While there’s a cloud of economic uncertainty, trade fair organizers in China and Japan are forging ahead in the hopes of capturing more international buyers and attention.
This story first appeared in the May 11, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Wendy Wen, senior general manager of Intertextile Shanghai apparel fabric fair organizer Messe Frankfurt Ltd., said she doesn’t think the weakening of the Chinese economy will have an impact on domestic textile fairs in the foreseeable future.
“While there has been much talk recently about the economic position of China, we haven’t seen the situation have an adverse effect on our textile fairs in China,” she said, pointing to a 20 percent increase in exhibitors at the March fair and a 14 percent increase in buyers, who came from more than 100 countries.
“This in itself shows the textile industry at least is still optimistic about China, but anecdotally as well, there was reason for optimism,” Wen added. “Many exhibitors spoke of their target markets being the midrange and high-end, which weren’t slowing down, and that their existing clients were all still placing orders, not to mention the fair was still a good place to meet new clients.”
Chen Dapeng, executive vice president of the China National Garment Association, organizers of CHIC, Shanghai’s twice-yearly apparel trade shows, said, “Of course, we are concerned about this decline, but at the same time, it gives us the chance to upgrade our industry. Chinese companies improve and invest in their product: high-quality, perfect-cut and innovative creations. Of course, only the best brands will survive, but there are many in China.”
He said, “Concerning the fashion and textile trade fairs, I am sure these platforms are an essential instrument. Trade shows offer the unique possibility to see the whole fashion business in one place at one time. During CHIC, the complete fashion chain — from support services to trade to brands and designers — is present.”
A focus on the mid- to high-end of the apparel and textile markets is a trend across the board, as Chinese companies continue their move up the manufacturing value chain. According to Wen, a focus on technology will also be key for future success.
“We [are looking] to bring the latest hot trend in the industry to the already comprehensive range of products and information available at the fair. The fair’s fringe program will expand to include digital printing topics to provide knowledge and resources to the industry, as well as opportunities for companies in this sector to increase their brand awareness,” she said.
Meanwhile, Fashion World Tokyo, Japan’s largest fashion trade show, has been steadily growing and becoming more international. Its most recent fair in early April counted Aquascutum, Kate Spade, Cole Haan and Ralph Lauren among its exhibitors.
Fashion World Tokyo’s organizers are also making efforts to draw more visitors from outside of Japan, according to Miki Oba, who handles the fair’s international promotion. The number of international tourists to Japan continues to rise, giving the economy and retail sector a welcome boost. According to preliminary figures compiled by the Japan National Tourism Organization, the number of foreign visitors to Japan grew 31.7 percent year-on-year in March, to more than 2 million.
“We are focusing on attracting visitors from Asia,” Oba said, “because in the previous April edition, we received a lot of inquiries from Japanese exhibitors to meet more international visitors. So we will try and we will figure out how to do it.”
In the most recent April edition, Fashion World Tokyo saw 596 exhibitors, including 266 from 28 countries outside of Japan. This was up from 381 exhibitors a year earlier. Visitors in April surpassed 22,000, up from 16,000 the previous year. Oba anticipates these numbers will grow further in October, with the percentage of visitors from outside Japan also expected to rise.
Looking ahead, Fashion World Tokyo might see its competition among Japanese fairs start to increase. Japan’s longest running fashion trade show, JFW-International Fashion Fair, has teamed up with Magic to launch IFF Magic Japan, with the first event slated to take place in April 2017. The show will have a new look and feel, with “new brands laid out in easy-to-navigate fashion neighborhoods.”