BERLIN — German trade fair organizers are striving to balance the demands of consistency and change in an increasingly competitive and pressured market.
Domestic market conditions remain difficult, with consolidation continuing in both the manufacturing and retail sectors. Hard hit by dwindling consumer spending and a weak economy, the remaining players are faced with tighter-than-ever budgets and limited manpower on one hand, and a dizzying array of shows, venues and order-writing dates on the other.
In these times of uncertainty, there’s a palpable yearning for trade show stability, continuity and the comfort of the known among both buyers and exhibitors, countered by a yen for newness, innovation, inspiration and surprise, especially on the part of non-German retailers and apparel producers.
Bread & Butter’s surprise announcement that the show was going to Barcelona, however, caused a major uproar. Instrumental in turning Berlin into a hot fashion fair destination, Bread & Butter featured about 500 men’s and women’s urban streetwear and cutting-edge brands in January and drew more than 40,000 visitors to Berlin’s Spandau Kabelwerks in spite of tightened entry requirements. But with Barcelona in the offing, could it be that Berlin is already passe?
According to Bread & Butter, no. Although the logistics will be grueling, Bread & Butter is staging a season kick-off with about 600 brands in Barcelona July 8-10 and then a second show in Berlin with approximately the same number — but not necessarily the same brands — July 22-24. Bread & Butter will call the vintage halls of the Barcelona Fira home for the next two years. The Berlin Spandau location is secured through 2008.
“The question was how to keep the show exciting,” said Bread & Butter president Karl-Heinz Muller, referring to the Barcelona move. The idea was to inspire buyers by allowing them to experience different cultures, as well as to tap into a new retail and manufacturing audience.
According to Bread & Butter spokeswoman Danielle de Bie, “We feel we can reach a lot of additional retailers from France and southern Europe [in Barcelona], and there will be more brands from southern Europe there because it’s easier now for them to come. We see Barcelona and Berlin as two strong platforms,” she said.
“The content of Bread & Butter isn’t changing. It’s a directional platform for contemporary fashion culture, but it’s important to be close to the target group,” de Bie continued. “In the end, by moving and changing, we’ll help Bread & Butter remain a consistently successful platform.”
The show expects about a 50 to 60 percent overlap in exhibitors at the Berlin edition, which will also see a
further evolution of Milk & Honey, the women’s-only show within a show. Creative coordinator Mirella Abadi is aiming for a roster of 60 to 100 international designer collections for what she describes as a “fashion/art hybrid.”
“We’ll be concentrating on fashion, of course, from innovative, experimental and imaginative designers, but will also integrate complementary art, video and photography much more than ever before,” Abadi said.
The Premium Shows, now comprising Premium Plus, Premium, Salon Berlin and Premium Fire, are getting a new look and location at the next edition in Berlin, July 22-24. The shows attracted 15,000 buyers last season.
The most exclusive segment, Premium Plus, is moving into the original Premium tunnel below Potsdamer Platz, which will be lightened, brightened and spruced up to reflect the designer profile. “It’s time to go in a new direction,” said Premium co-founder Anita Bachelin. “The tunnel will be more sophisticated and glamorous, with a little of the roughness removed while keeping the edge.”
The rest of the Premium shows are moving into an old postal railway station at Luckenwalder Strasse, a short ride from Potsdamer Platz. Here, Premium’s exhibitors, expected to reach 450 to 500 total, will have the opportunity to build stands to their own specifications. The maximum allowed space per stand is 1,600 square feet, “and normally those will house four brands,” Bachelin noted. “But it’s about allowing strong brands to present their image and express their creativity, not building castles.”
The new Premium Fire will more clearly focus on premium denim and streetwear, always a key part of the Premium assortment. Meanwhile, Salon Berlin, geared to moderate to high-end feminine and more commercial brands, will get a sharper profile, Bachelin said. The goal of Premium, she added, “is to show retailers a selection of brands we believe in, and to present them in the most open and friendly way possible. We give buyers an opportunity to meet the designers and key sales persons, and show them the crossover, the big picture.”
New to the mix: British designers. “London has become a difficult showplace for many British designers, and the dates are a problem for men’s wear. It’s a fantastic add-on,” Bachelin said. Premium expects about 20 young British designers and collections to participate in the upcoming show, which will feature a total of more than 50 British exhibitiors.
Also in the works is an independent Premium shop, F-95, on Frankfurter Allee, which will function as a kind of showroom for young brands which, in turn, will produce limited editions for the shop.
B-in-Berlin, which premiered at the Berlin fairgrounds last season, expects to double its space to eight halls for the July edition, which runs parallel to Bread & Butter and Premium. The show for midmarket and commercial men’s and women’s wear brands drew about 8,000 visitors in January.
“There will never be one fair for everything again. There must be events for specific target groups,” said Gerald Beck, managing director of B-in-Berlin. But between Berlin’s three main fairs, “the brand portfolio in this city in three days is unbeatable.”
And the momentum is building further as key fashion companies begin to open showrooms in the German capital. “Berlin is the biggest chance for the European fashion industry in the last 30 years, but it’s important to say one has to give Berlin a chance. It still needs a few seasons,” Beck said.
To spice up the more prosaic moderate sector, B-in-Berlin has partnered with the Babelsberg film studios, allowing exhibitors to rent the studios’ props to decorate their stands. “The Babelsberg studio will help give the show more glamour in the form of events and the interior design of the halls,” said Karola Schowe, who heads up women’s wear at B-in-Berlin.
In addition, B-in-Berlin will launch a film award in July. Ten young filmmakers will be selected by a jury and given the means to produce their short films on the theme “Beauty for All,” the fair’s slogan. Visitors can see the films at the fair and vote for their favorite. The winner will be announced at a Saturday night gala.
Eurofashionweek returns to Berlin July 22-24 at Backfabrik with 30 to 50 designers from Russia, the Czech Republic, Vietnam, Japan and elsewhere. However, the show may not go on for the Pariser Platz luxury brands fair, which featured 12 brands and drew 780 visitors last season. The organizer, XXB, who also produces the 19 Place Vendome shows in Paris, has not yet committed to a second edition.
CPD, which remains Germany’s largest trade fair with more than 1,500 exhibitors and 40,000-plus visitors, is nonetheless poised for a major transition. The July 24-26 edition at the Dusseldorf fairgrounds will be the last of its kind.
CPD — or Collections Premieren Dusseldorf — is going back to its roots as a preview of Igedo. A smaller January show focused on German and neighboring retailers will precede February’s Igedo Fashion Week, aimed at both the domestic and export markets.
For the upcoming July show, CPD is continuing to woo major women’s wear brands such as Gerry Weber back to the fairgrounds. The halls are being organized in “visitor circuits” to allow a quick overview of the men’s, women’s and children’s assortments, and will be given a facelift. In addition to art and fashion displays, each hall will feature communications areas spotlighting themes such as beauty, interior design, food, new media and music.
“The most important thing about a fair,” said Igedo managing director Margit Jandali, “is to create a meeting place for the industry and retailers. It’s about seeing the general fashion offer and making new contacts; [the fair] is also an export bridge,” she said. Last winter, 36 percent of the show’s visitors came from outside Germany.
Europe’s largest activewear fair, Ispo, expects to have 1,200 exhibitors at the July 3-5 show in Munich’s new fairgrounds. The emphasis will be on Nordic fitness, running, sports/beachwear and board sports, with summits of experts, athletes and producers organized in the individual sectors.
The parallel event for sports-oriented fashion, Ispovision, will focus on yachting, golf, tennis, sneakers and yoga/wellness in its fourth edition. The show of about 50 companies will include a new American sport-style project, a platform for newcomer brands, many of which will make their European debut at Ispovision.
The juried Munich Fashion Fair WoMan, now in its third season (Aug. 13-16 in Munich Schwabing), has become a key writing event for high-end retailers in German-speaking Europe and the Benelux countries. The 80 exhibitors with about 120 ranges include leading Italian companies Daks, Van Laack, Blue Cult, Filippa K, Edwin Jeans and Red Wing shoes, according to Munich Fashion Fair’s managing director George von Berger.
“We stand for security, continuity and quality in the industry,” von Berger said. The fair organization recently sent out 10,000 questionnaires to retailers, manufacturers and agents to help clarify what the industry wants. “We want to see what the soft points are, and we expect a high response.”