August 29, 2016, Shanghai, China - Vistors examine fabric samples at SPINEXPO fibres, yarn and knitwear trade fair, which was dominated by Chinese exhibitors.

For the second half of the year, international trade shows are poised to face attendees who are likely fatigued by stiffer competition and lackluster consumer spending. But based on the breadth and depth of events on the calendar, trade-event producers are giving industry buyers plenty of choices to find new products — and inspiration, too.

Shows in Paris, Milan, London and Berlin as well as Shanghai reflect a consumer desire in the market for innovation (wearables, for example) and authenticity (such as made in the U.K.) — and especially for lifestyle-related products. In early July, for example, Ispo Shanghai is running concurrently with Sports Tech Asia at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre. Ispo spotlights running, wellness, water sports and outdoor products along with fashion and fabrics.

For Sports Tech Asia, Messe München partnered with Adsale Exhibition Services to launch the event, which positions itself as a “one-stop solution for [the] sports industry,” noted organizers. Here, the emphasis is on the convergence of technology and sports gear and apparel. Green and sustainably produced products are also highlighted.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s in store for trade shows across the globe:

Paris: It’s Complicated

Gilles Lasbordes, general manager of Première Vision, said the fact that exhibitors have been speedier than usual to register for the upcoming Blossom Première Vision and Première Vision Paris shows is an encouraging sign, though the outlook for the industry remains “complicated.”

“The major European groups like LVMH [Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton], Hermès and Kering, with Gucci, have all reported strong first quarters, which indicates some kind of acceleration.…Inditex and H&M Group also [performed well], but despite this, the situation is not clear. Consumption in Europe is still difficult, the transformation of the U.S. market is still complex,” he said.

“We have to be very careful from the point of view of the mills, as those who are with the successful fashion brands are doing great, and those who are with brands that are suffering are doing less well. It’s a complex situation.”

Blossom Première Vision, a fledgling two-day fabric salon dedicated to pre-collections, is scheduled to run from July 4 to 6 at the Palais Brongniart in Paris and will feature a beefed-up selection of tanners. Première Vision Paris will take place Sept. 19 to 21 at the Parc des Expositions de Villepinte.

Milan: It’s Concentrated

September is shaping up as a busy month in Milan. The main fashion and accessories events and trade shows will be concentrated in 10 days, beginning Sept. 17 with the Micam and Mipel fairs, dedicated to footwear and bags, respectively. Concurrent to Milan Fashion Week, running Sept. 20 to 26, buyers from around the world will be able to visit the White and Super trade shows, in addition to the second edition of TheOneMilano, which combines the Mifur and Mipap fairs, focusing on fur and ready-to-wear collections.

Such a concentration of events is part of the agreement the Italian Ministry of Economic Development and Milan’s municipality signed in October, according to which, starting from September, all fashion-related trade fairs will take place during Milan Fashion Week in order to show Italy’s whole pipeline at the same time.

“More than a concentration, it’s a careful coordination of the various appointments,” explained Pitti Immagine’s chief executive officer Raffaello Napoleone. “[This is] a moment of the calendar when budgets are being closed, so to have a complete and wide offer, it’s a good opportunity for buyers to have a feedback from the collections and trends regarding footwear, leather goods and ready-to-wear at the same time,” he added.

In particular, Napoleone said Super, which is organized by Pitti Immagine, is gearing up for September, continuing to “invest in scouting emerging brands and designers,” and promoting the fair internationally to attract buyers of “high profile,” interested in research and high quality.

Napoleone forecasts a positive performance for the Italian textile and apparel industry and the trade shows linked to the sector, with “small increases but a growing trend,” nevertheless. He said he is expecting good reactions from European and Asian markets, in addition to the U.S., even if there are some “uncertainties regarding the reorganization of distribution,” as he referenced the difficulties department stores are facing.

The leather trade show Lineapelle in Milan.

The leather trade show Lineapelle in Milan. 

“Of course, we are expecting a much more important inflow compared to other editions, especially of foreign visitors,” said White’s founder Massimiliano Bizzi. The trade show dedicated to contemporary rtw and accessory labels recently revealed it has added a day to its September edition to better manage such an incoming of visitors and give extra visibility to its brands.

In fact, Bizzi hopes to register a double-digit increase in foreign visitors, especially coming from the U.S., Germany and China.

Asked if the packed schedule could be a downside because of the increased competition from and concurrence with the fashion shows, Bizzi sounded confident. “We’re optimistic as White is now an essential reference point for a buyer in Milan,” he said, underscoring how the current number of companies exhibiting at the fair is around 550, too many to be missed out by visitors.

Bizzi also hinted at a secret project that White will host in partnership with Milan’s municipality to spotlight Italian design while engaging the whole city.

Concurrent to White, TheOneMilano will unveil its second edition from Sept. 22 to 25. The fair aims to replicate the success of its debut in February, involving more than 11,000 buyers, 63 percent of which are from abroad. “We expect Chinese and Korean buyers, in addition to Europeans, mostly from Greece, Spain and Germany,” said TheOneMilano’s general manager Elena Salvaneschi, who underscored how Russians proved to be the most interested to the fair.

Salvaneschi highlighted how the show stands out from the others for showcasing spring collections and fall capsule lines. To boost the appeal of the fair, a series of activities will be implemented for the upcoming edition, including a collaboration with the social and e-commerce platform Wardroba to help young designers and emerging brands find access to the market.

Salvaneschi explained how her team is working to facilitate buyers’ visits to the fair through partnerships with hotels, restaurants and transportation. “There will be great buzz and vitality in September.…The One Milano feels part of this system and believes in the opportunities originated from the synergy of more realities,” she concluded.

London: Made in the U.K.

Despite the continued climate of economic and political instability, and concerns over further terrorist attacks following the tragedy in Manchester, England, trade-show organizers in London remain focused on introducing categories and fresh talent to maintain buyers’ interest.

Scoop, the women’s wear and accessories trade show, which takes place in Saatchi Gallery, is shifting its emphasis to contemporary designers, with 16 names added to the lineup, while the children’s wear show Bubble London is looking to expand beyond clothing to home goods and lifestyle products. Representatives from the shows said buyer turnout is expected to be in line with previous seasons and they are hoping that favorable exchange rates will continue to lure international buyers.

“We are hoping that the weak pound will encourage more international buyers to visit the show, both inside and outside Europe,” said Bubble London’s event director Lindsay Hoyes.

Promoting the appeal of British-made clothes to buyers, as well as the exposure to U.K.-based retailers for brands, is another area of attention. “We have been concentrating our efforts on ensuring that our U.K. retailers attend, as this is still very much the main reason that brands, both domestic and international, participate in the show,” said Hoyes.

Scoop’s founder and managing director Karen Radley added that demand has been fueled by international buyers looking for clothes bearing the “Made in England” label. “We are reaching out to the contemporary designer market, which has a strong target audience. In face we are bringing in a fresh group of buyers interested in U.K.-produced designer clothing and accessories.”

According to Linda Laderman, cofounder and organizer at the Textile Forum, the U.K.’s high-end facilities offer buyers more flexibility. “The beauty here is that our vendors are sitting on warehouses with 6 million pounds [or $7.3 million] worth of stock. You could be looking for a swatch to inspire your storyboards and then decide that it works, call in again to just order three meters to make a single dress, then order 100 meters when the orders come in,” Laderman explained. “That’s part of the process because we’re at the designer end. If you are ordering from a Chinese mill directly, you probably can’t buy a meter because their minimum is too big. Also, the stock is backed, so a designer could look at a fabric in February, think about it for six months and it’s probably still there.”

She added that currency fluctuations are less important when buying luxury product. “When you’re selling fabric at quite a high price, if you have to increase it by 5 or 10 percent, in real terms it’s not a lot,” Laderman said. “So in reality, there’s a lot of noise out there, but I don’t think you’ll find anybody that’s actually negative about it.”

Germany: Show-Studded Season

Germany is once again gearing up for a trade-show-studded season, primarily in Berlin, which will host nine fairs and two main runway platforms in early July. Elsewhere in Germany, events like Munich Fabric Start’s sourcing spin-off Munich Apparel Source, or the first edition of Gallery Shoes in Dusseldorf, the successor to the discontinued shoe fair GDS, are of mounting interest.

However, Europe’s largest and most solid economy is not immune to the malaise striking apparel retail markets elsewhere around the globe. Besides falling traffic, changing consumer buying habits, Internet gains, an ongoing oversupply of merchandise and too much sales space despite a spate of bankruptcies and succession-related closures, Germany’s buyers remain an extremely safety-oriented lot, resulting in a numbing sameness of assortment and prevailing sense of déjà vu.

Business has been tough, reported Jürgen Dax, director of the German Apparel Retailers Association, “and it’s not getting better,” even up against weak previous year figures. “The mood isn’t good, and as for trying something new, they [retailers] are too afraid they’ll make a mistake. So it’s about keeping on, one way or the other, working a bit on cutting costs, but a big change, no,” he said.

Buyer traffic at the Berlin shows may feel the pressure, but Dax doesn’t predict a major visitor decline. On the upside, he noted, Berlin is an international meeting place, and clients from Eastern Europe, including Russia, are traveling more and enjoy coming to the German capital. The shows are well-booked in Berlin, but exhibitors are nervous, one organizer said, “about budgets, and wholesale isn’t all that interesting anymore.”

“Select and curate” remains the credo of the Premium Group, which organizes Berlin’s four contemporary platforms: Premium, Seek, Bright and Show & Order. Intent on providing retailers with the latest information about new trends, old trends coming back, or what Premium founder and director Anita Tillmann terms “all-time trends” such as sneakers, the group is also going culinary next season.

“It started slowly, but we see the topic of food getting more and more important for fashion retailers, and we will be showing the latest food trends,” Tillmann said. Seek and Bright will feature Meet the Chefs, while Premium will step beyond the raw food movement with cuisine boiled less than 40 degrees Celsius (or 104 degrees Fahrenheit).

“There are huge problems not only in the German market and there are strange vibes around,” said Panorama marketing chief Ralf Strotmeier, “but we are trying to make the fair as easy and exciting as possible. That’s why we’ve added a lingerie segment this season,” which means this midmarket platform covers all sectors outside of children’s wear.

“We will also have more and newly merchandised lifestyle areas, filled with little knickknacks and food products like chutney from Kreuzberg that won’t make a big buck, but are a nice buy for consumers who just pop into the store,” Strotmeier suggested.

And the fair’s more progressive, urban Nova section “is finally taking off,” he said. “Many brands were watching it and are ready to join,” and here, too, the assortment will include “nontextile gadgets to makes things more interesting.”

Berlin is home to the sustainable fashion fairs Green Showroom and Ethical Fashion, which are moving to the Funkhaus Berlin, a sprawling landmark building on the banks of the Spree River in Treptow.

“It’s still a niche market and a very small part of the overall apparel market,” acknowledged Olaf Schmidt, vice president of organizers Messe Frankfurt. “But it’s growing. More and more fashion labels are becoming occupied with the issue of sustainability, and we see more and more buyers from conventional stores now coming to the fairs.

“They were very cautious at first, but now take more time, and the tendency is for stores to mix green collections with others in their assortment,” he added.

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