DUSSELDORF, Germany — Disappointment was the major note sounded by most U.S. women’s wear manufacturers showing at the recent edition of Igedo.
The three-day fair, which ran through March 12, marked the last time Igedo will be held in March, and the once mighty fall edition of the show went out with a whimper. The show is being moved to a later timing — next year it will be April 20-22, moving it further away from the CPD show that has become the premier buying event here.
Additionally, depressed retail sales in Germany and the rest of Europe contributed to such a heavy mood that several exhibitors were actually seen dozing in their booths. Traffic was light, and with 1,200 exhibitors and about 25,000 trade visitors, the show was about half the size of the Igedo organization’s February CPD fair and previous Igedo shows. Just 18 months ago, the fall Igedo fair featured 2,000 exhibitors and 42,000 visitors.
About 20 U.S. sportswear, ready-to-wear and special occasion dress lines made their German debut in a U.S. Department of Commerce group booth at the Dusseldorf fairground. Several other U.S. companies, including Michael Kors with his new Kors collection, showed independently at the fair or the nearby Dusseldorf Gallery.
For the majority of the U.S. firms, Dusseldorf was a learning experience and a means of finding an agent or rep in the German market. Sales were a secondary consideration. Few said they covered their expenses.
The Market Pulse, Boca Raton, Fla., brought more than seven novelty T-shirt lines, including Relevant Products, Studio Q and Prints of Tails.
“This is a fishing trip, but there weren’t a lot of fish in the ocean,” said Michael Flagg, president of Three Flaggs and a U.S. pavilion participant.
Bob Miller, president of Jules Miller & Son, New York, a maker of moderate and better suits, said he’d made some “very promising” contacts with buyers from South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Greece and England. Styling, quality and price were what attracted foreign buyers, he said.
Keen on the more novel and feminine looks in the company’s Sara Roberts and new Apropos ranges, buyers were particularly impressed by the “American attitude of flexibility,” Miller noted. “But how many people have I heard say, ‘I spent all my money at CPD’? They’re just here now for fill-ins.”
At New York-based Sigrid Olsen, another first-time exhibitor at the Commerce Department booth, Edward Jones, president and ceo of the sportswear company, said, “I’m told CPD was a busier show and possibly that would have been better. But I’m comfortable with the context here. We weren’t trying to sell a lot of merchandise, but to increase exposure. We saw people from Germany, Mexico and South Africa and a lot of people are planning to come to New York to follow up.”
Jones said it would probably take another trip to Germany to fully evaluate the situation.
At the more exclusive Dusseldorf Gallery, members of the Michael Kors team were less than enthused.
“We understand they’re trying to open up this fair to American manufacturers, but we feel like we’ve been used as guinea pigs,” said Jeanine Elias, sales director for the new Michael Kors collection.
“We decided to go for the German market because the old Kors line had a strong following here, but it seems like a lot of stores we’re after don’t come to this fair,” she explained.
Fashion Exports New York, which supports export efforts for New York manufacturers, was at the U.S. pavilion with Augustus Clothiers, Farinae Collections, Eric New York and Jules Miller & Son, but is considering a venue change.
“We’ve had so much success at the prior three shows that this is disappointing,” said Leah Kaplan, the organization’s director. “It may make sense to look at other venues because it doesn’t seem like CPD or Igedo attracts the southern Europeans.”
She said Fashion Export’s role “is to be pioneers; to go where the industry isn’t and then move on to the next market. Other organizations have taken over our role here.”
If American firms want to come to Dusseldorf, they can work with the Dusseldorf trade show office in New York or the Commerce Department, she said.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department’s plans for Dusseldorf are also uncertain. “At the moment, we’re making no commitment other than to assist exports,” said Maura Kim, the department’s international trade specialist and project officer.
Nevertheless, interest from American companies to participate in Dusseldorf is continuing to grow. Indeed, if all goes as planned, the California Fashion Association expects to bring a California contingent to the February 1997 CPD show, said Ilse Metchek, executive director of the CFA.
“This is an untapped market for what California does best,” she said.
The recently established New York office of the Dusseldorf Trade Shows, which also represents the Igedo Co., is stepping up efforts to recruit and service American manufacturers for future CPD and Igedo shows. The funds and the commitment are there, according to Christian Winslow, the office’s director.
Winslow said he would shy away from the mixed pavilion approach, however. “We have to get American companies established here in the right halls, and put them together when it makes sense,” he said.

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