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Interview: Olaf Schmidt, Vice President Textiles & Textile Technologies

"Sustainability and innovation go hand in hand"

From innovative fibres via technical textiles to sustainable fashion – the Messe Frankfurt Texpertise Network links the leading international textile trade shows. We put three questions to Olaf Schmidt, Vice President Textiles & Textile Technologies.

With the Texpertise Network, Messe Frankfurt provides important stimuli for the entire textile supply chain. What, in your view, are the key cross-sectoral trends and future-oriented themes for the next five years?

We want to live healthier, more sustainable and flexible lives in future. This presents fresh challenges for our modern industry. Technical textiles have to meet new requirements, whether in the auto industry, for wind energy or in the medical field. Here, interdisciplinary thinking is essential for the development of future-oriented innovations. The demand for sustainable and resource-saving alternatives is also mounting. Over the next few years it will become increasingly important that the industry’s top players implement these in their value chains.

There are around 50 events worldwide that focus on innovations in the industry. In your view, which of these are the highlights of the current season?

Sustainability and innovation go hand in hand. Top-flight international companies will be presenting their technical textiles at the Cinte Techtextil China in early September. The global player Lenzing will introduce its new brand VeocelTM, a high-grade botanical fibre made using an environmentally friendly production process, which is compostable and biodegradable. However, in addition to innovative products, there is a demand for holistic concepts. During the Thinkathon that took place during the FashionSustain conference, multidisciplinary teams devised solutions relevant to the industry for the companies that set the challenges, such as Hugo Boss, KPMG and Microsoft HoloLens. These range from an app for a circular wardrobe to concepts for the customer experience and sustainability speed dating – new, interactive ideas that are needed for the future of the textile industry!

You are in charge of Messe Frankfurt’s portfolio of textile trade shows, and of overseeing its ongoing expansion. Where in your view are the largest growth markets right now?

The market for technical textiles is currently growing rapidly in China. This is due to the Belt and Road Initiative, with which China is building up intercontinental trade and infrastructure networks. As a result, the demand for textiles for the buildtech and mobiltech sectors is greater than ever. This development is also reflected at the trade show Cinte Techtextil.

As regards the garment industry and the development of new collections, we can also see a growing interest in Ethiopia across the textile industry. This is in part due to the engagement of the Ethiopian government, which is investing in the garment and textile industry in order to stimulate industrialisation and growth. At the Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week for example, businesses took the opportunity to see first-hand what the production processes are like. Ethiopia will certainly play an important role in the future of the global textile industry.

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