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The big debate at Heimtextil 2023

Adrian Wilson

Underlining the complexity of sustainability and the diversity of approaches that can be taken.

11th January 2023

Adrian Wilson
 |  Frankfurt, Germany


Diverse approaches to sustainable transformation were discussed during the opening press conference of Heimtextil 2023 in Frankfurt on Tuesday (January 10th), with recognition of the many challenges facing the home and contract textiles industry – but also new opportunities.

With 2,400 exhibitors from more than 120 countries, Heimtextil 2023 is showcasing many products and concepts aiming to demonstrate that scalable and sustainable innovations are not a contradiction in terms.

“Over the next four days, Heimtexil is the place where supply chains will be rethought, circular approaches experienced and sustainable innovations condensed,” said Detlef Braun, member of the executive board of Messe Frankfurt. “Trade shows are a business model with impact for global partnerships and for the environment.”

Ocean Safe biodegradable polyester display at the Neutex stand. © A.Wilson

“Long-term collaborations with trusted suppliers are important on the path to transformation,” added Olaf Schmidt, Messe Frankfurt’s vice-president of textiles and textile technologies. “Sustainability can only be achieved through close cooperation. That is why, together with the United Nations Office for Partnerships and the Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network, we are placing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the centre of our global textile trade shows. Our Texpertise Network also provides targeted impetus and promotes new partnerships.”

Textiles Matter

The impressive Textiles Matter display at Heimtextil 2023 has been put together by FranklinTill and its director Caroline Till emphasised that the foundation for establishing circular supply chains for products is laid during product development.

“This requires conscious decisions at the beginning of the design process and recognising waste as a resource,” she said, stressing the importance of collaborations between different disciplines – from young designers to material engineers. “Understanding where materials come from, how they are processed, and where they end up has a huge impact on the environment. With Textiles Matter we aim to help buyers and manufacturers better understand the potential for circularity.”

Karupannya Rangpur put together its own stand with components from the local IKEA and will reuse it at future Heimtextil shows. © A.Wilson

“It’s time to change not just narratives, but mindsets through whole-systems thinking,” suggested Anabel Ternès von Hattburg, futurologist and executive director of the Berlin-based International Institute for Sustainability Management. “This requires new evaluation criteria.”

The discussion became quite animated during questions from the audience on the role of brands and their responsibility for making significant new demands on their supply chains without fully acknowledging the additional costs. The debate also touched on the role of developed countries in providing greater assistance to other parts of the world in the transition to sustainable practices.

The one-hour Green Tours being led by independent sustainability expert Bernd Müller at the show also underline the complexity of sustainability and the diversity of approaches that can be taken.

Companies range from Germany’s Neutex, which is exploiting the latest biodegradable polyester to come out of Switzerland –  Ocean Safe’s naNea – to the Bangladesh enterprise Karupannya Rangpur, which is providing skills and a living to 20,000 people with a hand-crafted portfolio of products based on natural fibres such as jute and the abundant local water hyacinth.

The certifiers exchange in the Green Village within Heimtextil also encourages buyers to think about sustainability in all its aspects, since certification guarantees not only origin and quality levels, but also proof that a product meets social and ecological standards.

Heimtextil is so far proving an optimistic start to 2023 and signalling the welcome full return to trade fair interaction and the positive exchange of ideas.

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