With a slowly improving economic environment, European trade-show organizers are stepping up the creativity to garner better attendance in the second half of the year.

This story first appeared in the May 20, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Italy is rediscovering America, seizing on the country’s economic comeback and the strong dollar-to-euro ratio to attract visitors from the U.S.

German fairs are working together in greater numbers, establishing cooperative endeavors such as joint ticketing and shared venues, and expanded shuttle services, while many shows are offering seminars and new in-show focal points and theme presentations, all aimed at providing buyers with a more efficient and inspiring experience.

Despite tough trading conditions, London organizers are looking to help exhibitors boost sales and create interest with talks, seminars and larger venues.

In Paris, shows under the Paris Capitale de la Création umbrella are fine-tuning their strategies. Initiatives include a September return for Who’s Next to better adjust to the French retail buying schedule, promotional initiatives to attract U.S. buyers for Première Vision Pluriel, and tapping into the sportswear trend for Mode City and Interfilière.

“After clothing sales in France declined for the seventh consecutive year in 2014, we expect a return to growth this year,” said François-Marie Grau, managing director of the French Women’s Ready-to-Wear Federation.

Grau is forecasting a rise of up to 1 percent in apparel sales for 2015 after a 0.9 percent drop in 2014, citing numbers from the French Fashion Institute. “The main new element in 2015 is the euro-dollar exchange rate.”

Grau also cited an uptick in the French economy, with 1.2 percent growth forecast for 2015.

While the luxury end is performing better than the rest of the market, Grau noted that persisting challenges in Russia and a slowdown in the Chinese economy are weighing down luxury. Exports of women’s clothing to Russia dropped 19 percent in 2014.

Gilles Lasbordes, general director of the major textile fair Première Vision, which runs Sept. 15 to 17, is forecasting the number of visitors to be “at least on par” with last year.

Première Vision Pluriel — including Le Cuir à Paris, Zoom by Fatex, Indigo, Modamont, Expofil and Première Vision — drew 62,431 visitors in September 2014, down 0.8 percent compared with 2013. This season will mark the second edition in which all six shows are fully integrated.

Richard Martin, artistic director and deputy director of jewelry and watch show Bijorhca Paris, said he was banking on positive synergy with Who’s Next at Porte de Versailles and interior design trade show Maison & Objet in Villepinte. Martin hopes to reach the 15,000 attendance mark.

Lingerie fair Mode City will have a conference on the Russian market as part of a new partnership with Russian fair CPM.

In Italy, Milano Unica president Silvio Albini said, “The most important emerging markets for our textiles are still Europe, with Germany as number one; China, which, with Hong Kong, is firmly our second market of reference, and the U.S., both for its current [market] size, but above all for the potential that it represents.”

A new pre-collection event is set for Fieramilanocity from July 1 to 3. It is conceived as “a creative workshop, where [textile producers] will talk with the design studios of various brands” at work on their next collections to better meet the latter’s needs, explained Antonella Martinetto, president of Moda In, a Milano Unica partner.

Raffaello Napoleone, chief executive officer of Pitti Immagine, said Italian textile and fashion exports and imports were both up this year, a “dynamic” and encouraging sign.

Massimiliano Bizzi, president of White, said there was “great energy” and double-digit growth at its February event, with visitors from Japan, South Korea, Germany and China.

“We continue to analyze our brand mix,” he said. “Having fragrances and costume jewelry appeals to the fashion sector in markets such as the U.S. and Middle East.”

“There’s a perception of greater confidence in the Italian market, which, if only little by little, is looking up,” said Emanuela Forlin, exhibition manager at Fieramilano, which organizes MI Milano Prêt-à-porter and bridal show Si SposaItalia.

Germany’s capital, Berlin, has become a stronger focus for buyers on the international trade-show circuit. Although contemporary fashion and urban streetwear remain the driving force, Berlin is turning into a one-stop center for retailers of all types.

With 15 trade platforms slated for Berlin Fashion Week, July 7 to 10, retailers will be able to tap young designer, contemporary, streetwear and urban apparel and accessories collections for women and men, along with larger, more mainstream brands, plus-size collections and the green fashion segment.

Another change in July is that Berlin’s trade-show action will be spread over four days. From July 7 to 9 will be Bread & Butter, back in action at Tempelhof airport, joining Panorama, Show & Order, Selvedge Run, GrüssGott, Curvy Is Sexy and Cookies. LondonEdge will run July 8 and 9, and Premium, Seek, Bright, Greenshowroom, Ethical Fashion and Berliner Durchreise are set for July 8 to 10. Runway shows and stage presentations of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin run all four days.

“Berlin is the best and most important [trade center] location for Germany,” said Thomas Martini, codirector of Bright. “Especially in respect to international visitors, Berlin is the city where the entire streetwear scene is on the street and where the trends are made. Germany is the strongest European market for many.”

Bread & Butter, featuring 135 to 140 denim, street and urbanwear lines, is also introducing Bread & Butter Startup in the main hall. Chief executive officer Karl-Heinz Müller described Startup as a sort of creative playground “where buyers can discover something new.” Some 150 young designers, food concepts, IT intelligence and programmers have applied to take part.

In London, Moda portfolio manager Nick Cook summed up the mood when he said, “While our optimism has been growing season-on-season, we are still very mindful of the myriad issues facing the fashion retail industry and the factors (ranging from the weather to government policy) that could shape progress.”

Carole Hunter, director for LondonEdge Original & LondonEdge Fashion, said of the overall mood: “It’s slowly improving, but the recession has been so deep and so protracted that it has left people very reluctant to take risks.”


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