Booths at Berlin's Premium trade show

BERLIN — Despite perceptibly less traffic compared to last season’s record peak, the mood was on the rise at the eight trade shows running from July 4 to 6 and the Berliner Mode Salon on July 7 during Berlin Fashion Week.

Premium Group continued to further diversify proposals throughout its four shows — Premium, Show & Order, Seek and Bright — and building upon the Fashiontech platform, while Messe Frankfurt’s Ethical Fashion Show and Green Showroom had to move to Funkhaus near the city’s borders in order to accommodate the growing number of exhibitors. In addition to the commercial Panorama fair and niche denim and craft format Selvedge Run, the children’s fashion show Playtime was new on the scene as well.

The Berlin fairs have established themselves as a go-to location for international brands that want to enter and expand their markets in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DACH region), the Benelux countries and Eastern Europe. Conversations at the fairs revolved around order dates, long-term strategies targeting sustainable business instead of temporary growth, and the myriad trends, with sportive chic still going strong.

“Premium is the best place to show our collections in a contemporary environment and we’re very satisfied with the brand positioning and the distribution infrastructure we can access here,” said Andrea Sanchioni, export manager for the DACH region and Northern Europe at Liu Jo. “We come with a product selection specific to this market and the combination between the collection development and the market response is very good. Germany was one of our fastest-growing countries with 15 to 20 percent growth during the past three seasons.”

“We made a bigger investment to show at Premium in Berlin as we’ve only started developing the market six seasons ago. We’re in a growing phase and it’s going very well,” said Andrea Guardi, commercial director at C.P. Co. “We also observed buyers discussing dynamic instead of seasonal orders.”

Besides discussions about shifting seasons and new order rhythms, exhibitors and visitors discussed the continuing trend for individualism and a more informed consumer.

“Nowadays, a trade show is not just about offering a surface and inviting a buyer anymore. As the consumer is increasingly informed, the needs of buyers are more demanding, too. We work on transforming the fashion trade show from a mere transaction platform into a networking, media and content space in order to create a tangible value for our visitors and exhibitors. That’s the present reality. We invest in new ideas to inspire buyers and exhibitors. This season, for example, we’re collaborating with Refinery29 and five influencers for Show & Order to show buyers, what the very well-informed consumers want,” said Anita Tillmann, chief executive officer of Premium Group.

“Nobody can escape fashion, but there is also no main trend anymore. It’s about many individualistic streams and less about one big seasonal trend and that also means we have to reconsider order cycles and order processes to make available what our customer wants year-round. As a classic retailer, our business relies on core clientele. Our customer trusts us and she doesn’t care so much about brands but more about the right mix. We buy more, but smaller collections to address the demand for individualism. This season, we will have more colors, more plissé and wider silhouettes,” said Winni Klenk, owner of Stuttgart’s Abseits boutique, who was visiting Panorama, Premium, Seek and Bright. “We’re also opening a new concept store called Frieder 39 to cater to the more casual customer with brands such as Off-White, Thom Krom and Y-3. Seek was great for our new store.”

“Premium and Seek are very good to discover new, small brands from Europe. It’s a discovery and inspiration platform for us,” said Yuji Ichinosey of Tokyo store Ship, who attends the Berlin fairs every season.

“We run our business on a core clientele. Nowadays, our customer is very well-informed and very fashionable, so we need to offer a sophisticated yet realistic and wearable assortment. There are also no more seasons, we have to think about a year-round proposal and delivery. We usually do Paris, Milan and Berlin and we discovered interesting brands at both Premium and the Berliner Salon,” said Mirela Stanoiu of Hanover-based premium and luxury stores Emma and Donna.

Regine Bauer, product manager at Görtz, one of Germany’s biggest shoe and accessories chains, said, “The Berlin fairs are a very important date to get a first overview. This season, we saw a strong trend toward chic sportive styles like espadrilles and sneakers again. It’s also about the personal interaction. No digital platform can replace a face to face encounter.”

“We think that trade shows are very important and we want to support them. But we’re lucky to have a beautiful new headquarters and our largest showroom in town, so we decided to invite our partners to celebrate this,” said Liebeskind ceo Brigitte Danielmeyer. The brand, also stocked at Anthropologie in the U.S., is increasingly bringing in international expertise. Earlier this year, Morgan Diguerher, former creative director for accessories at Diane von Furstenberg, was appointed creative director. “We had a very strong growth since we launched. Right now, we want to concentrate on redefining who we want to be and where we want to go. Instead of inflating growth, we are consciously reassessing what makes sense in the long run.”

It’s a strategy also supported by other brands: “Right now, we don’t want to grow the amount of markets, but rather focus on the good customers we have to create a sustainable business also in terms of operations,” said Tony Tonnaer of Kings of Indigo at Seek. “In terms of product, I would say sustainability is becoming a norm. I’m now asked by customers about where the fabrics come from, how much water is used and all kinds of incredible questions nobody would ask five years ago.”

For the first time, a member of the German government attended Berlin Fashion Week: Minister of Economics and Energy Brigitte Zypries visited the Premium Fair at a reception with the Fashion Council Germany to kick off a dialogue with the German fashion industry, a “hidden champion” and potential strong export field, as she said. She unveiled support for the national fashion industry in the fields of young talent support, sustainable fashion and fashion technology.

“In Germany, fashion wasn’t considered part of the creative industries until very recently. The Fashion Council Germany is working very hard at bringing fashion into the economic and cultural conscience. The visit of Brigitte Zypries, the minister for economics and energy, is a novelty. We really achieved a milestone with the support of the ministry,” said Premium Group’s Anita Tillmann, who is also a member of the council.

The Berliner Mode Salon, meanwhile, continued to bring important national and international buyers to its showcase of German design talents.

“In Berlin, I felt a special combination of casualwear and luxury that is very unique. I saw interesting concept stores like Voo Store and Oukan that want to be hidden off the main streets. At the Berliner Mode Salon, I saw interesting labels that I would consider for our store, like Femme Maison, Perret Schaad, Zazi Vintage or Rianna + Nina. This didn’t really surprise me as there’s always something new coming up and Germany is a really interesting place to watch,” said Maximiliano Cattaneo, store manager and buyer of Milan boutique Imarika.

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