By  on November 23, 2005

The demise of Barcelona Fashion Week signals a changing climate for Spanish trade shows.

BARCELONA — The savage rivalry between Barcelona and Madrid for fashion trade show supremacy has claimed another casualty.

Based on the conclusions of a study it released last month, the Catalan government, or Generalitat, has withdrawn its sponsorship of Barcelona Fashion Week, Pasarela Gaudi. It had traditionally subsidized up to 91 percent of the trade event, worth $8.9 million.

"Barcelona Fashion Week is obsolete and the Gaudi runway shows don't work," said José Luis Nueno, professor of marketing at Barcelona's prestigious business school IESE, who headed the study. "Buyers are dropping out, designers can't use the catwalk as a jumping-off point to increase sales or to internationalize [their brands] and less than 25 percent of the clothes on the runway make it to production. Barcelona has to try something new."

Commissioned by the Generalitat, the study concluded that the twice-yearly runway presentations do not generate business and that international reaction to the shows is "practically nil." BCN Showrooms, the accompanying trade fair, closed this past September.

What this means for Catalan fashion is anyone's guess. Last September, Pasarela Gaudi featured 33 runway presentations and 37 designers, including veterans Antonio Miro, Armand Basi, Josep Font and Agatha Ruiz de la Prada (men's only). According to published reports, the Generalitat is prepared to subsidize brands with strong export potential and "emerging" talents.

"It's about time Barcelona got the ax," said an industry source, "but they should have kept the men's wear — the idea being women's wear shows in Madrid, men's in Barcelona," she concluded.

The final edition of Barcelona Fashion Week has been rescheduled and cut down from four days to three. The event is scheduled for Jan. 17-19, and a location has yet to be determined, according to a spokesman for Flaqué Internacional, the event organizer.

Also being held around that time is Bread & Butter Barcelona, the Spanish version of the popular German trade show, the success of which may have been a catalyst in the demise of Barcelona Fashion Week.

July's inaugural edition of the trendy apparel and accessories show was a smash hit, attracting 18,000 visitors to the Barcelona fairgrounds on its first day. Overall, roughly 45,000 visitors, 51 percent of whom traveled from outside Spain, registered during B&BB's three-day run, according to show organizers.

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