapple leather. Manufacturing processes, such as T-shirt printing by sunlight, vegetable tanning processes for leather and closed-loop recycling concepts are only some of the environment-friendly methods to be seen. And, in terms of transparency, many labels already offer a complete overview of the materials and delivery chains of their collections through, for example, scannable labels.
Published on: 14/03/2018

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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