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Ulrike Kähler. A conversation with the trade fair organizer

Ulrike Kähler. A conversation with the trade fair organizer

"Neonyt goes Düsseldorf" was the motto in September 2022. Means: Messe Frankfurt has sold the license for the B2B order fair Neonyt to Igedo Exhibitions in Düsseldorf. The first Neonyt will take place on the Rhine from January 28th to 30th, 2023. In the Böhler area. Parallel to the Fashion Rooms. We spoke to Ulrike Kähler, Managing Director of Neonyt Düsseldorf.

Ulrike Kähler is Managing Director of Igedo Exhibitions. And one of the very few women in this position in (still!) the male-dominated fair. Until September she was responsible for and further developed the two successful order formats Fashion Rooms and Shoes Düsseldorf. Since September, Neonyt am Rhein has also belongs to her area of responsibility. Because the B2B community platform for fashion, sustainability and innovation Neonyt, which emerged from the sustainable B2B trade fairs Greenshowroom Berlin and Ethical Fashionshow Berlin, will have a new home in the fashion metropolis Düsseldorf from January 2023. Under the license of Messe Frankfurt and under the auspices of the trade fair organizer Igedo Exhibitions. Parallel to the Fashn Rooms in the fantastically beautiful industrial halls in Areal Böhler. This means that sustainable fashion brands and the slow fashion community once again have a physical contact point.

What that means for Neonyt, what synergies Ulrike Kähler expects from this constellation and how the fashion location Düsseldorf will benefit from it – we spoke to the trade fair organizer from Düsseldorf.

REALIZATION of the Neonyt in Düsseldorf

Neonyt is moving from the Main to the Rhine and we are curious: what will remain and what will change at the new location? Of course, these questions are of great interest to everyone – exhibitors, dealers, community… us.

Mirjam Smend: How can we imagine the implementation on site? How are the two trade fairs – the Neonyt will take place parallel to the Fashn Rooms – connected? How do they differ from each other?
Ulrike Kähler: Conceptually, Neonyt and Fashn Rooms come from the same sources: the love of fashion and the direct contact between manufacturer, label and retail. The joint realization at the innovation location Areal Böhler in the state capital and Fairtrade-Town Düsseldorf offers short paths for inspiration, exchange and order. So the question is not so much how the concepts differ from each other, but what advantages it offers to implement both under one roof.

Mirjam: And what advantages would that be?
Ulrike: Our goal is to offer fertile ground for all sides and to create a win-win-win situation. The sustainable and innovative community Neonyt has the opportunity to spread its added value more widely in the commercial market. Visitors and exhibitors of the Fashn Rooms have the opportunity to get concentrated, professionally necessary input and authentic information about the topic of sustainability. The bridge is formed by our conference format “The Stage” and our new “Knowledge Area”, which addresses relevant aspects of sustainable living – also outside of fashion. 

The bridge between the two formats is formed by the “The Stage” conference format, the Knowledge Area.

Mirjam: What are the plans for the visual implementation of the Neonyt on the area?
Ulrike: With the Kaltstahlhalle on Areal Böhler we have the perfect location for Neonyt: industrial vintage charm, stylishly brought into the present. On the floor we work with a self-developed stand system. Inspired by the familiar white pylons of the Neonyt to create a recognizable value, but interpreted and illuminated in a modern way.

Mirjam: Neonyt traditionally consists of three areas – the order platform with the brands, the Fashionsustain conference and the Prepeek community area. What role does the Fashionsustain conference format play in Düsseldorf?
Ulrike: Fashionsustain is a stage for the interplay of collaboration and competition – important building blocks for innovative, sustainable technologies that show the entire industry sustainable business models as well as new and old markets – incredibly relevant and important. In order to do justice to this central role as a melting pot of ideas, Fashionsustain is an integral part of our conference program “The Stage” in the pump room of the “Alte Schmiedehalle”.

On the afternoon of January 28, the Fashionsustain Talks will open with local and regional sustainability stakeholders. The morning of January 29th is primarily devoted to the question of how retailers and sustainable labels and manufacturers can find each other better and how the staff at the point of sale can be better trained on sustainability issues. The morning of January 30 will focus, among other things, on the topic of supply chain transparency and sustainability in connection with design.

“The Stage” is the central location for further panel talks, discussion rounds and presentations in order to constantly provide new impetus and anticipate future scenarios.

Mirjam: And what can we expect from the Prepeek community format?
Ulrike: The idea and the developments of sustainable fashion are crucial nowadays, not only at the Neonyt in Düsseldorf, but also internationally. True to our motto “Local, international.” Prepeek is our window to the world: an exclusive, three-day event for content creators, bloggers, journalists and multipliers. We would like to support them with the Prepeek to make green zeitgeist visible and to spread fresh sustainability impulses.

Our goal is empowerment & support on two floors:

On the Expression Floor, the creators can discover future collections of sustainable labels and select them for a free, professional photo shoot in different scenarios. Our team of professionals is at your side for styling, make-up and shooting, so that perfect content can be shared immediately.

The Experience Floor brings the Neonyt community to life: panel & community talks on topics that are particularly relevant to creators, workstations to get involved, meet-ups for networking in an exclusive but relaxed atmosphere.

As a small highlight, we will make the Prepeek accessible to all exhibitors and visitors at two selected events. Without professional photo shoots, but with topics of general interest on the stage and a lounge get-together for retailers, labels and content creators.

Mirjam: With Areal Böhler you have found a fantastic location for the Igedo formats and now also for Neonyt. What distinguishes this area?
Ulrike: The Areal Böhler offers everything that makes the stay for exhibitors and visitors as efficient and comfortable as possible: short distances, the best service and a variety of catering in a unique setting. The industrial charm of the former, listed steelworks with 100 years of history, which was preserved during the redesign, offers highly flexible and efficient areas with incredible flair.

Mirjam: You said that ‘you have to drive over a bridge to Areal Böhler, which is too complicated for some’. What do you mean by that and how do you get your audience there anyway?
Ulrike: Located on the city limits of Düsseldorf and Meerbusch, the connection is ideal. In ten minutes you can be at the main station, the KÖ, in the old town or in the media harbor by car or train. The arteries of NRW, A52 and A57 are only 5 minutes from Areal Böhler.

Both Messe Frankfurt and Igedo Exhibitions want to give Neonyt a great start in its new home in Düsseldorf with a lot of heart and soul.

Mirjam: Messe Frankfurt is the licensor of Neonyt. How can we imagine the cooperation?
Ulrike: Both Messe Frankfurt and Igedo Exhibitions want to give Neonyt a great start in its new home in Düsseldorf with a lot of heart and soul. On the way there, the support of the Frankfurt team was worth its weight in gold for us, especially during the first steps: We were able to draw on lessons learned and best practices from previous events, important input and constructive contacts and had a reliable contact person for all questions – very cooperative!

Ulrike Kähler

ADMISSION CRITERIA / SUSTAINABILITY

The admission criteria for Neonyt applicants are very strict and make this fair a trusted event. ‘Neonyt approved’ is a guarantee for visual AND content curating. Because 70 percent of the required, strict criteria must be met. Every season anew.

Mirjam: How will the catalog of criteria be handled at Neonyt in the future?
Ulrike: The unconditional commitment to sustainability is one of the central values of Neonyt, which we will continue to cultivate in Düsseldorf: Each of our exhibitors not only goes through a fashionable curating process, but of course also a check with regard to their sustainability. The criteria here are just as strict and straightforward as before.

Mirjam: With Lavinia Muth, Igedo Exhibitions was able to win over a well-known expert. What role will the former Armedangels Sustainability Officer play at Neonyt?
Ulrike: With Lavinia, we have an absolute expert in the world of ethically oriented business on board. With more than 10 years of experience in the clothing and shoe sector, she audits the exhibitors to ensure that their labels meet the necessary sustainability standards. We are very pleased that dealers, exhibitors and of course we can rely on this extraordinary expertise.

With Lavinia we have an absolute expert in the world of ethically oriented business on board.

Mirjam: Many organizers have now discovered the topic of sustainability for themselves and are jumping on the bandwagon that Neonyt and the previous events such as the Greenshowroom actively promoted. How does Neonyt differ from its competitors?
Ulrike: Neonyt is one of the nuclei of the green fashion movement. This fact alone sets it apart from other formats. However, it is not our job to just refer to it and preserve what already exists. With the licensing of Neonyt, we have assumed responsibility for realizing new ideas in Düsseldorf and contributing to the further development of the format. This primarily includes strengthening the position of sustainable fashion on the commercial market, but also understanding the trade fair as an event for networking, knowledge transfer and a source of inspiration for innovations.

Mirjam: With the Neonyt license you have expanded the Igedo portfolio to include sustainable fashion. However, sustainability has been an issue since the implementation of the ‘Green Room’ in the conventional fashion room format two seasons ago. What prevented you from further expanding sustainability in the existing formats?
Ulrike: To be honest: Nothing prevented us from expanding the existing formats. We see the Neonyt as a logical continuation and further development of the steps we took in the past with the “Green Room”.

Mirjam: How can you imagine the cooperation between the two trade fairs taking place in parallel? Will there be brands that “move” from Fashn Rooms to Neonyt?
Ulrike: The standards for participation in Neonyt are known to be very high and are strictly checked by us. A direct relocation is therefore difficult for the conventional labels of the fashion rooms and only possible through a corresponding adjustment of the production processes, supply chains and philosophy. We are very pleased when more and more producers are prioritizing the idea of sustainability, but we also understand the associated challenges. In order to support you in this transformation, we always have an open ear, give tips and find individual solutions.

There will be brands that will be represented in the Neonyt area both at Fashion Rooms with their conventional collections and with their certified sustainable lines.

Neonyt Comeback

FUTURE VISIONS

Neonyt is the B2B community platform for fashion, sustainability and innovation and synonymous with the transformation process in the textile and fashion industry. But the neonyt has lacked continuity since the last B2B event in Berlin Tempelhof. And the competitors don’t sleep. The trade fair landscape is undergoing a transformation. The pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works for all of us. Topics that were considered set were rerolled. New – at least for one or the other – topics on the tableau.

Mirjam: What does Neonyt have to do differently/right to survive on the market?
Ulrike: There is no magic formula for surviving on the market that you can work through step by step. In addition to our plan for the future of the Neonyt, there will always be new small and large challenges that you have to face with an open mind. Our experience from 73 years as a trade fair organizer in the fashion sector shows that three qualities are extremely helpful: flexibility, authenticity and tenacity.

Fortunately, all three of these talents are very well represented in our Igedo Exhibitions team, so I am convinced of a positive evolution of Neonyt.

Mirjam: Due to the long break in the event and the change of location and format, the industry/the community is/was a bit unsettled – in these unstable times anyway. How is trust rebuilt?
Ulrike: Unfortunately, nobody can shake off a certain degree of uncertainty at the moment, regardless of whether it is caused by a pandemic, (world) politics or economic developments. Professional, reliable and also emphatic partners with realistic visions help to get through these turbulent times. As this partner, we will prove ourselves with our events, with enriching, inspiring and authentic experiences for exhibitors, for visitors and for all other participants.

Mirjam: What are your goals for Neonyt?
Ulrike: Our focus in January is on staging a premiere that makes the industry, the exhibitors, the community and thus all of us want more.

FASHION LOCATION DUSSELDORF

The Igedo Company, or since 2022 Igedo Exhibitions, has brought the fashion location Düsseldorf out of its slumber with its continuously taking place gallery formats and the resulting order fairs Fashn Rooms and Shoes and brought it back into the focus of international buyers.

Mirjam: Munich was a fashion city. Berlin became a fashion city and Frankfurt wanted to be a fashion city. Düsseldorf is and will remain a fashion city. How do you see the future of fashion in the Rhine metropolis in an (inter)national context? What role does Neonyt Düsseldorf play for the order location?
Ulrike: “Local, International” is the main theme of the upcoming Neonyt in Düsseldorf, a city that can draw on a really strong heritage in the fields of fashion, art and design: Beuys, Richter, Kraftwerk – ideas with a worldwide resonance have in Dusseldorf tradition. Düsseldorf has also been active in the field of sustainability for a long time and has held the title of “Capital of Fair Trade” since 2007, and has been a “Fairtrade Town” since 2011. With the Neonyt, Düsseldorf is continuing on this path and getting on the international map of sustainable & responsible fashion – at a time when the need for a rethink is omnipresent. As a global trade and media center, Düsseldorf offers the opportunity to take a stand and, as an “early adopter”, also play a pioneering role in innovation and relevance in this segment.

Change. The Neonyt contribution.

Neonyt has made change its mission. As Managing Director, Ulrike Kähler is responsible for various formats that depict both sides of fashion – conventional and sustainable.

Mirjam: Where do you see the biggest problem in the fashion industry?
Ulrike: In my opinion, there isn’t one biggest “problem”. Just as little as the one “fashion industry”. Completely cross-sector and cross-national (but therefore also relevant for the fashion industry) there is a new central topic that calls for a turning point: companies are confronted with increasing awareness of their customers, who are increasingly orienting their buying behavior to their own moral compass. Brands that do not meet the requirements or maneuver themselves out of the way with questionable practices will have a hard time thanks to global networking and information distribution.

Transparency, fairness and credibility – values that played a role in far too few brand DNAs in the past are becoming hard currency.

In the near future it will be necessary to observe, evaluate and ultimately rethink things in many places. In order to continue to be successful, a change in numerous corporate cultures towards the “good” will be essential. I consider this process – also for the fashion industry – to be one of the great challenges of the future and beyond that also absolutely necessary and worthy of support.

Mirjam: Neonyt is a community platform. The two formats Fashion Rooms and Shoes also rely heavily on community, on content creators. How do you see the collaboration with multipliers from both areas in terms of a possible change effect on fashion?
Ulrike: Change comes from visibility. A thought left unspoken and unheard will never have any effect. The relevance of the thought only becomes apparent when it is brought among people to reason and make waves there. Our communities are the perfect resonance space for our ideas. Through them we find out directly when we were not quite right with our thoughts and what we can do better. If ideas are mature enough to pass the “community test”, they automatically continue to grow, gain reach and thus the visibility that change needs.

Mirjam: It can’t stay the way it is. How is change possible? What do you wish for fashion in Germany?
Ulrike: Düsseldorf is in the heart of Europe, the borders with Belgium and the Netherlands exist primarily on paper, which is why my wish for fashion and thus also for us as a trade fair organizer is ‘local, international’: I wish us all the courage to meet future challenges and opportunities in an open and solution-oriented manner. Let’s move forward together and turn visions into reality in partnership.

…AND FINALLY

Behind every maker there is also a person with feelings, needs, desires. In addition to trying to paint a clear picture of neonyt on the Rhine, this interview is also about getting to know the people behind it a little better…

Mirjam: The textile industry has dubbed “The “. As a woman, you are at the top of what is still a male domain. This is also the case for Bettina Bär, who was last responsible for Neonyt as show director at Messe Frankfurt. That gives hope for more female presence in leadership positions?
Ulrike: When it comes to feminism, I’m not a revolutionary. But I would like to see more diversity on the executive floors. I want a healthy mix. I am of the opinion that women are much better able to respond to teamwork and their employees. I do get things done here, but women have the ability to stand up when the path they took, the decision they made, wasn’t right after all. Then we take a step back and take the opinion of others with us.

It’s crazy that we still have so many men in the top rows in this textile/fashion industry, even though this is a very feminine product. That should work much more in partnership. Just like in our company. My male business partner said ‘this is your world’. He takes care of the numbers – I’m responsible for the team.

Apart from the women’s quota, we women must be given the chance to prove ourselves.

Mirjam: Is there anything you’re a little apprehensive about your first Neonyt?
Ulrike: It’s not my style to be anxious about the future. I’m more looking forward to finally being able to experience this project live. Certainly there will be one or two components along the way that we need to pay special attention to. First and foremost, this includes the responsibility to make the event authentic for exhibitors and visitors as a “real” Neonyt – despite the obvious innovations. We are very aware of this responsibility: We have a clear idea of the first Neonyt Düsseldorf, a detailed match plan and a great team that will do everything to make it happen.

Mirjam: What are you looking forward to the most when the doors to the first Neonyt in Areal Böhler open on January 28th, 2023?
Ulrike: I’m particularly looking forward to seeing people come together. To see how new (not just business) friendships are made and positive emotions fill the halls more and more… and I can be there!

Thank you for the detailed interview, Ulrike.

All information, exhibitor application, press accreditation for Neonyt Düsseldorf >>>

10 questions. 10 answers: Quick and (not) dirty.

Your absolute favorite look (on you!)?
Pants, jacket, stylish leather jacket, scarf. Turtleneck in winter. I’m a big fan of sporty elegance. I’ve always stayed true to this style.

When does your work make you happy?
When I can win people over to what I do with my emotion.

What are you better at than others?
I’m always working on a solution and I won’t stop until I’ve been able to implement that solution.

What are you not good at?
Sitting idle and waiting.

What advice would you give your 18 year old self?
Do everything the same again. Professionally as well as privately.

What do you draw energy from?
From professional successes together with my team and above all from evenings together and fulfilling conversations with my children (daughter 25, son 23)

What is your favourite meal?
Lamb fillet with fried potatoes and rocket salad. I also like to cook it myself.

And what is your favorite holiday destination?
As a total ski fanatic (and qualified ski instructor) I love to travel in the snow. Having spent a lot of time in Kitzbühel during my childhood and youth, I still love this area today.

The last piece of clothing you bought?
It was pants from Cambio and last weekend an alpaca sweater with a matching scarf from the sustainable brand Like a Bird from Herford.

The best advice you’ve ever received?
It came from my father: child, be positive about it. Everything has it’s time. That’s why I’m very positive.

*NEONYT licensed by Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH is the official name of the new format on the Rhine. A little bulky in daily business. Since this is the only Neonyt license in Germany, confusion is almost impossible. Neonyt Düsseldorf, on the other hand, is a little easier on the lip/keyboard. We therefore ask for your understanding that we used the short version Neonyt in the interview or, in the case of relevant distinguishing moments, Neonyt Düsseldorf.

**Good to know: IGEDO – founded in 1949 by the Kronen entrepreneurial family from Düsseldorf as an interest group for women’s outerwear, is now once again 100 percent family-owned. The trade fair organizer is known for its outstanding expertise in the fashion sector: CPD Collection premieres Düsseldorf back then, Fashion Rooms (emerging from the Gallery formats, the follow-up formats of CPD) and Shoes Düsseldorf today are just a few of the formats that the company successfully handles and contributes to the fact that Düsseldorf became the order location it was again. 
You can read the entire Igedo history here >>>