Lanificio dell’Olivo’s booth at Pitti Filati.

Brexit, trade wars with China and a seemingly endless summer in Europe are clearly impacting the global fashion apparel industry, but organizers of upcoming trade events say there’s momentum in the market. End users are responding well to fashion trends while sustainability remains a priority.

In response, event organizers promise to deliver more focused and relevant events that are better articulated in product and brand selections. And through various collaborations, as well as a shift toward convening consumers and B2B participants, upcoming trade events aim to appease attendees.

Far East: Renewed Energy

Chinese trade shows are increasingly attracting premium buyers looking for high-quality, innovative products. Chinese suppliers are able to deliver on these demands after much investment, and a period of upgrading, in its manufacturing industry, which was forced by a rise in production costs. Local governments in the country, particularly in and around Shanghai, are beginning to crack down on un-environmentally friendly manufacturing practices, forcing many factories to close down until they improve their processes.

There is potential for this crackdown to roll out nationwide in the future. The trade war with the U.S. has led to many Chinese manufacturers to favor business in Europe and domestically. Figures from the Canton Fair show that orders from the U.S. were down significantly. Some Chinese manufacturers are investing in factories overseas to lower production costs and circumnavigate the tariffs being slapped on Chinese goods entering the States. Sustainable, environmentally friendly fabrics and companies are continuing to do well at the Chinese trade shows and there is persistent talk of the “made in China” label now having a completely different, and positive, connotation compared to a decade ago.

In Japan, the battle between Fashion World Tokyo and IFF Magic Japan to become the foremost fashion fair in the country continues. Fashion World Tokyo remains the largest show, with nearly 1,000 exhibitors and 25,000 visitors projected for the March edition. Magic and UBM Japan Group, on the other hand, are doing their best to revive the once-tired JFW-IFF fair, a partnership with the Japan Fashion Week Organization. JFW-IFF is the longest-running fashion exhibition in Japan, but Magic hopes to give it renewed “energy, style and professionalism.”

At the September installment, the show attracted a wide selection of unique, creative brands, meaning Fashion World Tokyo is going to have to step up its game to remain on top.

Italy: Creating Market Relevance

In Italy, numerous trade show organizers are tweaking and adjusting their formats, providing exhibitors and buyers with the right strategic tools. Ultimately, the goal is to help companies promote business amid global economic uncertainties.

This means answering the “market’s demand for newness,” according to Raffaello Napoleone, Pitti Immagine chief executive officer. The organizer of leading men’s wear trade show Pitti Uomo noted that the number of “special projects, which are conceived, proposed and supported, makes Pitti Uomo the not-to-be-missed event that it is.” As reported, next January the trade show, running from the 8th through the 11th, will bring the much buzzed-about Y/Project brand to Florence along with hosting the first presentation of the new label created by Aldo Maria Camillo and gathering fashion brands from Portugal, this edition’s guest nation, among other initiatives.

Napoleone believes that relevance on a global scale is pivotal in engaging buyers and attendees: “We believe this will be another season surpassing the previous one as we built a ‘wunderkammer’ or a ‘fortress of wonders’ with content that cannot be replicated elsewhere,” he said. Tuning in with today’s trends is also central to the January edition of Pitti Filati, running from the 23rd through the 25th, which will focus on natural and performance yarns, as activewear is holding momentum.

White Milano shares the same exhibitor-centric approach. Starting with the January edition, the contemporary accessories and apparel fair will entirely shift its January and June men’s editions to the White Street Market format extending it to all the exhibiting companies. First unveiled last year as a side project, the format combines the B2C and B2B platforms. “It’s not an easy task to bring this shift alive…but after interviewing our exhibitors and also bigger companies, which were not engaged with us before, we discovered they were enthusiastic and we took our intuition further, [offering companies] an opportunity to meet buyers and end customers in the same space,” said Massimiliano Bizzi, founder and president of the trade show.

Enrico Zannini, general director of BolognaFiere Cosmoprof, said the leading cosmetics and beauty trade show held March 14 to 18 is committed to help exhibitors connect with buyers through a revisited set-up, with more clearly divided spaces and an optimized schedule to “ease the visitors’ itinerary and optimize their opportunities to build new [business] relationships and projects.”

At Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna 2018

At Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna 2018.  Davide Maestri

At handbag and leather goods trade show MipelTheBagShow, running Feb. 10–13, organizers are busy taking the fair’s repositioning a step further. Danny D’Alessandro, the trade show’s chief executive officer and general director of Assopellettieri, said they are “chasing the future.” Initiatives aimed at enhancing the fair’s appeal will include the expansion of the Scenario area dedicated to up-and-coming brands and the third edition of the Tailor Made project, consisting of capsule collections between established Italian manufacturers and young designers to be exhibited at one of the city’s premium department stores.

Fine-tuning the experience at the fair is pivotal in engaging foreign buyers, especially. Next March, as part of its International Buyer Program, Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna will debut a digital tool for matchmaking, expressively addressing foreign attendees. A digital, multimedia system will also be integrated on Mipel’s web site, where buyers will be able to virtually visit the fairgrounds, while Pitti Immagine is implementing its Pitti Club service dedicated to around 1,500 top buyers.

Keeping attractiveness is no longer just a matter of edited formats on the Italian grounds, as many of the leading trade shows here are also flying overseas to explore new potential markets and bring foreign buyers to the country.

Italian Exhibition Group, the organizer of jewelry trade show VicenzaOro, will set up an Italian pavilion at the first edition of the newly created Premier trade show in Las Vegas, next May. While attendance at domestic editions has been increasing — also at a time when European competitors, such as Baselworld, are slowing down — the next step is engaging foreign attendees on a larger scale. “In order to compensate for the lack of big brands we have always done our best to get to know distribution and exhibitors…bringing to the fair their buyers,” noted Marco Carniello, director of VicenzaOro jewelry and fashion division.

Similarly, Mido, running Feb. 23–25, will invite 150 foreign buyers at the fair through a partnership with ICE, Italy’s trade agency. Banking on its knowledge of the eyewear industry, the trade show will also unveil the third Mido Outlook study, which includes data gathered from surveyed players across the sector offering insightful projections and expectations for the next three years.

The MIDO fair in Milan.

The MIDO fair in Milan.  Ernesto Ruscio

Also Cosmoprof, which has already established a series of international editions, is banking on their growth as Cosmoprof India, the latest addition, already proved successful during its preview edition last September, gathering 107 companies and around 3,900 local buyers, while the North American edition will add next July the Cosmopack division, dedicated to packaging. Although other international editions are not expected to bow soon, other key regions are being explored through the roadshow format in Japan, South Korea, Kenya, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

As internationalization is key to established Italian trade shows, organizers are worried about protectionism, unstable economies and uncertainties over trade deals, which could potentially hit exports. “We’re not taking a political stand but we’re looking at the efficacy of [economic] measures, the free trade deal with Canada — for instance — is certainly one to protect,” said D’Alessandro, who also hopes trade sanctions to Russia would be canceled and that governments will follow the example set by the free trade deal between Europe and Japan.

“The first half of 2018 highlighted an international uneven expansion. The global GDP has grown steadily but showed signs of slowdowns in some countries and even worse outcomes [in others] because of tariffs,” added Giovanni Vitaloni, president of ANFAO, the Italian optical goods manufacturers’ association. The executive underscored the importance of support from local institutions. “We’re still figuring out if the [current government] will keep supporting the sector and we hope to hear good news soon, so that our companies can be confident about the future,” he added.

“Reducing tax burden could be instrumental to bring oxygen back to Italian families and companies,” noted Annarita Pilotti, president of Assocalzaturifici, the organizer of footwear trade show Micam, running Feb. 10–13. “The most important challenge today and for the upcoming years is to safeguard the Italian manufacture through measures [aimed at] certifying the products’ origin. We will fight so that the European Union will recognize the importance of our pipeline…to protect European customers and offer them product transparency,” she added.

Some of the country’s trade shows organizers were cautiously optimistic projecting growth for the fashion industry as a whole. “We need to look objectively to what’s happening in Italy and abroad,” said Napoleone, adding that the sector is expected to grow 5 to 6 percent in 2019. “Despite the domestic expenditure being flat, international markets are performing well because Made in Italy positioned itself on the upper segment of the market, which is the one gaining shares,” the ceo of Pitti Immagine added. In January, Pitti Uomo expects half of the attendees to be from abroad.

“The European market — especially in central and northern regions — is, after all, still interesting and relatively stable,” echoed Carniello. “It can give positive results if well stimulated with innovative and modern products for younger customers,” he added.

The atmosphere at White Street Market in June.

The atmosphere at White Street Market in June.  Courtesy Photo.

Going against the grain, Bizzi from White Milano, was also confident about the rebound of domestic sales. “I’m a nonconformist…I expect the domestic market to start improving again, with retailers increasing their interest toward niche brands and diversifying their offering to reenact the internal expenditure.”

Vitaloni was conversely less positive and worried about international economies and politics. The president of ANFAO and organizer of Mido said the first half of the year was “less dynamic” compared to the previous year: “Exports, which had been driving our growth in recent years, are slowing down, with sunglasses and the U.S. suffering especially.”

London: New Kids On The Block

Buyers and retailers aren’t shying away from London despite the uncertainty around Brexit, and trade show organizers are using their platforms to promote new — and the best of — British fashion with a spotlight on lifestyle pieces.

Jacket Required, the contemporary fashion trade show, is launching two new sectors called Introduces and Living. The former will house breakthrough talents and emerging designers selected by the trade show. The latter is a selection of homewear and interior design products and accessories to complement their fashion offer.

“Buyers can expect a truly original event,” said Lindsay Hoyes, event director at Jacket Required, adding that she hopes the trade show can inspire British and international buyers despite the decline of the British high street.

“It is our responsibility to present progressive brands to the most innovative British and international buyers. They will inspire the market to evolve and transition in the new retail landscape,” she said.

Sustainability will also be a key focus at Jacket Required, with the trade show spotlighting workmanship, craftsmanship and repair services.

Scoop, the women’s wear and accessories trade show held at the Saatchi Gallery, is also pioneering newness and Karen Radley, founder of Scoop, said that previous seasons’ buyers can expect to see new collections, emerging designers and lifestyle products.

“Scoop has always been a great hunting ground for accessories, but it will be particularly strong this season. I think consumers will continue to go for investment pieces and fun items to spice up their wardrobe,” Radley said.

She added that while there is uncertainty for overseas brands selling into the U.K. market, “the situation here on the ground isn’t necessarily as tough as it might seem. Great retailers are still doing great business but they are being more discerning and brands will have to up their game and be even more special if they want their customers to spend.”

Scoop will be presenting exclusive designs from the Victoria and Albert Museum archive, with whom they have partnered with this season.

Textile Forum is focusing on expanding its selection and Amy Packham, event director, said she feels that while there is uncertainty among suppliers and designers, “by the time Textile Forum opens in March (the same time Brexit negotiations are expected to be settled), British companies will know what the future outside of the EU is going to look like and adapt to make the best of the new circumstance.”

Paris: A Change in Tone

Expect no major shifts in the Paris trade show lineup for the first half of 2019. But that doesn’t mean change isn’t in the air. David Hadida, chief executive officer of show organizer Tranoï, which in April will stage its inaugural Tranoï Shanghai edition, timed with the city’s fashion week, said the local market and traditional trade show format remain challenged.

“There are opportunities outside of the known territories like the United States and Europe where the economy, in general, is not at its best. China for us definitely represents opportunity,” he said.

With the whole trade show ecosystem under scrutiny, for Hadida, it’s all about a continuous effort to “keep the trade show experience on top of the game.

“It’s as challenging for brands as it is for the trade shows. We need to morph into something new,” he said.

New sections at the next edition of Tranoï in January will include a space at the show’s Palais de la Bourse venue dubbed Only At, offering exclusive capsules by a selection of brands based on four different themes. “It gives brands a bit of oxygen, a reason to be creative,” said Hadida, who is looking to introduce new ways to increase brand exposure to buyers.

The show will also include a new area showcasing Japanese brands from the lifestyle and travel domains, and Tranoï will be showcasing 10 Asian designers to watch.

Under its recently appointed executive director, Frédéric Maus, WSN Developpement-owned Who’s Next will be celebrating its 25th anniversary at its next edition in January, with an Apollo Club theme. Features will include four concept store areas for ready-to-wear and accessories. Maus recently told WWD he restructured the company to become more service-oriented and less sales-focused. “We have to think radically in the selection, in the way we talk and communicate,” he said.

New additions to the calendar include Bel Ouvrage in January, a new salon under Vendôme Luxury focused on art and craftsmanship, also spanning fine jewelry.  The show will be held at the Hôtel de Poulpry from Jan. 26 to Jan. 24.

In Denmark’s Copenhagen, meanwhile, CIFF Kids has been rebranded CIFF Youth, a name that the show organizers said “reflects our desire to engage with youth culture in a more meaningful way.” Changing venues, the show will now take place alongside the CIFF and Code Art Fair in a new, independent location within the city’s Bella Center.

Germany: Amping Up Fashion

The German trade fair scene, especially in its main center of activity in Berlin, is pushing stronger fashion positioning, new cross-segment mixes and wide-ranging hub concepts this season to help revitalize a flagging fashion business.

It’s been another challenging year for both the nation’s apparel retailers and manufacturers. The hottest and longest summer in decades negatively impacted sales performance through the end of September. Instead of heralding the start of a strong fall season, September generated a 13.7 percent downturn, the largest monthly decline this year, according to market research firm GfK.

Jürgen Dax, director of The German Apparel Retailers Association (BTE) said apparel sales for the year are down 3 to 4 percent. The problems are not new: cookie-cutter assortments, repetitive product mixes and changing consumer buying behavior, which goes beyond the switch to online channels.

“In general, German consumers have learned that clothes are not so important anymore, whether it’s for the office or social life. Everything is very basic and when not basic then casual,” Dax commented. He said that special occasion ranges like Wilvorst formal wear are proving an exception, “but the bread and butter business, what one wears every day, is missing. When the merchandise is new and different, only a small number of consumers are interested. Furthermore, monstrous price pressure continues. We are in a race,” he continued, “where price reductions seem to be the only way to motivate the consumer, and nobody can survive that in the long run. One must earn money at some point.”

Premium is looking to shake up the status quo by creating new brand realms based on core criteria such as pricing, image and market relevance, as well as taking a cross-segment approach, mixing men’s, women’s and accessories ranges. The floor plan will be restructured, with new areas such as a Sophisticated Contemporary Hall for labels in the upper price range, or a hall of innovation featuring tech-driven fashion brands like AlphaTauri.

Premium, one of the first to offer digital networking and matchmaking, conferences and symposiums as well as assorted lifestyle elements to inspire and motivate retailers, is now calling on exhibitors to take a more proactive role. Brands are being asked to more clearly define key looks and key stories, because as Premium Group managing partner Anita Tillmann noted, the fair is just the touch point to the buyer. It is up to the exhibitors to make sure their booths are inviting and effectively communicate the story of their brand.

“They can’t outsource that responsibility, and the feedback has been largely positive. Fifty percent will probably do it,” she predicted, adding that, in general, “most are happy someone is finally kicking their butt.”

Also under the Premium Group umbrella: Seek for sportswear and street culture, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this season; Show & Order for more overtly feminine collections, and the Fashion Tech conference which is now focusing on the ‘C level’ only, both in terms of speakers and the audience. The speaker roster will include Garry Wassner, ceo of Hilldun; Ana Andjelic, chief brand officer of Rebecca Minkoff; Alfredo Orobio, founder and ceo of Awaytomars, and Christoph Magnussen, founder and ceo of Blackboat.

Berlin has emerged as a showplace for green fashion, and January will see the reorganization of Messe Frankfurt’s Greenshowroom and Ethical Fashion under the new hub format: Neonyt. While sustainability remains a given, fashion curation is here, too, moving to the forefront. “Our goal is to reflect the state of the art of sustainable fashion,” said creative director Magdalena Schaffrin, who added the platform is already the largest worldwide for green fashion. “Now we want to be more progressive” in a fashion mix that includes contemporary, casual and urban wear brands through to denim, streetwear, sportswear and business wear from both leading brands and newcomers. As show director Thimo Schwenzfeier summed it up, the show’s range should “allow even a conventional fashion buyer to meet all his fashion needs.”

The Neonyt hub concept also encompasses the Fashionsustain conference; the Neonyt fashion show; Thinkathon, a platform where textile engineers, programmers, designers and other applicants can gain access to major industry players, offering solutions to those companies’ chosen challenge questions. And lastly, the influencer and blogger event Prepeek, where sustainable labels will be able to get direct feedback from influencers’ followers on selected pieces of their collections, as well as spreading information on green issues and developments with the wider public.

Panorama, the show for more commercially oriented brands is now positioning itself as an “innovations driver and trend window” for fall/winter 2019/20. “Product fairs as such are floundering. The market is so overrun with product that fairs have become primarily meet-and-greet events,” stated Panorama ceo Jörg Wichmann.

“The challenge for all is how to build a point of experience, how to get the consumer up from his sofa.” And that holds true for Panorama’s visitors, whether brand ceo’s or retailers, which Wichmann suggested also need to be addressed as consumers to bring a bit of fun back into the picture. Hence Panorama’s three new orientation themes: entertainment, infotainment and matchmaking/community.

Always good for a surprise, Bread & Butter founder Karl-Heinz Müller is also reportedly primed to get back into trade fair action in January with L.O.C.K. or Labels of Common Kin. This was a former section of Bread & Butter and Müller’s personal favorite, which housed many of the independent and authentic labels such as Denham, Nigel Cabourn, or Red Wing carried by in Müller’s 14 oz. store in Berlin. The revived B2B platform, if it takes shape in time, will be presented in Hangar 7 of Tempelhof Airport from January 15–17.

Müller was personally not available for comment, but as quoted in press reports, explained “It’s about my community. Labels that know me. Many of these labels no longer have a home. And it’s a need, a pleasure and an honor to once again host my community.” Potential exhibitor names were not disclosed, but Müller added he doesn’t envision a return to Bread & Butter’s large-scale format.

“The market has changed extremely. Wholesale is no longer a big priority for many large brands who don’t need a fair, but the small, individual brands do. It’s for them I’m doing this.”