The Tranoï Paris trade show.

Spotlighting talent and more products as well as touting sustainable practices will be key themes of the global fashion apparel trade-show scene in 2020.

Adjusted dates and consolidation of events are also planned — with the focus on better-accommodating attendees.

Underpinning many trade shows this coming year is the need to better define the purpose of these events in a rapidly evolving market. Retail store closures, the emerging prominence of the resale segment, and the explosive growth of direct-to-consumer brands is affecting change.

A Focus on Talent

What role does a trade show play in 2020? The next editions of the Paris trade shows have chosen to put their focus on spotting emerging fashion talents, turning the events into cultural manifestations aiming to inspire, educate and divert.

Two Parisian shows are introducing talent competitions to their 2020 editions. In collaboration with online indie retailer Not Just a Label, Tranoï will be unveiling its Take Ten men’s wear competition at the January edition of the trade show, running Jan. 17 to 19 at the Palais de la Bourse: ten emerging men’s wear designers have been selected to show their collections for free at the trade show.

In addition to the launch of its Shanghai event, Nova, Tranoï is introducing a runway component to its January and March editions in Paris, named Runways by Tranoï. French men’s wear designer Boramy Viguier will be the first to stage a runway show as part of this addition, making its debut on Jan. 17.

Who’s Next is also branching out to talent spotting. Running Jan. 17 to 20, the trade show will unveil the three winners of its Lab.Scene talent competition and incubator, organized in partnership with Instituto Marangoni Paris. The three fashion labels — Voir(e), Salut Beauté and Martin Lüttecke — will present their collections at Fashion Scene, a new space at Who’s Next dedicated to emerging talent. Also present for the next edition of Who’s Next are the second round of Impact, the sustainable section unveiled last season; beauty section Villa Beauté, which will be focusing on clean beauty labels, and lifestyle selection Inside, one of the trade show’s recent additions.

At Première Vision, the next edition of the trade show, set to run Feb. 11 to 13, is reshaping its offering to fit with the industry’s need for innovation: formerly an annual event limited to the September edition of the trade show, Smart Creation Area, the section devoted to sustainable materials and projects will now be open at both editions of Première Vision. Additionally, the fashion tech section, named Wearable Lab, will be merged with Smart Creation Area to offer an entire space dedicated to responsible innovation.

“Projects are proliferating, new ideas are opening up new horizons, age-old rules are giving way to a new approach,” noted general manager Gilles Laborde in the introduction of Cloud of Fashion, the magazine Première Vision publishes biannually. “[This new approach] doesn’t trump profitability, which is necessary, but repositions it in the context of other demands: the well-being of every professional working in the sector, the preservation of the planet, a respect for know-how, and the truly key objective of sustainable production.”

These topics will also be present at the Messe Frankfurt trade shows, which will run Feb. 10 to 13: the 20 booths at Avantex will put the spotlight on digital printing, while Leatherworld, which is gearing up for its fourth edition, will aim to bring more balance between natural materials and substitutes with a number of new exhibitors from China, in response to growing industry demand.

Denim Première Vision London 2019

Denim Première Vision in London this year.  Alex Gallosi

Responsibly Made Products

This year, London’s trade shows are putting a focus on sustainability. Buyers are looking for responsibly made products and exhibitors will be reflecting these needs and changes.

“We are proud that our lineup features many sustainable and ethical collections and we are also pleased to be introducing a number of new labels to our lineup this season,” said Maria Pahlavan Crosby, event director at Scoop International Fashion Show, which runs Feb. 9 to 11.

Fabric trade show Textile Forum is also increasing its selection of sustainable textiles. “Textile Forum continues to put a focus on quality luxury fabrics with low minimum orders and we will see more exhibitors increasing their range of sustainable fabrics to meet current demands,” said Linda Laderman, cofounder and organizer of Textile Forum, adding that there will also be a surge in British products.

“As many designers are also keen to support British garment producers, there will be more companies providing products and associated services within the UKFT supported zone,” Laderman said. Britain and sustainability will also be central themes in Pure London’s trade show this year, titled Nomad, where they will “counter everything from Brexit turbulence to the sustainability crisis.”

In Italy, Sustainability as an “Engaging Affair”

Offering engaging experiences that resonate with today’s digital-savvy, eco-conscious consumers and buyers is key to the Italian numerous trade shows, which in their quest for newness have to adapt to the uneven performances of international markets, their main sales drivers.

Running Feb. 29 to March 2, eyewear trade show Mido is marking its 50th anniversary with a number of initiatives that are aimed at strengthening the fair’s global resonance and provide its exhibitors with the tools to compete in today’s scenario.

Engagement and “focusing on the needs of exhibitors and visitors alike,” is key for Giovanni Vitaloni, president of Anfao, the Italian optical goods manufacturers’ association. Sustainability is at the forefront and Mido will kick off the first edition of its Stand Up For Green prize bestowed to the company that will build its booth according to eco-friendly principles. The show itself is committed to reducing the use of disposable plastics and limit water, energy and paper consumptions with “the goal to become one of the first sustainable events in the world,” said Vitaloni.

Anfao will link with SDA Bocconi University and Certottica, the Italian entity certifying optic devices, organizing, respectively, marketing courses dedicated to the companies’ salespeople and giving birth to the Politecnico dell’ Occhiale to train technicians and products developers.

Eyewear sales in 2018 were up 1.6 percent to 3.86 billion euros and the positive momentum continued in the first half of 2019, but Vitaloni declined to forecast year-end figures. His hope is for exports, which account for 90 percent of sales, to continue to grow, and for “the domestic market to catch up, sustained by more political stability.”

Vitaloni singled out Japan and Russia as countries that are recovering, while Germany’s “overall [economic] slowdown forces us to monitor its performances for the future.” Italy and France were also described as weak markets for the eyewear industry, the latter country impacted by new regulations on prescription glasses’ insurance reimbursements.

Marking the 50th-anniversary milestone, Anfao has commissioned two books including a novel called “A Story to See,” retracing the fair’s history and “Optics History,” a compendium on the development of the science from the 14th century onward.

TheOneMilano

TheOneMilano  courtesy image

Bridging Physical and Cultural Distances

Ready-to-wear trade show TheOneMilano is also banking on an engaging experience as it called on international architects and designers Italo Rota and Margherita Palli to surprise visitors at its seventh edition, running Feb. 20 to 23.

The pair will curate the setup called “It’s Always Winter Somewhere…” employing giant constructions, winter trees and snow globes, referencing the concepts introduced by the fair’s previous editions: the winter garden in February 2019 and the “seasonless” garments in September 2019.

The goal of the designers is to represent a world where “physical and cultural distances no longer exist and seasons are no longer rigidly defined,” according to the TheOneMilano’s organizers.

Sì Sposaitalia Collezioni, Milan’s bridal trade fair running April 17 to 20, aims to spotlight the niche but growing business of eco-friendly bridalwear by launching its first Sì Green Bridal runway event, which is part of the Sì White Carpet range of fashion shows, now in its third iteration.

Through this project, suppliers of sustainable fabrics and specialty brands will present a range of capsule collections during the four-day event by the likes of Elisabetta Polignano, Bellantuono Bridal Group, Jillian, and Diamond Couture, among others. They tied up with denim maker Puredenim; Elitex, which produces yarns from recycled plastics, and Attilio Imperiali, which specializes in organic cotton and silk. “We’re proud to be pioneering this new sensibility for the bridal category and be at the forefront of the change,” noted Simona Greco, event director at Fiera Milano, the trade show’s organizer.

Greco said data provided by the national statistics agency Istat shows that the number of weddings is inching up compared to the past although the events have different formats. They include second marriages, civil weddings and ceremonies of increasingly different religions. Fashion-wise Greco indicated outfit changes, the use of sneakers and unusual accessories as among the trends gaining momentum.

With the ambition to highlight high-quality Italian labels, for the second year the trade show is promoting a range of off-site initiatives under the Milan Bridal Fashion Week moniker.

The scene at White Milano's WSM trade show.

The scene at White Milano’s WSM trade show.  Courtesy Photo.

A comprehensive and engaging experience is also the goal targeted by White Milano for its WSM format dedicated to men’s fashion, running Jan. 11 to 13. The show will be revamped in 2020 intended to promote sustainability in the industry across products, services and culture.

“As the men’s market represents a smaller portion of the business, compared to women’s fashion, we feel like it’s the right moment for experimentation,” said Massimiliano Bizzi, White Milano’s founder and president. “Changes in the men’s category are nimbler and more palpable.”

Stakeholder Collaborations

The upcoming edition of WSM will “stress the sustainable topic with a holistic and systemic approach,” explained Matteo Ward, a sustainability expert and cofounder of the eco-friendly label Wråd, who will serve as the fair’s artistic director. “It’s a disruptive format that we’re bringing to Italy and Europe, one that I haven’t seen elsewhere,” he said, noting the event, blending the business-to-consumer and business-to-business platforms as in the past, will be “democratic and accessible.”

For the first time, exhibitors and attendees will not be charged a participation fee.

Turned into a non-for-profit event, with the support of the Ministries of Economic Development and Foreign Affairs, in addition to Italy’s trade agency ICE and local association Confartigianato Imprese, WSM “becomes a collaboration between stakeholders,” explained Ward adding Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto and Fashion Revolution Italia will again be involved.

In addition to the 40 to 70 exhibitors, the event will be packed with displays, talks and workshops pivoting on three main topics: the role played by institutions, including the UN, in promoting sustainable fashion; the finance world’s approach, and the stories and products of fashion labels and start-up companies spearheading the green culture in fashion. Ward said 80 percent of Italian spenders look for traceable products but only 20 percent actually buy into the category.

Generally speaking, “buyers still don’t really understand the impact that green fashion will have on their businesses,” claimed Bizzi, noting however how this issue was very relevant to Asian buyers.

Bizzi will continue to focus on niche brands for the February four-day women’s edition starting on the 20th. “Buyers are once again understanding the importance of looking at new labels because the market is highly reactive at this moment, and we will leverage our usual ‘brand mix’,” he said, hoping in a pick up of the European market, while projecting China and Japan will remain steady.

In Germany, Consolidation, Specialization and Relocation

Trade shows continue to make Germany’s flagship industry event, Berlin Fashion Week, relevant; as insiders will tell you, media coverage happens in Berlin while the business is done in places like Düsseldorf and Munich. However, after several years of complaining about the city’s incredible shrinking fashion week, last season there was also growing criticism of falling attendance at trade fairs in the German capital.

There are several obvious reasons for this, explained Anita Tillmann, head of Premium Group, the Berlin-based company which manages the Seek streetwear show, the Fashiontech conference and the Premium brands fair. Firstly, although order volumes continue to grow, there are fewer actors on the retail scene, she told WWD, pointing at consolidation due to big platform-oriented players like Zalando and Net-a-porter. That means fewer visitors at the fairs but not necessarily fewer sales. And secondly, the larger department stores are sending smaller teams for budgetary reasons, she added. “Despite that, all of the relevant retailers are coming and decision-makers continue to meet regularly at our fairs,” Tillmann boasted.

“Trade fairs always mirror the market,” Harald Koetter, spokesman for the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry, or AUMA, said. “And it is true that German fashion fairs are smaller than they were 10 years ago.” There are two clear trends for success in the sector, AUMA reports: digitalization and specialization.

That is something that Tillmann would likely agree with. Her firm is becoming well-known for keeping pace with digital developments — Premium also recently entered into a strategic partnership digital b-to-b wholesale marketplace, Joor — and this season, the Fashiontech conference is moving in next door to the company’s Premium fair and elements of it will also be incorporated into the Seek event. As Tillmann has said before, Berlin is the only place where you get so many start-ups and digital specialists working alongside a thriving creative sector.

[See related story: Joor Buys Veee Wholesale Technology, Partners With Premium Group]

Meanwhile, Panorama, a larger Berlin trade fair for more commercial labels, is moving into the defunct Tempelhof airport. Over summer Panorama had been criticized for not moving with the times and for basing themselves too far away from the other fashion week events. The historic airport was once home to the wildly popular Bread & Butter streetwear trade shows — European streetwear sales reps still talk about the parties once held there — and no doubt, managers at Panorama are hoping a little bit of that happy nostalgia rubs off on them. Joining Panorama is Neonyt, the sustainability specialist exhibition, managed by the third biggest trade fair organizer in the world, Messe Frankfurt.

Neonyt is one event that has not had to work that hard to attract guests and attention. “The topic of sustainability is only becoming more relevant,” enthused Thimo Schwenzfeier, Neonyt’s show director. This coming January, Neonyt will be the biggest it has ever been, he told WWD: Because their part of Tempelhof — Hangar 4, measuring more than 4,000 square meters — is already booked out they have to build a temporary hall to add the extra space they need.

Going Greener

Other German trade fair organizers, such as the Munich Fabric Start and Munich Performance Days, a fair for functional textiles, have reported similar increases in interest in this area and fairs like those run by the Supreme Group in Düsseldorf and Munich are also upping their environmental friendliness factor.

Studies show that about 70 percent of consumers are interested in sustainable fashion, Schwenzfeier said. Indeed, Paris-based marketing analysts, Launchmetrics, reported that Neonyt, got the most media mentions of all the German shows last January. “But the [retail] market share remains rather small,” Schwenzfeier continued. “People talk about 5 percent here in Germany, which shows that there’s huge potential for growth.”

It is true that there’s been some consolidation in the German apparel fair scene, Schwenzfeier conceded. But he also thinks that the local industry needs to stop comparing themselves with other countries. “Against all odds, Berlin Fashion Week remains a world leader when it comes to sustainability and technology, two key themes in this sector. You don’t get that kind of overview anywhere else,” he argued.

The other important growth area for German trade fairs has been outside the country. Those big companies that don’t look abroad will run eventually into trouble, sector analysts have suggested. A growing number of international apparel and textile industry events exported from Germany — for example, ISPO in Beijing and Shanghai, Collection Premiere Moscow, Techtextil India, Intertextile Shanghai and the various Beautyworld fairs in the Middle East and Asia — serve as a testament to the fact that local trade fair managers recognize this.

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