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Green fashion fair Neonyt puts focus on end consumers, but what does that mean for brands?

By Weixin Zha

6 Jul 2022

Fairs

Neonyt at Union Halle in Frankfurt. Image: FashionUnited

Sustainable fashion fair Neonyt focused on the end consumer for the first time during its last edition. Many new and a few familiar brands visited Frankfurt's Ostend district when FashionUnited paid a visit. The fair counted more than 1,000 visitors spanning from Germany to France, the UK and Peru.

At first glance, Neonyt is almost the same as it always was - the mood is upbeat, the atmosphere dynamic, and there are open conversations. On the upper floor of the Union Halle, on a former industrial site, a "Prepeek lounge" is set up where influencers take photos with garments from the collections of sustainable fashion labels, while experts talk about sustainable development goals and greenwashing in the basement.

Familiar yet different

And yet something is different. The green fashion fair is now officially called Neonyt Lab. Anyone interested can enter with a registration through the website or at the door. The thirty brands that exhibit here also sell their garments directly to the visitors of the event. The brands were selected by Mirjam Smend, the organizer of the Munich-based sustainable fashion event Greenstyle.

The focus on end consumers is not only new for Neonyt, but a first for the textile fairs of Messe Frankfurt. Schmidt has left it open as to whether the format will stay that way. A decision may follow at the end of July.

One thing is certain: a lot has happened in the meantime. Initially, the plans were big: the fashion fairs Premium and Neonyt moved to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt Fashion Week was launched, where in addition to the latest collections for the coming season, the spotlight would also be on other parts of the garment production chain. In addition, fashion shows and other events would be held in the city.

The entry to Union Halle in Frankfurt. Image: FashionUnited

Sustainable brands are missing fashion buyers

The fairs did not take place during the first two years of the pandemic, and the fashion fair Premium moved back to Berlin. Neonyt is testing out if it could be an event for end consumers. How it will proceed is unclear. For some sustainable fashion labels, specifically those that trade business-to-business, it is problematic that there is no longer an event for trade audiences.

“The trade show Neonyt is not going to happen, which is obviously a big problem for us as eco fashion brands. So where should we go this season?” says Hermann Kohnen, director of the sustainable label Lana. He is heading for the Premium trade fair in Berlin in two weeks' time, where a large number of sustainable brands will be exhibiting. Lana is a brand founded in 1987 from the German city of Aachen. Kohnen plans to exhibit later in the "Green Room" of the fashion fair Gallery in Düsseldorf.

“We are making a sweeping blow and hope that we will find new customers in the first fair season, which is now happening again,” says Kohnen. Although most orders are placed at the eco textiles fair Innatex, the brand gained most of its new customers through Neonyt.

At Lana's booth, pieces from the SS22 collection can be found at a small discount. “Selling stuff also allows us to recoup some of the costs we incur,” he says.

Cologne-based label Lanius takes a similar approach. Samples from its SS22 collection are slightly discounted, the label already sold a few pieces on Friday afternoon and also spoke to two buyers, says Annabelle Homann, the brand’s chief operating officer.

“I think it's a pity that Neonyt didn't decide to organize a big B2B event in Berlin, because it had developed incredibly well,” says Homann. The brand has exhibited at both Neonyt and Premium in the past, and recently only at Neonyt, precisely because the fair had “developed so well”.

The last time Neonyt was organized for a trade audience was during Berlin Fashion Week, on the grounds of the former Tempelhof airport, next to the now bankrupt Panorama clothing fair. More than 210 sustainable fashion labels from 22 countries presented their collections and attracted conventional fashion retailers such as Breuninger, CJ Schmidt and Amazon. “That was just the right combination,” says Kohnen. For the future, he thinks “there has to be a connection with other fairs, otherwise no one will come”. Moreover, he says it is hard to imagine that buyers would go to Frankfurt after the fairs in Berlin.

New fashion label Make Somebody Happy. Image: FashionUnited

Many Newcomers

On Friday afternoon, in addition to end consumers and trade audiences, there were also some buyers in the Union Halle. One of them was Christiane Sami, owner of the store Emma 2.0 in Bad Hölz. Sami set up her store last year and is looking for brands that take sustainability seriously. “I was passing through, but I came here because I am confident that it is a real sustainability event in the industry,” says Sami. She found two interesting labels, but thinks the event is a bit small overall.

“It is a little small,” agrees Christine Richter. She is one of three sisters who started the label 'Make Somebody Happy' last fall, and is at Neonyt for the first time. As of Friday afternoon, she had sold five and spoke with two buyers. It is important for the young brand to showcase itself here and make contacts, says the founder.

For Helena Harfst, owner of the eponymous brand, the main reason for coming was the opening of Neonyt to end consumers. “I am not looking for a middleman, I do everything myself,” she says. Harfst sells her collections, which are made by a seamstress in the German village of Hüttenberg, so far only online. She still struggles a bit with the idea of collaborating with fashion retailers: she would have to raise her prices to make sure the margins are in line.

Harfst is at the Union Halle in Frankfurt because she has received inquiries from customers who would like to see her folklore-inspired designs in real life. “It's good to start the conversation and get feedback.”

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