We talked to Nils Neubauer of MOOT, a fashion company that recycle discarded textiles and bring them back into the cycle. Here is what she said about it
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nils Neubauer: I am very well and trying to make the most out of the lockdown during this pandemic. My family is lucky enough not to have been affected by COVID-19 so far. We are currently waiting for our vaccination appointment. However, the fact that the pace of the vaccination campaign is increasing in Germany and all over Europe makes me very confident.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded MOOT.
Nils Neubauer: My co-founder Michael Pfeifer and I founded MOOT in April 2020 – right during the first lockdown in Germany. However, the idea to establish a circular fashion company was already created in 2019. During my studies to become a fashion designer, I realized that I don’t want to be part of an industry responsible for pollution and exploitation. Michael, one of my best friends, is a business graduate. When I first told him about the idea of making new clothes out of old textiles, he was convinced from the start. I believe our combination of fashion and business expertise makes us the perfect team to start MOOT.
MOOT is an acronym for Made Out Of Trash. This means that we have our products made exclusively from discarded textiles. We work with social partners who manufacture our products in Berlin.
How does MOOT innovate?
Nils Neubauer: At MOOT, we have the clear – and maybe extreme – idea to go all-in with upcycling. This means that our products must be entirely made out of already existing materials. As a fashion/ upcycling designer, I, therefore, “limit” myself voluntarily. However, these limitations are a source of creativity. Every time I enter the facilities of our recycling partners to source disposed of products, I generate thousands of product ideas that can be made out of this “trash”.
For MOOT, this approach means that every upcycled product is unique. Right now, we offer six different products such as t-shirts, jackets or trousers. All of these products are made out of disposed of materials such as blankets, bed sheets or old curtains.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Nils Neubauer: Just before the 2nd lockdown in Germany in December 2020, we opened our first shop-in-shop concept at rack’n white, a famous second-hand store in the heart of Berlin.
Due to the lockdown, we, unfortunately, had to move back to a full online shop concept again. All plans to bring MOOT products into retail are on hold for the moment.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Nils Neubauer: In the spring of 2020, when we started the company, the pandemic hit us hard. From one day to another our suppliers for disposed textiles stopped our cooperation. In these turbulent and uncertain weeks, we then had to find new partners. I don’t remember how often our corporation’s requests with textile sorting companies got rejected, but luckily we found a great partner after a few weeks.
What did we learn out of it? The amount of “no’s” does not matter at all. Coping with rejection is something that every startup experiences. We truly believe that resilience is, therefore, one of the key success factors.
What specific tools, software and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Nils Neubauer: As a young company, it was not too complicated for us to switch to remote work. We use Trello, Slack and GSuite for our daily business.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Nils Neubauer: The competition for the consumers’ attention in the fashion industry is very hard. New brands are created every day. At the same time, fast fashion incumbents start to integrate sustainability into their portfolio. Although we appreciate that more companies become more aware of sustainability aspects, we see that greenwashing is becoming a real problem.
True fair fashion companies like Bridge&Tunnel, we do not see as competition but as part of our community. We believe that our 100% upcycling approach, the fact that we produce locally and integrate social partners in our supply chain, will help us become one of the key players in the (sustainable) fashion business in Germany and Europe.
Your final thoughts?
Nils Neubauer: Although the pandemic has impacted many aspects of life in a very negative way, I believe that Corona also accelerated the development of some mega-trends. Digitization and sustainability have gained momentum. Of course, we also expect MOOT to participate in these developments.
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