International Relations

The arrival of a German trade fair on Spanish soil has local organizers on high alert.

MADRID — Word that Berlin’s trendy fashion event, Bread & Butter, is coming to Barcelona is old news by now. Instead, the talk has shifted to what Spanish trade show organizers are doing about it.

Flaque Internacional, organizer of Barcelona’s twice-yearly BCN Fashion Week, took a surgical approach to the competition by canceling September’s edition of BCN Showrooms, the week’s traditional trade event. Although the Pasarela Gaudi catwalk presentations have more clout and remain scheduled for Sept. 19-22 at the Barcelona fairgrounds’ Pabellon Z6, it’s a clear indication that the Catalan capital’s fashion week is on shaky ground.

According to figures released by Flaque Internacional, February’s runway shows drew 31,000 spectators — down 7,000 from the September 2004 edition —and 900 journalists. However, an industry observer called the figures “exaggerated.”

Paco Flaque, director, always has maintained Barcelona is a requisite on the global fashion circuit. With the advent of Bread & Butter’s first Barcelona-based edition, Flaque has chosen to take the high road.

“Even though we have had to modify our program, Bread & Butter is not a threat to local fashion fairs, quite the contrary,” he said. “It is an honor that Berlin organizers have selected Barcelona.”

Of the trade show market in general, he concluded: “Trade fairs are shrinking; they’re becoming more selective and, in my opinion, they are destined to disappear.”

Bread & Butter will hold court July 8-10 in the Barcelona fairgrounds, and Berlin organizers say 15,000 visitors are expected to take in upward of 500 exhibitors of women’s and men’s apparel and accessories. The roster includes Spanish brands such as Custo Barcelona and Camper, neither of which is a regular in official Spanish fairs.

Pola Iglesias, director of SIMM, Madrid’s biannual ready-to-wear show, said she is not worried about the imminent German competition “but it will keep us on our toes. We are making every effort to listen to the sector. At the moment, we detect that SIMM vendors want to see more international buyers, particularly from Latin America, Eastern Europe and Arab countries, and the U.S.”

SIMM has responded to these demands with targeted marketing efforts conducted through Spanish trade offices abroad. “For instance, at the CPM [Moscow fair] in Russia, where Spanish clothing exports have doubled in the last two years, we are distributing promotional materials and invitations to the Madrid show in Russian,” Iglesias said.

This story first appeared in the May 25, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Although, according to Iglesias, SIMM’s biggest challenge is to attract prestigious, high-end vendors, the show remains strong. “Maybe there are lesser-known brands [at SIMM] but we have exhibitor and buyer fidelity, clearly defined organization and quality services,” she said.

SIMM is Europe’s second-largest apparel fair after Dusseldorf’s CPD. The recent edition totaled 1,100 exhibitors, including 53 from seven Latin American countries — the largest participation in the fair’s 26-year history and a 14 percent hike over the previous February. Vendors from 43 countries spread over roughly 409,000 square feet in six pavilions of the Juan Carlos I fairgrounds.

Traffic rose marginally to 31,666 visitors, including 3,059 foreigners — 75 fewer than last winter’s edition. Major buying groups came from Portugal (57 percent), Italy, France, Greece and Mexico.

Madrid Fashion Week, which includes the trade fair and Pasarela Cibeles runway shows, is scheduled for Sept. 2-8 in the fairgrounds. Cibeles’ budget has grown by about 17 percent over September 2004 — to $4.5 million at current exchange. “We pay for everything — hair, makeup, stylists, models — all the designers have to do is bring their collections,” said director Cuca Solana.

Although the calendar is not finalized, she anticipates 24 runway shows featuring 28 designers, including veterans Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Miguel Palacio, Jesus del Pozo, Elio Berhanyer and two newcomers, Madrid-based Carmen March and Anke Schloder. According to Solana, the future of Cibeles lies in finding and promoting emerging talent.

Solana also oversees a duo of fashion-related exhibits that traditionally coincide with Madrid Fashion Week. On tap in September is an exhibit that includes garments and accessories made from processed pineapple leaves. The exhibition will be held in the Casa de Vaca Cultural Center in Madrid’s Retiro Park. A second exhibit, this one of vintage posters featuring fashion-related items, will be housed in Puerta Toledo.

Modacalzado, Spain’s twice-yearly shoe fair, held in tandem with the Iberpiel leather goods show, is scheduled for Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in the Madrid fairgrounds. For the first time, the show will kick off on a Thursday and run through Saturday, rather than the Friday-through-Sunday schedule of previous shows.

Attendance at Madrid’s International Leather Week, held in early April, climbed 7 percent to 21,498, including a 12 percent increase in foreigners to 3,304. “There has been a consistent increase in vendors and visitors,” director Felix Perez-Fajardo said. “I see more of the same for the September edition.”

Now in its ninth season, Textilmoda, the apparel textiles show, will be held in Pavilion 7 of the Madrid fairgrounds Sept. 29-Oct. 1. According to Perez-Fajardo, that time frame is a competitive advantage, as it falls before Premiere Vision in Paris.

Vendor numbers and exhibition space are expected to remain the same as the March edition, when there were 270 vendors in les than 6,000 square feet. Last season’s visitor tally dropped to 3,209, mainly from the Galicia and Cataluna regions of Spain, and Portugal. Perez-Fajardo blamed the dip in visitors on bad weather conditions.

Textilmoda also will continue its collaboration with the Paris-based fashion agency Nelly Rodi, to help spot trends, colors and textures through fabric displays, samples and social-marketing guides. “All the international textile trends will be right here at the fair,” he concluded.