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Lost in Transition

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

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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Based on the conclusions of a study it released last month, the Catalan government, or Generalitat, has withdrawn its sponsorship of Barcelona Fashion Week, Pasarela Gaudi.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“Barcelona Fashion Week is obsolete and the Gaudi runway shows don’t work,” said José Luis Nueno, professor of marketing at Barcelona’s prestigious business school IESE, who headed the study.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.

The show boasted 710 exhibitors stretched over 968,400 square feet. The Spanish contingent, which numbered 75 brands, included such ubercool labels as Custo Barcelona, Mallorca-based footwear manufacturer Camper and Sybilla’s junior apparel and footwear line, Jocomomola.

Reportedly, the upcoming edition of Bread & Butter Barcelona, scheduled for Jan. 18-20, will add more vendors and space, absorbing all available pavilions in the fairgrounds.

Barcelona-based designers Sergio Pastor and Ismael Alcaina, who will exhibit their cult men’s label, Spastor, said B&BB will raise the quality of Spanish trade fairs. “What impressed us most was the high level of international retailers and accredited journalists,” they said.

Though Barcelona Fashion Week is ending, show organizer Flaqué Internacional will still play a role in the city’s fashion scene. According to Paco Flaqué, a 20-year veteran of Barcelona Fashion Week and director of Flaqué Internacional, the company will continue to organize BCN Bridal Week, which includes the Noviaespaña trade event and Pasarela Gaudi Novias runway shows. This year, the event is scheduled for June 14-18 in Palacio 8 of the Montjuïc fairgrounds.

At last June’s show, 125 bridal firms and 248 brands exhibited at the show and covered more than 231,000 square feet of floor space. According to Flaqué, 30 percent of the exhibitors were foreign, mostly from Italy, Portugal and France. Attendance at the event totalled 11,350 visitors and 500 journalists, and Flaqué said he expects similar numbers for 2006.

Does the demise of Barcelona Fashion Week suggest Catalan vendors will flock to Madrid’s SIMM Show? According to Pola Iglesias, director of SIMM, “It’s too soon to tell.” Iglesias added that SIMM is currently dealing with space restrictions anyway, until the show’s organizer, IFEMA, inaugurates additional halls and a new distribution plan, scheduled for implementation in 2007.

Still, SIMM will boast increased vendor participation at its next show, scheduled for Feb. 9-11, “because the February edition includes the fur sector, which is always a big draw,” said Iglesias. In addition, the postponement of the Barcelona-based fur and leather fair Pielespaña, traditionally a January event, is seen as an advantage for SIMM.

According to Iglesias, SIMM will continue to sponsor catwalk presentations featuring fur and leather exhibitors and key Latin American vendors, particularly from Brazil.

Held in six halls of the Juan Carlos I fairgrounds, SIMM is the second-largest apparel fair in Europe after Düsseldorf’s CPD. According to IFEMA, vendors at the September edition of SIMM totaled 1,009, a 5 percent increase over last year, and covered 362,000 square feet, an additional 3.4 percent of floor space.

Attendance grew 3.6 percent over the previous year, to 26,566, and 10 percent came from outside Spain, mainly Portugal, Italy, France, Mexico, Turkey and the U.K.

According to Iglesias, 40 vendors from the Barcelona region dropped out of the September edition of SIMM, and chose instead to exhibit at the July edition of Bread & Butter Barcelona. She praised the German fair’s ability to attract foreign buyers and the fashion trends seen in the halls, but doesn’t foresee danger in the rival show’s success. B&BB is “a happening, but it doesn’t threaten Madrid. Jeans and streetwear are not our strength,” she said. On the other hand, “a stronger Milk & Honey show could harm us [in the future]. At the moment, the product mix is not too effective.”

Details on Madrid’s Cibeles runway shows (Feb. 11-14 at the Madrid Fairgrounds) are “not yet available,” said director Cuca Solana.

Attendance at the Modacalzado footwear show and Iberpiel leather-goods show, which ran in tandem Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at the Madrid fairgrounds under the Leather Week umbrella, dropped 6 percent from Sept. 2004, when about 21,821 people attended the show, including several major buying groups from Portugal, Italy, France, the U.K. and Greece. Footwear vendors at Modacalzado totalled 683, a 3.7 percent drop from the previous September.

As Leather Week organizers prepare for the spring edition, they must deal with an industry trend that could explain the drop in attendance: recycled off-shore production.

“Two out of three shoes exhibited at the Spanish fair are made offshore,” said an industry observer. “Manufacturers here are producing backup lines and special items in Asia, and China in particular, [some of] which are sent back to Spain, packaged in a Spanish box and marketed officially as a Made in Spain product,” he said.

Vendors will find out how this affects attendance when Leather Week next commences, March 23-25, at the Madrid Fairgrounds.

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