BERLIN — Spring-summer 2006 got off to a quiet start in Germany as trade fairs in Berlin and Düsseldorf attracted fewer visitors than last year, especially from abroad.For the first time, a scheduling conflict created an overlap between Bread & Butter and the Premium shows here, which were held from July 22 to 24, and the CPD trade fair in Düsseldorf, held July 24 to 26. The marathon might have been a plus for foreign buyers wanting to shop both cities in one long weekend, but many buyers skipped Germany entirely, joining the 45,000 who opted to attend Bread & Butter's Barcelona debut early in July.The success of Barcelona cast a shadow over Berlin this season, stealing much of the hype and traffic. Bread & Butter Berlin clocked in 26,000 trade visitors (compared with 34,000 last July), 60 percent of whom came from Germany, compared with 49 percent a year before. Premium reported 12,000 visitors, compared with 12,500 the previous year, and a 50-50 domestic-foreign breakdown, though many exhibitors still complained of light traffic. So did participants at CPD in Düsseldorf, where attendance was placed at 44,000, down from 48,000 in August 2004, and 55,000 in summer 2003.Nevertheless, even if "Berlin has lost some of the glamour," as Bread & Butter chief Karl-Heinz Müller acknowledged, exhibitors showing at the key Berlin venues underscored the importance of the German market for their business. And, as Müller noted, "We were told by the majority they could work quietly at last.""The serious people are here," commented Tessa Koops, creative director of Daite, a Dutch novelty coats range that showed at Milk & Honey, the fledgling women's-only fashion sector at Bread & Butter. "Business has been OK. More people would have been better for the atmosphere, and there aren't as many people hanging outside, because the weather is bad. But the overall vibe is still positive," she said.Daite's decorative coats featuring embroidery on cotton twill, batik or retro-tourist prints, rhinestone buttons on gold and a lot of inner detailing reflected one of the show's two main women's wear trends: feminine, flirtatious, colorful and highly detailed looks with luxurious accents.Oilily, a children's and women's wear label also from the Netherlands, said the collection was "well-placed" at Milk & Honey to reach German retailers, an important focus for the company's expanded women's wear collection. "The whole [German] market is difficult, but we're growing," said Sven Simonsen, director of Oilily Germany. "We have a niche product, and specialty stores are clearly looking for more color, which is good for us. Plus, on the consumer side, women want to dress more individually and there's a demand for more creative single pieces. And our collection is all about playful, feminine items," from floral appliquéd, printed and/or patched skirts, tops, jackets and dresses to embellished bags and belts.The second trend to surface here was a cleaner and more graphic look — a style many link to Scandinavia. "People are getting tired of all those useless details everyone's had and things are getting a lot cleaner again," said Markus Klossek, president of Aemkei, a men's and women's contemporary sportswear firm now based here. "Women's [fashion] is about cleanliness and a crisp fit for spring. Even the younger customer is no longer trying to look too messed up," he said. Aemkei showed at both Bread & Butter and Premium, and Klossek said, "Altogether, the fairs are quite good. There's been a bit of selection. The people we need for our business are here. As for the others, they just used to hang around. It's better this way." Premium's new digs in an old postal freight station in central Berlin won kudos for its spacious layout and branded mix. "Premium's been super," stated Andreas Feldenkirchen, owner of the two Feldenkirchen multilabel specialty stores in Hamburg. "There's been a lot of denim shown; Rogan and Adriano Goldschmied are my personal favorites," he said. "The whole look is getting more dressed-up: always jeans, but worn, perhaps, with a little blazer."Feldenkirchen added that "sexy dresses are going to be a huge theme for spring, and skirts will continue to be important. They sold out 100 percent this season.""We did very well, and we're doing well in general," reported Marianne Girardi, manager of Movimento Accessories, London. "The tunnel in January was busier, but we love it here [in the station]. It's bigger, and we have more space to show. Plus, Germany is a good market," she said.However, she noted that Sunday was very quiet, "and I don't think it's because it's the last day, but rather because of Düsseldorf." Indeed, more than a few empty stands at Premium — cleared out early so that the collections could be moved to their Düsseldorf showrooms — underscored the problems the current overlap in show dates posed to brands and agents without double sample collections. Düsseldorf houses more than 700 showrooms, and CPD has always marked the kickoff of an eight- to 10-week order-writing period by the many higher-priced collections presenting in showrooms there. That did not change this season, though showroom traffic on Kaiserswerther Strasse and in the new harbor area was also a bit quieter than in the past, according to some companies. That did not hold for all firms, however. "We've never had such a strong Saturday," declared Jacqueline Sefranek, manager of Bogner Jeans, "and Sunday was hell. We're definitely going to write a plus this season. It's just a question of how much."As the name implies, the key product of Bogner Jeans is denim, "but with sportswear around it. And we were a bit more fashion-oriented this season, which people clearly understood. We're not just in the sports and classic box anymore."Meanwhile, over at the Düsseldorf fairgrounds, CPD met with mixed response. One exhibitor, who requested anonymity, described the show as "disappointing, in terms of what's here. We're personally doing well, but we don't see enough of our strong competitors at the show. It's clear that Düsseldorf remains the place for women's fashion, but the fair itself lacks critical mass."CPD has now been concentrated into nine halls, one given over to the contracting fair, Global Fashion; another to the early shoe fair, PreGDS, and two to accessories. The fair's traditional core segment — moderately priced women's wear — was patchy, at best. Moderate ranges that did show, however, were generally satisfied."All the big players were here, and we had good discussions. Everyone is feeling confident and there's something positive in the air," said Claudia Andresen, marketing manager for the German women's wear house Hirsch.Hirsch got strong response to ethnic looks such as embroidered Indian skirts and tunics for flash deliveries in September/October, and predicted gypsy looks would be a top seller for spring. Denim is still going strong in prints or with colorful stitching and embroidery, Andresen reported. Hall 14, or the Fashion Gallery, was hailed a success by the fair organization and participants. "It's the future," declared Frank Hartmann, new chief executive of the Igedo Co., organizer of CPD. The Fashion Gallery was home to more upmarket brands, several maintaining a double fair and showroom presence, as well as so-called avant-garde and/or New Age collections. There was also a wide selection of complementary accessories. "It's been a long time since I've been back at the fair," said Patrick Kassen, president of the knitwear manufacturer Zucchero, Munich. "With the exception of traffic, I'm very satisfied with the whole package. The whole environment is on target in terms of price level and customers."Kassen said Zucchero was primarily at CPD to win new export customers, "but we've also had contact with old customers we haven't seen for a very long time. It's a good side effect."He said he was "positively surprised" by the acceptance of Zucchero's more extravagant looks, such as very fine-gauge knits with lacy and assymetric floral accents. "I thought they would just be eyecatchers, but they were picked up, as were most of the more arty styles."As the calendar now stands, the Berlin and Düsseldorf shows will again collide in 2006. Bread & Butter Berlin is scheduled for Feb. 3-5, 2006, and CPD for Feb. 5-7, 2006. Premium has not yet committed to a winter show date, noting that Who's Next in Paris is also being held in early February.Bread & Butter's Müller added another possible iron to the fire, with the notion of some sort of Bread & Butter incursion into America. "Our brands have asked us to take them to the U.S. and I think we'd be successful there. And Japan, too. But whereas we launched Barcelona all on our own shoulders, and were relatively welcome there, the U.S. is different. We'd need a very clear commitment [from brands] before starting something there," he said.
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