By and  on August 3, 2007

DUSSELDORF — Orders may be down, but at least the mood on the German market is on the way up.

That was the verdict at the country's largest women's wear trade show CPD. The four Igedo fashion fairs, which include HMD (men's wear), Body Look (bodywear) and Global Fashion (sourcing), as well as CPD, attracted 42,600 visitors, compared with 42,248 visitors a year ago.

Although visitor traffic barely rose, for Igedo's chief Frank Hartmann, the most important thing is not the quantity, but the quality, of visitors. "Around 84 percent of visitors were decision-makers [company heads or chief executives], a big increase on last year," he said on the final day of the show, which took place July 22 to 24. "Two years ago even the position of Düsseldorf as a fashion industry center was in question. Now that Bread & Butter has left Berlin, that question has definitively been settled."

However, while being extremely satisfied with the performance of Body Look and certain segments of CPD, such as the contemporary area Concept 11, he admitted Igedo has many areas to work on, with overall orders dropping by around a single-digit percentage point. "The big brands are still missing," he conceded. "Our next duty is to get these labels back onto the fairgrounds. Traveling around the showrooms all day in a taxi is no fun for anyone."

For exhibitors, the biggest disappointment was the lack of traffic.

"We are used to being really busy, but so far we have had no orders at all," said Jacey Taylor, West Coast sales executive for U.S. label Rebecca Taylor on the penultimate day of the show. "The only people who have come are the ones who know our brand already."

CPD marked Rebecca Taylor's first foray into Germany, after opening a showroom in London eight months ago with the aim of breaking into the European market.

Even CPD old hands, such as the mid-market German label Hirsch, which is usually jam-packed, said visitors were few and far between. And Marly Verhoeven, designer for the Dutch label ID Hats, a regular at CPD, praised the fair's organization but said she was disappointed with business. "To be honest, I would rather have worse organization and more customers," she said wryly.However, Igedo's efforts to pep things up with more contemporary wear and a more cohesive layout appear to be paying off. The Body Look fair has regained the strength it once had, with 85 percent of the 250 exhibitors saying they would come back next season. The Austrian underwear label Skiny said they had won more than 100 potential customers during the fair.

CPD, traditionally strong on mid-market brands, has yet to attract the right target customers for many exhibitors at the contemporary section Styles & Signatures. "The buyers here aren't daring enough to go for these designers," explained Florian Köhler, ceo of the Berlin-based online fashion store Styleserver. But other sections, such as the Fashion Gallery, proved more successful.

"The atmosphere is super," said Peter Mahler, whose signature collection is a good example of the Fashion Gallery's more artistic or intellectual look. "Business in Germany is good. One already feels the upswing and some customers have reported [sales] gains of 5 percent and more."

Like an increasing number of German fashion labels, Mahler is looking to grow his business Stateside. He already sells to six stores in the New York metropolitan area, and as of this season, Novum Fashion International, New York, will be repping the collection. "We were scouting for new collections and found Peter at The Train," said Alexander Meder, Novum's president.

While the focus will be on specialty stores, Meder said he will try to enter department stores as well. "Neiman Marcus has a corner for these kinds of avant-garde collections, and there's certainly a growing interest. The silhouettes are stylish and clean and easy to wear whether one's small or large, and the fabrics are special and versatile. It's perfect for Chelsea, for the Berkshires, for lots of places."

For many exhibitors, business at the showrooms around the city proved lively. In its bustling showroom on Cecilienallee, Schumacher also reported stepped-up activities in the U.S. despite the weakness of the dollar against the euro. The upbeat contemporary collection, which sports a "hippie couture" look for spring, opened a New York office in January and shows at the Gramercy Park Hotel during market week."So far things are going great," said Nina Ott, area sales manager, North America. "Our customers already have fans who love the Schumacher world."

Primarily targeting specialty stores, Schumacher can currently be found at stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Takashimaya, Marissa in Miami and Fred Segal in Beverly Hills and the same type of doors in Canada.

Indeed, the Your Choice store in Toronto was busy working the line in Düsseldorf, which Ott noted "is so important for us as the first fair. It shows us the direction." She said buyers embraced the bright colors and prints, and hippie-chic items like tunics combined with purer bottoms. Of the domestic market, founder, co-owner and creative director Dorothee Schumacher Singhoff said, "There's been an unbelievable upturn. Stores are more and more open to fashion and buyers willingly pick up the fashionable themes.

For next season, CPD, which will take place from Feb. 10 to 12, will be accompanied by a new show, aimed at the contemporary market. WEARe Düsseldorf, organized by Mark McGuire, formally of Bread & Butter, should take up about 86,000 square feet in a separate hall from Feb. 8 to 10, with only the Sunday overlapping with the other four Igedo fairs. "This is a very sensitive target audience, so you have to make it a very separate event," explained McGuire, who describes the look as a mixture of upper-scale denim and grown-up streetwear. "The key is to get the right labels. We want good English brands like Firetrap, and decent Scandinavian labels such as Filippa K or Tiger of Sweden."

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