This July, we had the opportunity to attend Neonyt, a sustainable fashion event/trade show that takes place in Berlin twice a year. This year marked the tenth anniversary of the event, which is considered the global hub for fashion, sustainability, and innovation. Neonyt is the sustainable fashion branch of Berlin Fashion Week.
We found out about Neonyt through the sustainable fashion hashtags that we follow on our Instagram account. The tickets to attend were free, but the event is only open to those involved in the sustainable fashion industry, be it brands, stores, journalists, or influencers.
Upon receiving approval for a ticket, I was already pumped up and excitedly looking forward to the event. We started planning our journey from Central Italy to Berlin, with a stop in Sudtirol, Austria for a break from driving at the midway point.
We went to the event as visitors, to seek out new connections in the sustainable fashion realm, gain inspiration from the brands participating, attend the talks held by the discussion panels, and develop our ideas for creating a line of products of our own.
It was our first time in Berlin, and it was a beautiful experience. From riding the metro, which is by far the most functional and accessible metro and bus system I have yet encountered, to enjoying the vegan food scene of downtown Kreuzberg, Berlin gave us the jolt of innovation, new ideas, and positive, youthful energy that we were looking for.
Passing through Downtown Kreuzberg
But our time at Neonyt was without a doubt the highlight of our trip to Berlin. From the second that we entered the building at Kraftwerk Berlin, which was a large warehouse with a raw and creative ambiance, we could feel the wave of the sustainable fashion movement rising. Over 100 sustainable brands were set up with tables and displays, with their incredible artisans, designers, and creators present to explain their brand mission.
Bird's-eye view of Neonyt at Kraftwerk Berlin
While walking around the facility for the first time, within minutes upon entering we found ourselves immersed in riveting and insightful conversations with others who care about the health of our planet, innovation in fashion, and bringing sustainable, natural materials into the spotlight. It was great to meet some of the sustainable brands whose products we already wear, such as Hempage, a hemp-based clothing line, Mud Jeans, an ethical jeans producer combining recycled and organic denim, and Nae Vegan Shoes, whose Pinatex-based shoes I happened to be wearing at the event.
The discussion panel, called FASHIONSUSTAIN, focused this year on an extensive range of topics, from water used in textile production, the state of the denim industry as well as denim as a potential model for sustainability, artisan empowerment through craft and digitalization, purchasing with purpose, better packaging solutions, and so much more.
In between sessions at the FASHIONSUSTAIN Neonyt Conference
One of my absolute favorite talks was called "10 Years of Sustainability in Fashion, What's Next?" This panel included Orsola de Castro, the creator of the Fashion Revolution and "Who Made My Clothes" movement, which HowCork supports to the fullest. It was truly inspiring to hear her and the other panel members speak, and this discussion, in particular, was so charged with passion and drive for creating a better future that every person in the room was moved to take tangible action and even bigger steps toward creating a sustainable fashion reality that is still only at its beginning stages. The sentiment, in summary, was that yes, we've made a lot of progress in the last ten years, but there is still so much left to be done in terms of policy changes and shifting the consumer mentality.
Recycled polyester, Lyocell-Tencel, Organic Cotton, EcoVero Viscose, and Recycled Thread on Display
But the most exciting and unexpected part of Neonyt was meeting new brands who we are now partnering with to bring their innovative cork designs to our marketplace!
HowCork meets Ulrike of UlStO
Upon our first walk-through of the trade show, we met the designer behind the innovative brand UlStO, Ulrike Stolze. We immediately felt at ease talking with her, and right away we felt a great connection. We had the privilege of seeing all of her products up close, to see the quality and detail of each design. We were beyond impressed with her line of cork and felt bags, which utilizes high-quality cork from Portugal and Italian-made felt created from recycled plastic bottles. As she is located in Germany, her main focus is currently on the European market. This was perfect for our collaboration, as we are delighted to now be offering UlStO's products on our website for the United States market.
HowCork meets Taiseer and Ronja of Bag Affair
The next day, walking through the trade show, a young woman stopped me as I was walking past a booth. I turned my head and saw that it was none other than Bag Affair, another amazing cork designer from France! A moment of serendipity, I couldn't wait to share with them that I too own an online marketplace specializing in cork products. It was amazing meeting Ronja and Taiseer, the force behind the bold line of cork briefcases, bags, and laptop cases for the modern, chic and sustainable working woman in business. Bag Affair also focuses primarily on the European market, and we are thrilled to also be offering Bag Affair's products for the American market.
UlStO Bag Designs
Both UlStO and Bag Affair's products were so unique and innovative that we knew right away that starting a partnership with both brands was in order. Both brands have something completely new and different to add to our existing collections at HowCork, and we are honored to be able to carry their original designs in our store. UlStO brings natural and recycled fibers together to create a striking combination of textures and colors in their designs, and Bag Affair brings the message of gender equality to their stunning line of sustainable and chic women's cork briefcases.
Bag Affair asks, "Who made your bag?"
We met other incredible brands as well whose products may be coming to our online marketplace soon. Steelground Shoes, owned by a beautiful couple from Portugal, is a brand that has been around for 30 years, but in recent years shifted its focus to shoes made from vegan materials, including cork, jute, and Pinatex.
Say Time, a watch and jewelry brand created by two young artisans from Germany, greatly impressed us with their collection of pieces made from recycled metals, especially with their watches made from recycled sterling silver and cork bands. Pedro, the owner of Kayak Storm Shoes from Portugal, also helped to further educate us on the state of the cork industry and the big cork manufacturers in Portugal, as well as textile innovation in recycled "backing" materials for cork. We also spent some time with the owners of Hempage (as mentioned above) and SKFK, an ethical clothing line from Basque Country, Spain. In the future, we hope to be able to incorporate products from all of these amazing brands from all over Europe in our online marketplace!
An experience like no other, Neonyt was a three-day culmination of ground-breaking innovation and ideas, meeting amazing people, and soaking up the inspiration to dismantle the status-quo of fast fashion and make sustainable fashion the industry norm, not just a niche. Neonyt was a highly educational, motivational, and personally touching event that we will not soon forget. We hope to visit Berlin and our friends at Neonyt again soon!