RawAssembly’s Sustainable Trade Show: Creating Community for Sourcing Raw Materials

© RawAssembly/Lenzing

From the 28-29 October 2019, Melbourne, Australia, hosted RawAssembly’s second sustainable material showcase. As Australia’s leading international sourcing trade show for responsible and sustainable materials, the event catered to luxury, mid and commercial price point brands. The event content presented to a broad spectrum of industry professionals, from chief executives to sourcing managers, designers and start ups. Showcasing fabrics, materials, packaging solutions, fibres and ethical manufacturers, the event influenced levels across the supply chain to encourage and facilitate circular design.

As a fur and leather free event, this trade show sought to promote animal welfare and offer alternative materials to replace those that harm both the environment and animals.

Sponsored by Lenzing, the event was a collaboration between RawAssembly and the brand which provides fibres for fashion, home textiles, sports and outdoor wear, protection wear, cosmetic and hygiene products and high-tech applications.

Combining material showcases with industry speakers the RawAssembly event celebrated the principles of diversity and adaptability when designing to reconsider waste, apply safe and circular material choices to projects and innovate within sustainable design. Their Fabric showcase was a boutique event within the RawAssembly portfolio, providing tangible, visual inspiration for creative circular outputs.

© RawAssembly/Lenzing

Describing the unique approach of their event, RawAssembly explained, “We aim to break the mould of the standard tradeshow and create an experience that empowers its visitors to affect change…RawAssembly is a sustainable raw material, circular design and ethical manufacturing event, where Industry come to source the latest innovative fibres, fabrics and materials for their fashion supply chain and retail environments.”

Guiding principles

Founder and CEO of RawAssembly Thea Speechley outlines meaningful impact across the industry as one of her ambitions, by showcasing only sustainable options to manufacturers whilst promoting creativity. Describing their ambitions further, RawAssembly stated:

“At the heart of RawAssembly are two key strategies to create an impact in the fashion and textiles industry. Firstly, the development of responsible-sourcing opportunities in only sustainable textiles and sustainable textile business practices. The second is to educate and shape the ethical values and attitudes of the visitors and exhibitors that participate in RawAssembly™ events.”

Collaboration is another founding principle of theirs, with the uniting of stakeholders under a shared vision of a more sustainable future being a strong focus. By sharing contacts and making connections between suppliers, manufacturers and designers, a circular economy within the fashion and textile industry was encouraged and created at the trade show. A network of like-minded people is evolving under the guidance of RawAssembly, and its positive expansion is inevitable.

© RawAssembly/Lenzing

Embracing the knowledge that every brand and individual is on their own journey to better, more sustainable practice, RawAssembly embraces development and the learning and teaching process. In acknowledging the time needed to enhance methods and improve practice, they support development through research, collaboration and developing brand specific steps and approaches to sustainable design. The building of a community is both inherent and imperative to RawAssembly’s belief system and their ability to affect change. The RawAssembly showcase facilitated the creation of this community.


In order to showcase at RawAssembly, exhibitors had to adhere to a strict selection process, which ensured true transparency, and adherence to global certifications. Fibres, fabrics and materials were selected to be shown in accordance with RawAssembly’s raw material criteria, that looks for low environmental impacts and circular values.

Amongst the many varied suppliers showcased at RawAssembly, Südwolle Group presented, as well as Full Circle Fibres. MTK Australia, a manufacturer of knitted fabrics joined the show to present their sustainable manufacturing methods, as well as Diyang Merino, who describe their role as providing circular design “from sheep to shop”.

Industry speakers

Speaking on the Responsible Sourcing Stage at the show was Kit Willow, founder of KITX. As a brand, KITX sources every material and component with an environmental conscience. Committed to setting an ethical and sustainable example to the designer fashion world, their collections offer style whilst supporting natural eco systems.

Harold Weghorst of Lenzing contributed to the talks, explaining Lenzing’s position in the Australian Market and their collaborative work with RawAssembly. Carmen Hijosa, founder and Creative Director of Ananas Anam, Pinatex London spoke of the value of plant-based materials and the importance of understanding material choices. Not the only fruit based fibre supplier to present at the event, Orange Fibre was also showing their patented sustainable fibres made from citrus juice by-products. Made out of waste from the food industry, both Pinatex and Orange Fibre combine the Food Industry outputs with the ingredients of the Textiles Industry- circular design values that resonate thoroughly with the principles of Thea Speechley’s RawAssembly mantra.

Throughout the two day event, RawAssembly were also joined by academics. Edwina Ehrman, Historian and curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum for the highly successful Fashioned from Nature exhibition spoke to visitors. Focussing on re-designing both materials and products with multiple lifetimes in mind, Professor Xungai Wang, of Deakin University, spoke, as well as Catherine McMahon of Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials.

© RawAssembly/Lenzing

With such a varied combination of speakers, this unique trade show provided the opportunity to hear from industry leading experts and influencers of fibre, design and manufacturing- an inspiring springboard into sustainable steps forward.

The Raw Edit

The Raw Edit is an online resource on the RawAssembly website which is constantly added to as developments in industry arise. Working towards achieving their aim of educating and encouraging designers to source responsibly, the platform brings together resources and contacts for companies that are “making good materials even better”. From an educational perspective, this is incredibly valuable. With areas to explore innovations and properties of sustainable fibres, as well as industry reports into biodiversity, plastics and microfibers and packaging and shipping materials, the RawAssembly website is a hub for its ever expanding sustainable community. The RawAssembly trade show brought together specialists featured within The Raw Edit to communicate their approaches and contributions to sustainable research, innovations and manufacturing. The chance to hear these speakers furthered the initiative of RawAssembly to encourage new thinking, ensuring that sustainable initiatives are not only inspiring but are actually attainable.

© RawAssembly/Lenzing

For the knitwear industry, and indeed the fashion and textile industry as a whole, RawAssembly is a brilliant resource. It is possible to sign up to the RawAssembly newsletter for the latest up to date industry developments, as well as access to the full breadth of their resources. With a Sourcing Directory coming soon online, RawAssembly is constantly evolving, and its utilisation by an ever-expanding community of industry professionals could empower a new generation of circular design and positive sustainable change for the fashion industry.

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Beth Ranson is a knitwear designer, textile researcher and lecturer in Textiles. As a skilled knitter, she designs and produces fabrics for a variety of design contexts. Motivated by problem solving in sustainable design contexts, Beth occupies the space between knitted textile design and sustainability theory: an interesting space to be. With a strong focus on the preservation of creativity in design, Beth believes that sustainability need not be perceived as a limitation in design. Inspired by her on going research into what ‘sustainable practice’ can mean, Beth takes note of academic theories within the realms of aspirational goals and applies this to the actual making process, working from ‘the bottom up’. She intervenes in current systems for textile product life cycles and seeks to inspire and facilitate educated and responsible change.