Despite uncertainties in regard to the global economic outlook, which includes vagueness about the impact of Brexit and whether the spat between China and the U.S. is really over and a trade war has been averted, the mood of trade show organizers and exhibitors is upbeat.
Still, there’s some concern over the ongoing challenges facing fashion retail today, which includes everything from the high-low divergence of price points to the need for more sustainably produced products. As a result, the industry has responded with new shows while reimagining existing ones. Events this year will highlight points of differentiation in product, fabric and overall design. And “innovation” will be a ubiquitous term across the market.
In mainland China, the general sentiment remains buoyant. Although the Trump administration’s threats loom in the backdrop, there has been no direct impact so far on the export market, and domestic demand continues to grow and bolster the apparel industry. As pivotal as the signing of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership in March was, many are closely watching the possible completion of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership later this year. The Asian-led initiative covers 16 nations including all the biggest Asian economies and would represent around a third of the world’s GDP.
In Japan, Fashion World Tokyo and IFF Magic Japan continue to vie for the title of the country’s number-one fashion trade show, with organizers of the former declaring it the largest in terms of the number of exhibitors. But since joining forces with Magic and UBM last year, IFF has benefited from a renewed energy and on-trend exhibitors. Its April edition — the third as IFF Magic Japan — attracted exhibits by such big-name companies as Zozotown, Sazaby League, United Arrows, Tomorrowland, Amazon Japan, Barneys Japan, Sogo & Seibu and Hankyu Hanshin. Fashion World Tokyo, on the other hand, has more of a focus on manufacturers and smaller brands.
The world’s love affair with K-beauty and K-fashion keeps South Korea’s fashion and cosmetic trade fairs growing steadily. At InterCharm Beauty Expo Korea, organic skin care and baby care-related products, in particular, have seen a boom over the past year.
Making Adjustments in London and Paris
In London, trade show organizers are pushing ahead — with some erring on the side of caution — despite the lack of clarity around Brexit. Exhibitors are implementing new platforms to boost numbers as the market adjusts.
“We’re approaching the future with cautious optimism,” said London Edge managing director Carole Hunter. “The trade show market is having to adjust to the changes that have been taking place over the last few years, and although we recognize that the position trade shows have in the market is different, they are still as critical.”
She pointed to Brexit, which continues to loom large over their international buyers and U.K. exhibitors who don’t know what the future will hold for their ongoing relationships. “We’ll know more about how much of a challenge it will be to U.K. exporting in due course,” Hunter said. “More than anything, it comes back to the same thing. The U.K.’s economy is being limited by the lack of clarity around Brexit, which is highly frustrating for business owners, particularly those with significant connections with Europe like London Edge.”
Last season, Hunter launched a new area designated to fledgling companies. “This Makers & Designers area is designed to offer an affordable platform to new businesses or small design companies who are looking for a manageable route through to wholesale,” Hunter said. “Last season had 18 Makers & Designers and this season we’re expecting between 25 to 30 small businesses to take a space. It injects some exciting new creatives into the show, which is appreciated by our buyers. Additionally, we’re launching a show in Las Vegas, which is running Aug. 14 and 15, which is hugely exciting and has been on the cards for years.”
Hunter anticipates a strong September London show with 5 to 10 percent more exhibitors than February.
Jacket Required show founder Mark Batista said the retail environment is still hugely challenging for both brands and retailers.
“Coming out of the January edition of Jacket Required, there has been a real wave of positivity in the air,” Batista said. “Both brands and buyers are increasing their offerings. This season, Jacket Required looks to shine a spotlight on the growing emphasis and importance placed on sustainability within the fashion sector. In an industry all about supply and demand, there are a number of brands, buyers and consumers that place innovation and transparency at their center. Rather than simply embracing a ‘sustainability trend’ — Jacket Required will host ‘In Talks With’ — a key speaker/panel discussion to provide insight into sustainability and responsibility to our environment.”
Batista said January saw an increase in international buyers to the show to 16 percent — a number they hope to continue to increase going forward.
Textile Forum event director Amy Packham said more businesses are searching for innovative fabrics and that the retail market is segmenting into a super high end and super low end. Packham said they are capitalizing on this and delivering even more luxurious fabrics for designers looking to be even more innovative and different.
“In March, we saw a great cross-section of buyers sourcing for both their current and forward collections and we expect to see even more in October,” Packham said. “We have always stressed the fact that Textile Forum exhibitors can service small minimum orders for sampling or bespoke creations. This proposition has come into its own over the past year in particular as the market has got tougher and designers need to have a unique offer.”
Packham also noted that companies are already “rebooking their stands for the October show. So we expect to have well over 120 collections presented in the autumn. We have had considerable interest from the top end. Continental companies that are looking to build more bridges with UK designers and brands.”
Adjusting to a digital era, trade show organizers in Paris are forging partnerships to shore up their offers as they seek to appeal to a broad, international audience.
Tranoï, for example, is going coed, grouping the previously men’s and women’s offers into the same venue and has plans to bring Chinese designers from a Shanghai showroom to the French capital for the first time.
“We are bringing together men’s and women’s to the same place, our historic location, the Palais de la Bourse,” noted show organizer David Hadid.
It will make it easier for buyers to have the different exhibitors together under one roof, Hadid explained. Show organizers will also host cocktail events on the steps of the historic building, and, for the first time, a dinner for exhibitors will be held under the grand columns, with around 250 to 300 guests expected.
“We will make use of the location a hundred percent — we’re expecting good weather,” Hadid added. While the women’s show used to stretch over the ground level, it will now cover two floors. Tranoï’s June lineup will include designers from the Shanghai showroom Tube, including Angus Chiang, Staffonly and Consistence, the fruit of a couple of years of visits in China, she noted.
“It’s not just a session of pre-collections, it’s also a selection of main collections for women being shown ahead of the calendar — it’s main, pre-men’s accessories, a bit of everything,” Hadid said.
“It fits the coed trend of the times,” he added.
Première Vision, meanwhile, in February revealed a partnership with the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, pooling resources to reinforce the stature of Paris in the world of fashion. Efforts include showcasing young designers on the Chambre Syndicale’s web site as well as mentoring programs.
Paris sur Mode in March noted a 9 percent dip in attendance, prompting organizers to reconsider show dates and content, according to its director Sophie Guyot.
Milan Puts a Spotlight on Innovation
In Milan, tweaks to the calendar are complete while several shows focusing on technology and innovation, which includes nanotechnology.
Show organizers noted that the first full year affected by major changes made in 2017 in the Italian trade show schedule is well under way, with the country’s most important trade shows having aligned their dates in September, forging a sense of community among the country’s numerous trade shows’ organizers.
Little will change in the second half of the year for the trade show calendar, with some minor shifts in dates and some relocations in a general attempt to meet the visitors’ demand for a convenient schedule in line with the most prominent fashion-related events in Europe.
Milan Women’s Fashion Week is scheduled to run Sept. 18 to 24 and most of the trade shows will pivot around those dates. To this end, international leather trade show Lineapelle will run Sept. 25 to 27, a few days ahead compared with the same edition last year. Fulvia Bacchi, general director of Unic, the trade show organizer, explained her commitment to enhancing the fair’s appeal.
“September will mark the unveiling of the Lineapelle Innovation Square, [a space] dedicated to technology in materials and to nanotechnologies with seminars and workshops,” she said. On June 15, Lineapelle will unveil a permanent exhibition space on Milan’s Via Brisa just across the city’s Unic headquarters, “to have a permanent exhibition space of Lineapelle, in the city, throughout the year,” Bacchi said.
Figures in the first half of 2018 are in line with the previous year, said Bacchi, explaining that “footwear is still suffering because leather shoes are confined to a niche market,” while “leather goods keep performing well, along with other growing categories such as automotive and interior design.” The September edition of the fair is intended to target European, U.S., Chinese and Japanese buyers as well as those from more niche countries such as Vietnam.
Aimpes, Italy’s leather manufacturers’ association, is also planning to foster its international visibility. Along with staging its fall showcase Mipel TheBagShow in Milan, which runs Sept. 16 to 19, the trade show will develop its Mipel Tailor Made program bringing a selection of companies to Tokyo and Seoul, on July 2 and Oct. 16 to 18, respectively. The events will promote a match between designers and manufacturing companies “to create exclusive capsule collections to be unveiled at the trade shows,” explained the association’s president Riccardo Braccialini.
During the annual assembly held on May 19 at the recently unveiled Confindustria Moda headquarters, Aimpes also announced the change of its name into Assopellettieri.
Drawing international buyers is high on Massimiliano Bizzi’s agenda, as well. The founder and president of Milan’s contemporary ready-to-wear and accessories trade show White described teamwork among the country’s fashion and government institutions as a key asset to develop the Italian fashion business.
“Milan is enjoying a moment of splendor. The city was able to reinvent, thanks in part to what the municipality has done, it has a vitality which is particularly appealing for foreign buyers,” Bizzi mused.
While recalling that September is “the best-performing edition” of White, the trade show founder is gearing up to unveil the event’s June edition, running June 16 to 18, when White will replicate the formula of combining men’s collections along with women’s resort offering, at the same time as Men’s Fashion Week in Milan. “This format has evolved over the years and it’s now consolidated. The buying campaign starts in June and ends in September. It’s harder and harder for brands to drop [their products] too late, they start in June and reap the benefits [of the buying season] in September,” Bizzi highlighted.
The June edition will also debut a new space, called White Street Market which will be accessible not only to buyers but also to consumers, who will have the opportunity to directly buy the fashion items.
In order to adjust to the international trade shows calendar, Rome’s Altaroma haute couture fashion week, moved from its traditional mid-July slot and unveiled a new location. Running June 28 to July 1, the fall 2018 couture collections will be presented at the city’s Cinecittà Studios in a nod to the city’s link with the movie industry. “Cinecittà is an evocative brand in itself. It recalls cinema and costume, it fitted just well,” said Adriano Franchi, general director of Altaroma.
The new dates make it easier for buyers and the press to stop by Rome before heading to Paris for couture, according to Franchi, who also said that “aligning with the ITS [talent search] will create a spotlight momentum on scouting projects.”
In order to diversify the Altamoda schedule, the event organizers have been putting their focus on the promotion of emerging designers since 2005, when the first “Who Is On Next?” scouting program was established. The upcoming edition of Altaroma will feature the second installment of the “Showcase” project, launched last January and showcasing 60 brands — 20 more than in the first edition — which have not yet developed a distribution network.
“Altaroma has always been considered a couture-related event, only. Opening up to emerging designers has changed things quite a lot,” explained Franchi, noting that over the past four editions the number of international buyers has doubled each time. He cited the U.S., the UK, Middle East, Russia and Southeast Asia among the most important markets.
Developing a ‘Spirit of Cooperation’ in Germany
In Germany, trade show activity will once again kick off in Berlin from July 3 to 5, with the nation’s capital to host eight trade shows and two full-day conferences, as well as assorted designer fashion shows and presentations throughout the week. This is a somewhat more compact offer, as children’s wear show Cookies no longer in the running, and plus-size fair Curvy Is Sexy now moving to Düsseldorf to coincide with Germany’s second round of market activities and order platforms later in the month. True to form, the German three-city order round lineup moves on to Munich in early August.
What is new this season is that Berlin is now on the map — the Modem map, that is. The Paris-based company is partnering with the young but increasingly active Fashion Council Germany to create a map of all professional locations during Berlin Fashion Week, as well as featuring a dedicated section on Modem’s site with a schedule of all fairs, fashion shows, events and showrooms.
“I think Berlin deserves big exposure,” Xavier Latapie, Mode Editions director told WWD, adding a “big digital promotion” will be sent to retailers worldwide. Modem is also doing a co-op with Premium in July, animating Premium’s VIP buyers lounge with Modem’s special 20th-anniversary exhibit.
There’s also a growing spirit of cooperation to be felt in Berlin, with the industry’s fair and event makers seeming to close ranks. Premium Exhibitions Group founder and director Anita Tillmann suggested the fashion industry was previously linear in its organization, “but now it’s a circle and we all belong together. It’s a great opportunity, and it’s in our own interest that all shows, not just our own, go well, because there needs to be a good message coming out of Berlin.”
She noted fairs have developed into more than a just a place to present apparel collections on racks or still-life displays in the hope of bagging an order, but now function as a format to generate emotions, content, contacts, inspiration and information. Premium is reconnecting with its earlier arts link, tapping Anselm Reyle for a huge metallic sculptural installation, which will also be featured on the group’s magazine cover, as well as providing Koenig Souvenir a prime spot for its art-fashion-design crossover collaborations.
Show & Order, the Premium Group’s “trade show for fashion, lifestyle and experience” will be set up like a department store, Tillmann said, with a whole floor of the Kühlhaus spotlighting pop-up ideas retailers can adopt, as well as products outside the fashion spectrum to help create new content. At the Arena, Premium’s progressive show Seek will focus on Berlin as a destination with a special souvenir shop stocked with playful Seek items as well as providing visitors with a hop on/hop off bus for all the parties. Also at the Arena, Bright is going back to its skateboard community roots to operate as both a B2B and B2C platform.
More mid-market trade fair Panorama is also raising the bar for spring 2019, starting at the entrance with a curated selection of collection highlights to provide clear orientation, as well as offering the first Panorama Trend Guide. New areas include “Belle” for contemporary and plus-size women’s wear, accessories and beauty; “Retail Solutions” spotlighting digital solution providers, design professionals and culinary concepts; “Nova Court” for the active/ath-leisure sector, and “Hot S–t” for fun, non-textile, lifestyle products.
Nearby, Selvedge Edge for brands with an authentic or hand-crafted flair is now at the Palais am Funkturm on the Berlin fairgrounds (and Panorama), thereby shortening distances for visitors, while the green fashion sector will again come together at Green Showroom and Ethical Fashion at Kraftwerk, which will also host the second edition of Fashion Sustain, the conference for responsible innovation and sustainable fashion technology, as well as FashionTech, the pioneering event now going into its ninth round.
At the moment, the numbers are flat for most of Germany’s apparel retailers, due to a late season start driven by unseasonably cold March weather, but sunny skies in the last weeks have picked up business and spirits. The big topics, according to Axel Augustin, spokesman for the German Apparel Retailers Association, are digitalization and markdowns. “Price has always been a big issue [in Germany] and sales started already in April, due to the cold weather in March,” said Augustin, who added retailers are now asking themselves “if I have the assortment that can take me out of this price war.”
That buyers are the focus of the trade show rounds is a given, yet Augustin suggested there’s a fundamental shift going on in the German market. “For years, we were concentrated on selling, but now buying has to have priority. However, the industry hasn’t really been training buyers for years,” he commented. Working closely with their major suppliers, retailers tended to rely on the brands’ pre-selections and delivery programs, with the result that consumers were offered the same assortment all over the country. Retailers know that has to change, but many are now missing the tools and know-how.