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Interview

In conversation with Michael Pfeifer from MOOT (Made Out Of Trash): "On Upcycling, Circularity and Made Out Of Trash".

MOOT (Made Out Of Trash) focuses on upcycling, i.e. the complete reuse of textiles that have already been produced. Their mass-produced re-design products are made from 100% discarded textiles, making them by far the most sustainable form of new clothing production. They require fewer production steps overall and produce exclusively in Germany.

1. would you like to explain briefly how MOOT was founded?

The founding process of MOOT has gone through several steps. In the summer of 2019, during a vacation together, my co-founder Nils Neubauer and I philosophized for the first time about what is now called MOOT. During his training as a fashion designer at the Lette-Verein Berlin (graduation July 2020), it quickly became clear to Nils that a "business as usual" in the fashion industry is no longer sustainable. Clothing has become a throwaway and disposable commodity for many. Nils did not want and does not want to be a part of this. In the same breath, he told me at the time that he was producing "new" clothing from existing materials - in other words, he was upcycling. As a business economist, I knew little about upcycling, but all the more about finance and business models. Nils' conviction to make the fashion industry more sustainable and to make upcycling suitable for the masses excited me directly. In spring 2020, the vacation idea of two best friends turned into MOOT GbR. Since April of this year, we have been operating as MOOT Upcycling GmbH.

2 You founded your company in April 2020, when the first Covid wave had the world firmly in its grip. As a graduate in business administration, how would you describe the last two and a half years since the founding?

The idea for MOOT came before that, of course, but the timing of starting the company was really challenging.

One week after the company was founded, we were initially without textile suppliers due to the lockdown in Germany. But we found solutions to overcome this challenge and came out of the first phase of the crisis stronger. Since then came several Corona waves and lockdowns; now there is war in Ukraine and high inflation. Looking back, we founded into a very difficult time, but we have been able to solve every challenge so far. None of us have a crystal ball, but we still have a clear plan at MOOT for how we want to continue to grow and make upcycling suitable for the masses. Especially considering the general conditions we've faced so far, I'm very happy with our development.

You started with a T-shirt made from old bed linen. Now you sell (over) ten products, from coats to belts, through your own online store. What product category will you be pushing next?

We are extremely proud of the rapid expansion of our product portfolio. After launching many new products recently, we are currently working on new cuts. This year, however, we will launch two to three more product categories for the winter season. I can't reveal details about the new products just yet, though.

The online store was joined by a concept store in Berlin's Ostbahnhof station. How did the collaboration with Deutsche Bahn come about and how did the direct contact with customers influence you?

With the concept store in Berlin's Ostbahnhof and the cooperation with Deutsche Bahn, you can see very well that MOOT is not a conventional fashion label. We seek (and find) contact with the center of society - and what place stands for the center of society as exemplarily as a train station?
Our collaboration with Deutsche Bahn began after we won DB's startup program, the "DB mindbox". In the meantime, a great partnership with DB has also developed out of the competition, which goes far beyond store operations; for example, we were at the GREENTECH Festival together with DB and offer our products in the railroad store.

Direct customer contact in the Concept Store - especially across all social groups - is extremely valuable to us. Based on the direct feedback, we have now released another edit for some of our products. If we were purely online, this feedback would not be so easy to get.

5 Your concept is based on upcycling textiles. How do you rate Germany as a fashion location in terms of sustainability and circularity?

The fashion industry is and - if it doesn't change radically - will remain one of the dirtiest industries in Germany. We welcome the fact that more and more fashion companies are now addressing sustainability and circularity, but I miss the final determination here. Since the terms "sustainable" and unfortunately also "upcycling" are used almost inflationary, I am worried that a lot is more greenwashing than real innovation. So far, I see extremely few labels that deal with post-consumer waste. Incidentally, I miss this determination on the other side of the ecosystem as well: sustainability and circularity need to be much stronger criteria when public funding and programs are awarded.
There is still a lot to be done to make the fashion industry sustainable and circular.

We would like to thank Michael Pfeifer for the interview.

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