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Let’s talk fashion // Fashion location Düsseldorf.

Neonyt x GREENSTYLE is no secret. We are big fans of this format. And we have been partners from the start. Neonyt does B2B. We do B2C. But our content (sustainable fashion), problems (current market and world situation), visions (better fashion industry) are identical. In an interview with Ulrike Kähler, Managing Director of Igedo Exhibitions, we talked about Düsseldorf as a fashion location and synergies in the industry.

(Not only) We regularly discuss these topics with the Neonyt Düsseldorf team and Igedo managing director Ulrike Kähler. And we always notice how many parallels there are for us. Brands that cannot afford the stand costs because society still prefers to buy conventionally rather than sustainably. And because there are still no suitable funding models for sustainable fashion (designers). Austerity (with the exception of the luxury sector) among consumers, who are reacting to the uncertain circumstances with dwindling consumer mood. Retailers who don’t buy because that’s exactly why their warehouses are still full.

Together we achieve more. No opposition. No envy. Support instead. Because everyone has the same goals: to save your business, to continue it, to put it on stable footing or, ideally, to expand it. To strengthen the location. To give visibility to the topic and the brands associated with it. In the case of sustainability, also convey the message that something has to change in the textile industry. But also can. If you do it right.

In short: times are difficult. And that’s why we have to come together.

I spoke to Ulrike Kähler, Managing Director of Igedo Exhibitions, who has just brought her two fashion trade fairs Neonyt and Fashion Rooms together in one hall under the motto “All under one roof”, on the topics of fashion trade fairs and fashion locations (in her case Düsseldorf, in our case Munich).

Mirjam Smend: When it comes to trade fair organizers, you inevitably end up with Ulrike Kähler at some point. How long have you been in the business, Ulrike?
Ulrike Kähler: Even if that sounds crazy: I have been in the trade fair business for 40 years. I completed my training 40 years ago and have remained loyal to trade fairs. I have been to different cities, abroad and this year I have been with Igedo for 18 years.

Mirjam Smend: What has changed compared to before?
Ulrike Kähler: When we started our trade fairs, there were still waiting lists. Back then, all manufacturers still went to trade fairs. The showroom scene was born 20 years ago. Many have retreated to this form of presentation all year round. Fair has changed. It used to be setting up a stand, sitting down, writing an order and going home with a well-filled order book. Today more than ever we as organizers have to be deeply involved in the industry. We have to know the industry. And we have to offer an event. With every service 150 percent. Trade fairs, of course not just in fashion, are becoming more and more event platforms and meeting points rather than people just coming there for business.

Neonyt appealed to me because I always wanted to integrate the topic of sustainability with us.

Mirjam Smend: With the Shoes and Fashion Rooms order formats, you already have fashion events in your portfolio. Why did you bring Neonyt to Düsseldorf?
Ulrike Kähler: Neonyt appealed to me because I always wanted to integrate the topic of sustainability with us. Why build something yourself when there is a brand (note: the Neonyt) on the market that is still warm. Because of all the changes from the great success in Berlin to the failed co-op with the Premium Exhibitions in Frankfurt, it ended up standing alone like a stepchild. That’s why I started discussions with Messe Frankfurt early on and presented my idea and my wish for a Neonyt in Düsseldorf. The conditions and the environment are ideal. With our Fashion Rooms we have a fashion fair next door that is taking place at the same time. We have retailers in the city who might be interested in sustainable fashion. I still believe that it is important that there is a Neonyt. That the location is right because we can offer a lot.

Mirjam Smend: Even if the name Neonyt is the same – the conditions in 2023/2024 in Düsseldorf are completely different than before the pandemic, when Neonyt took place at its peak in Berlin. Actually, you’re just starting over again…
Ulrike Kähler: Times are indeed different. But at the end of the day it’s always about making the brands happy. That they can grow with us. This is a process that we as organizers have to go through with the brands. And the brands themselves also have to be brave. Above all, retailers must be courageous even in these difficult times and engage with these fantastic brands. I still believe that Düsseldorf is the right place to portray the whole thing.

Team Neonyt Düsseldorf (from left): Anke Didier, Ulrike Kähler, Noa Ben Moshe, Nicole Blank.


Mirjam Smend: Is Düsseldorf a special (fashion) place?
Ulrike Kähler: Düsseldorf has always had this vibe. The Kronen family (note: co-founders of the women’s wear interest group, Igedo) already had claims like “Düsseldorf. Fashion city that has everything” and “Fashion is my profashion” were launched. The roots of fashion were planted here. Düsseldorf is the number 1 fashion city. Düsseldorf is not big, but it has a very special charisma. It is very easy to reach – bus, train, plane. For years people complained about excessive distances in Berlin. In Düsseldorf you can quickly get from the harbor across the Kaiserswerther to the Böhler area.

And if you decide to make this investment, the reinvestment has to come with it.

Mirjam Smend: What is different in Düsseldorf than in Munich and Berlin?
Ulrike Kähler: Nowadays everyone looks at their budgets and decides very carefully whether they can afford to attend a trade fair. Does it make sense? And if you decide to make this investment, the reinvestment has to come with it. Berlin is very creative, but people have come to terms with the fact that business is not done here. And that ended in Berlin at some point. The fashion caravan has always moved from Berlin via Düsseldorf to Munich. We’ll have to see what happens next in Berlin. Düsseldorf and then the graduation in Munich – that’s a real and good mix. Munich is always very present for me and Munich has the south. We benefit from the north and Scandinavia. This duo of cities can work well together without getting in each other’s way if you approach it sensibly.

Mirjam Smend: Can synergies be created between the cities here?
Ulrike Kähler: You always have to see your strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has their home base and that is where the corresponding organizer should be successful. Today it no longer makes sense to present yourself in every city. We were in Berlin for a few years too. But you always play third, fourth or fifth fiddle when there are good players on site. In Düsseldorf I see us as the player. We have fashion. We have shoes. And we have had sustainability for a year now. Together with all the showrooms, Düsseldorf functions as a fashion location. And it’s the same in Munich. And if you spread the events in Düsseldorf and Munich two or three weeks apart, the customer can say, I need Düsseldorf, but then I also want Munich because I also have to go to Italy. This is how it works and makes sense for everyone. What doesn’t fit so well into the whole concept are the many small regional association groups that also want to hold “trade fairs”. This is tearing the industry apart and unsettling customers.

Together with all the showrooms, Düsseldorf functions as a fashion location. And it’s the same in Munich.

Mirjam Smend: Are you in direct contact with other organizers?
Ulrike Kähler:
We always have to exchange ideas. With Munich. With Offenbach. We are always in conversation. It doesn’t work without it. Just as without commitment, faithfulness and loyalty.

Mirjam Smend: The Fashion Days take place in Düsseldorf at the same time as Neonyt. The Supreme fashion trade fair is taking place. New formats are currently emerging – e.g. SUSTAIN. Is there exchange between the players here? Common goals for the fashion location Düsseldorf?
Ulrike Kähler: I am very close with the economic development agency, which launched the new B2C format SUSTAIN – just from the management of my company Igedo, as well as through the board of Fashion Net Düsseldorf. We are very much in touch here because this time it was my wish to get B2C onto our premises in a very limited form.

B2C and B2B must take place more in Düsseldorf.

We have conducted relevant surveys. Fashion room exhibitors are rather cautious about B2C integration. But the Neonyt area, which will take place in the same hall for the first time in January 2024, could do with that. Now SUSTAIN is taking place in the Bilker Bunker in the city. I will sit on a panel there and also support the Neonyt.

Mirjam Smend: What do you want for (at least) the coming trade fair year?
Ulrike Kähler:
I would like visitors to come. That they are courageous and that they value what we are doing here. And above all, that they appreciate what our exhibitors who have invested here, who offer their goods, who show their skills and show their beautiful collections, achieve.

I also ask retailers beyond their borders: be curious and courageous and come.

That you set out and come through the door at Neonyt in the Böhler area. That is the key to success so that we can continue what we started three seasons ago.