The Berlin-based e-commerce company bought Bread & Butter in 2015 and turned it from a business-to-business to a business-to-consumer platform as part of their attempts to boost brand-consumer interaction.
Staged indoors and outdoors at Berlin’s Arena venue over the weekend of September 2-4, the event featured exhibition booths, runway shows, music acts and activities by the 31 participating exhibitors that included Zalando’s in-house lines as well brands stocked by the e-tailer. Companies such as Levi’s and G-Star sold their collection at booths and offered customizing workshops, Tommy Hilfiger and Topshop presented digital games and a buying app and Adidas and Nike opted for production insights and workout sessions. The show attracted more than 20,000 visitors over three days, using entirely the capacity of the venue, as reported by Zalando.
Karl-Heinz Müller, the founder and long-term chief executive officer of the original Bread & Butter trade show, was present as a visitor and said: “Opening up to the public has always been in my interest. We said four years ago that fashion is a consumer market. Zalando are the first to do a consumer fashion festival and as the first, it’s always difficult, but they created a good vibe. Addressing consumers is something that was due long ago and it’s ironic that of all industries, the lifestyle segment is the last to do so,” pointing at fairs like the automotive show IAA or the German book fairs that all feature public days.
Many of the attendees had a positive take on the event.
“I like how Bread & Butter is open to the public. That’s how fashion should be like, it should allow people to get involved and not just be for an exclusive group of invitees. And the fair turned out very cool, they have all the big names and interactive events,” said Robert Adamson, a 22-year-old student from Ireland.
“As a student of fashion journalism, I’m interested in the renaissance of Bread & Butter. It used to be a trade show with an international appeal and I was curious how it turns out as a consumer festival. And I think it’s great — albeit a little too crowded,” said Kelly Niesen, a 24-year-old Luxembourgian who lives in Berlin. “The Puma show staged as a performance with choreography by Nikeata Thompson, for example, was amazing.”
“It’s fun and the mood is good,” said Aaron Brown, a 29-year-old London-based designer for garment producer Dird Group came to Berlin just for the show. “We came to get inspired and check out what’s going on with the brands. It’s interesting to interact with them. It’s a great show and we just bought Levi’s T-shirts that we will customize here.”
A group of visitors from Ukraine agreed: “We really like it. It’s a great trend and digital show, especially for us because we’re in retail in Ukraine and want to know what’s going on in the industry,” said 30-year-old Xenia. “It’s good to see experiences in other countries and to watch the people. It’s very crowded, there are beautiful people and there’s nice music. It’s good that it’s democratic and open to the public.”
A group of younger consumers disagreed, though. “It’s the best public fashion event on offer at the moment, but for us, it’s kind of boring. We thought it would be more exciting. It’s also expensive: 15 euros for the entry, and then the food and drinks are expensive. We wouldn’t do it again. And we’re actually only here to see the rapper A$AP Rocky,” said 16-year-old Josephine. “Everybody knows the brands here. They should have looked out for something really interesting and not so commercial like Topshop and Nike if they really want to be cool,” added her 17-year-old friend Neo after Topshop’s runway show, depicting the predicament of how well-informed young consumers are.
The exhibitors seemed to be positively impressed: “If someone has a new idea and we think it’s good, we support it. There are a lot of people here and the atmosphere seems great,” Daniel Grieder, Tommy Hilfiger’s chief executive officer told WWD after the launch of the Tommy x Gigi collection that was presented by Gigi Hadid who flew in to Berlin just for the event.
“The show and the event were extremely successful,” a spokesman of Hugo Boss agreed. The company left Berlin Fashion Week seasons ago and came back to the city at the event with a runway show of their Hugo line.
Thecla Schaeffer, chief marketing officer of G-Star, said: “Last week we launched our global brand campaign featuring Pharrell Williams, ‘What is Raw?’ where we take the audience behind the scenes of G-Star, show the Raw Factory and our Amsterdam headquarters. B&B by Zalando was the perfect platform to bring our Raw Factory to the consumer and have them experience it in an interactive way. We shared the story behind our iconic 3-D denim, the G-Star Elwood, had a denim restoration workshops led by our denim ninja Shunji and customers could visit the personal office of Pharrell Williams, G-Star’s Head of Imagination: the RAW Denim Teepee.”
Adidas opted to present consumers with insights into future production processes: “We’re not showing or selling our collection, but we’re giving an insight in innovations in design and production that we will implement in the future instead — and it was very well-received. We’re very happy and we like the new concept of Bread & Butter as we have always been a consumer-centered company,” Wendelin Hüber, senior public relations manager at the company commented.
Summing up, Zalando’s vice president of brand marketing Carsten Hendrich told WWD on Monday: “We are overwhelmed by the first impressions that have been widely positive among exhibitors and visitors alike. We are confident to further develop the concept, but will have to discuss what worked best and what worked less to better define the concept for both brands and visitors since it was the first event of this kind.
“So far,” he continued, “the interactive ideas like the customizing labs at Levi’s and insights into production processes at Adidas were well-received. We still have to wait to see how far the digital outreach throughout Europe was. The live-streams from the weekend reached more than two million users via Facebook live on over 16 channels across Europe and visitors have generated more than a million impressions — but this will multiply.”
He noted that the trend show was part of the company’s wide-ranging platform strategy to connect the different parts of the fashion industry to increase the interaction between brands and consumers. The future, he said, will see more digital innovations, more live social media and the involvement of influencers. The next outing for the show is scheduled for September 2017, with a more refined profile, according to Zalando.