Yarn & Fiber
NILIT presented "Meet the Champion" at ISPO 2018 in Munich
On the evening of January 29th in the Brandnew Village at ISPO Munich, leading Nylon manufacturer NILIT welcomed journalists, international media, their customers, specialists, opinion leaders and celebrities to meet the very successful and beautiful 32-year-old Marie Lang, the twelve-time undefeated world champion in kickboxing who is also a very talented fashion designer and fashion model, as well as a role model for young women to seek success in anything they do. International broadcast journalist Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht led the interview with Ms. Lang, who was also joined onstage by Pierluigi Berardi, NILIT Vice President of Global Marketing. Below are some edited highlights of the interview.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: Pierluigi, you are based near Milan, Italy. NILIT was founded 40 years ago in Israel, but now you're a global player?
Pierluigi Berardi: Yes, NILIT was founded 1969 by Ennio Levi, an Italian entrepreneur, who moved to Israel to establish the company in the northern part of the country. About 40 years ago we started with one plant in Israel, now we have three more all around the globe. One is in Brazil, one in the U.S., another is in China. In the last probably ten years, we have become a global fiber manufacturer, a global player. Now we are the biggest Nylon 6.6 producer in the world.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: I imagine, all of the people watching are experts in sport articles, but maybe they are not experts in fiber technology. Please explain to us what is nylon in general, and Nylon 6.6 especially.
Pierluigi Berardi: Nylon 6.6 is a manmade fiber, invented in 1930. In the beginning, Nylon was created to replace silk in ladies’ stockings. Now, you can find nylon in apparel, sportswear, ready-to-wear and many other applications where its special characteristics like softness, durability, and lightness are really important.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: We probably see a lot of NILIT’s products here, at ISPO, without knowing. I guess NILIT nylon fibers are in shorts, shirts, jackets, everywhere, but they carry another brand on the label?
Pierluigi Berardi: Absolutely. We have many partners exhibiting here. We are very proud every time we see a garment at ISPO, the most important international global exhibition for the sports industry, bringing out the very best in our fiber products.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: What I heard from all the experts and sales persons is that there is major development going on in the apparel scene and in the world of fashion, that the consumers are more and more defining what they want, what they need. Some people are calling a consumer revolution. From your perspective, is that a good development or a bad one?
Pierluigi Berardi: This is a challenge, a big challenge. More than talking about customers, we need to talk about consumers. Until a few years ago, all power was in hands of brands, or in hands of fabric manufacturer. Today it changed totally to the consumers. Why? This happened a bit through the Internet, social media, a bit from their changing habits. They know what they want, and the way they want to be served. This is the big challenge for us. On one side for us as a fiber producer, as well as for our partners, like brands and retailers, or the fabric mills.
But, within these challenges, we need to be ready to capture the opportunity presented by the fact that consumers know more and more what they want, they know more and more how they want to dress and, we are able to intercept these demands. That's where we will make our success.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: Who is this new generation of consumer? How are they? How old are they? What impact do they have?
Pierluigi Berardi: I myself belong to Generation Y. The consumers we are talking about are Millennials and Generation Z, 35 years and under. These consumers are very knowledgeable, they exchange though social media, they enjoy the experience of wearing certain garments, because wearing garments is for them not only to cover the body, it’s also an occasion to share a picture, to share a selfie across social media. On top of it, they are very demanding about the garments they wear. They are looking for garments that deliver more than simply dressing, they are really looking for performance.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: Probably, social media changes the habits of the consumers as well. They can check out immediately the good ones, the bad ones, what is fashionable, what is not, the bad critics, the good critics. This is also a challenge for you. There are no mistakes allowed?
Pierluigi Berardi: Yes, there is a single word that can be used — transparency. Transparency is key. We can't lie to the consumer. They know what they want. We need to be there and really catch the opportunity they are offering to us. Social media, on the other hand, offers a tremendous opportunity, because you can get to know your consumers better than ever, you can identify your target. You can identify what your brand stands for, what position it has in their minds. If done in a proper way, for me, that really the crucial part of adopting the right social media strategy.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: Ladies and Gentleman now please watch out! I call to the ring: 176 cm tall, 60kg light, 31 years young, 31 fights done, 31 fights won! The undefeated world champion in kickboxing from Munich, in Munich, Marie Lang! Was that kind of okay, Marie?
Marie Lang: Yes, perfect!
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: I really have to admit I love these boxing announcements. They are great! I'm just a cheap copy. Thanks very much for being here, Marie, and for bringing the world champion trophy. Can you hold it up a little bit? I know it's heavy, but…
Marie Lang: It's really, very heavy. But I am used to carrying it – I have 12 of them at home.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: Marie, what does it feel like to be the best in what you do, in kickboxing?
Marie Lang: It's incredible, it's a big dream for me and it was such a big moment at my first fight, at my first world champion fight. Yes, unbelievable.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: It wasn't only once that you became world champion, but how many times?
Marie Lang: I am 12 times a world champion in kickboxing.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: All the other women you are fighting against, they train as much as you, they are as fit as you, what makes the difference? The difference to win 31 fights out of 31, and some by technical knockout. What makes the difference?
Marie Lang: Each time it's a big challenge. My opponents are always super prepared. It's hard every time, you have to build yourself up again and again, and it's definitely not easy.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: What makes exactly the difference between you and the others? Is it mental, psychological, your kind of training?
Marie Lang: Naturally, all these are very important. My opponents are very good, otherwise, they are not allowed to challenge me to fight. They also must have a certain rank. In the fight, in that moment, I just have to be stronger. When I realize, okay, I've discovered a weakness with my respondent, I have to be better. This strategy has always worked out well. But, the difference between me and the other is not just about being strong in body, it's also about being strong in my mind, always having the right tactic and strong will to win at the end. It's a mixture between body work and mental strength.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: These mental abilities, do you also profit from them in your daily life and in your professional life as a fashion designer?
Marie Lang: Yes, of course. In 2003, when I started kickboxing, I was 16 years old. At that time, I was a very shy girl. During the years, I learned so much from sports in general, especially from kickboxing. That changed my life. On the other side, there is my job as a fashion designer. I love it! I love to work with fabrics since I was a very young girl. I always created and stitched my own clothes. Then when I studied in Munich, I had to be focused to get both training and study “under one head”. Today I am a professional kickboxer and a fashion designer.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: Pierluigi, she said "I'm a shy girl". When you see her in the ring, you can't believe that she is shy. She becomes a beast. Marie is working as a fashion designer with her own sports collection made of NILIT fibers. How did you both get together?
Pierluigi Berardi: It was through a common business partner. For years, we have worked closely with Thomas Lutz and his company Edmund Lutz GmbH & Co KG, who just developed and launched with Marie her first women´s sports collection “Royal 13.” NILIT is the official yarn supplier. We provide a series of special fibers which deliver a certain level of performance that makes these garments really unique from a performance point of view.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: Here in the background, we see some outfits of the new collection now. Marie, you are one hand a fighting machine, on the other a dream woman. Is it 50/50 of your personality, or do you have a priority? More fighting machine, or more lady?
Marie Lang: I think at this very moment, more lady, which you can see from my high heels. In general, though, I am 50/50. In everyday life they call me an angel. Privately I'm friendly and accommodating. In the ring, of course, you have to be tough. You cannot be nice if you want to win. But I’m happy that I do not look like a beast!
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: You mentioned that you were interested in fashion already as a child. You were sewing, you were really playing with dolls, and then eventually the boxing gloves came along?
Marie Lang: Yes, I sewed things with needle and thread that I wore. Later, when I was 16, the boxing came into the picture.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: Marie, you are definitely not a Barbie doll, but you sometimes wear pink clothes while you´re is boxing. Is it important for you to look good while you fight the girls and demolish them? Marie Lang: Yes, it's really very important for me to wear nice clothes, when I'm in the ring, or in training. I'm a professional kickboxer, but I'm also a woman. I love nice clothes, they are necessary to feel good.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: Your first collection is called Royal 13, partly in collaboration with NILIT fibers. How is that working?
Marie Lang: I had the first contact with the company Edward Lutz about a year ago. They have been working with NILIT for years and years. My intention was to bring out my first women´s sports collection, “Royal 13.” To realize my dream made me very happy, especially because Lutz and his team are very experienced in stretch base layer active wear. For me as both, a fashion designer and an athlete, it's very important to have great partners and work on a high reliable level. It fit perfectly that NILIT worked with the Edwin Lutz company. They both are market leaders. I, as a world champion, am a leader too.
So it's great for me to work together with such incredible companies and create my collection on a high performance level with both of them. From sports I know how important performance fibers are and that´s what I want to add to my collection.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: In this context, the expression "It fits like a glove" is apropos here. Marie, your collection is mostly for active women?
Marie Lang: Yes, active women, not necessarily just for kickboxing. I address women who love all kinds of sports.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: Marie, 20 or 30 years ago, parents would not encourage their young daughters to do fighting sports, martial arts or kickboxing. Clearly this has changed, because kickboxing has an amazing popularity now. How do you explain that?
Marie Lang: Kickboxing has become very popular, for both men and women. There are more and more women who really enjoy what were traditionally “male sports.” It is a great sport to keep fit, for the whole body, as well as to build self-confidence and inner strength. Since I started at 16, I have developed a very different “charisma” through kickboxing. That has been very important to me, and the appeal of this sport, too.
Bernd-Uwe Gutknecht: Would you recommend to everybody here at ISPO to start with kickboxing, or at least to try it?
Marie Lang: Yes, yes, of course. It's a great thing. All of you are welcome to pass by my training center at Frankfurter Ring, Munich. It is a great sport for everyone, no matter what age you are. Everybody should definitely try it. Also, I think it´s a great sport for girls and young women. They become stronger, physically as mentally. I realized I became a role model in the last few years when girls started asking me what to do to feel stronger in their life and decisions. Often they feel resistance from their environment and a kind of head wind because kickboxing is still a “male” sport. I show them they it´s possible to do a tough, strong male sport and still be a feminine woman.