Byline: James Fallon

LONDON — Britain’s exhibition scene is bubbling once again.
After years when the women’s wear shows were dominated by Premier Women’s Wear, organized by Blenheim Exhibitions and held in Birmingham, and the London runway shows, there now are two new shows from fashion business publisher EMAP Fashion.
The new shows arrive as Blenheim itself is undergoing changes following the planned acquisition of the group by United News & Media PLC. United made a recommended offer of about $993 million (592.5 million pounds) for Blenheim in mid-October.
The offer ended nearly five months of bid speculation during which the exhibitions organizer was fought over by VNU of The Netherlands, the Anglo-Dutch Reed-Elsevier and United.
David Pegler, managing director of Premier, said the acquisition should only help Premier because it will make United the world’s largest exhibitions company. United already owns Miller Freeman — publisher of business periodicals and producer of trade shows and conferences — in the U.S. It also will give Premier access to United’s interests in newspapers, television and magazines to further promote its shows and attract buyers.
“It gives us a muscle we didn’t have before,” Pegler said.
Premier may need it now that EMAP Fashion has entered into the exhibitions arena. The company — which publishes the business magazines Draper’s Record and Fashion Weekly — launched its first show, 40-degrees, in September of this year.
Exhibitors said the show, which focuses on women’s and men’s streetwear, denim, sport fashion and clubwear, was a success in its first edition at the London Arena in the Docklands and should be even stronger in February following the announcement that it will be held at the Olympia Exhibition Center in central London Feb. 16-18.
Premier Menswear, organized by Blenheim, will be held at the same venue, but the two shows will be operated separately. The Blenheim men’s wear show had been held in Birmingham until last fall when it moved to London. When it was held in Birmingham, it was combined with Blenheim’s women’s show under the banner of Premier Collections.
Neshat Ahmed, the 40-degrees event director, said the move to Olympia should enable the show to add at least another 50 to 60 exhibitors. The first show had 151 companies showing, and almost all of them are expected to return, Ahmed said.
“The main reason we decided to move was the need to expand the show and introduce new brands to further develop it,” she said, denying that the first 40-degrees suffered from its location in the Docklands, far from central London.
Ahmed said 40-degrees will remain weighted more heavily toward men’s than women’s wear, as was its first edition. The show also will retain its edgy atmosphere, she said.
New exhibitors with women’s or unisex products that already have signed up for the second show include Airwalk, Brainiak, Conscious Earthwear, Cyberdog, Hush Puppy, i2i, Red or Dead, Sergio Tacchini, Peter Werth and Josef. These are in addition to such returning labels as 1966, Ben Sherman, Carli Gry, Chipie, Cimarron, Converse Activewear, Daniel Poole, Easy Jeans, Farah F Tab, Hot Tuna, Hussy, Luhta, Oxbow, Sun & Sand and Trigger Happy.
Yet to sign, however, are some of the megabrands the first show attracted, including Levi’s. Ahmed said the organizers were due to meet soon with Levi’s to discuss their showing and predicted that most of the major labels at the first show would return.
In addition, EMAP Fashion will hold its first Pure Womenswear show at Olympia on the same dates as 40-degrees, while Premier Women’s Wear will be held at the same time at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.
Pegler of Blenheim claims Pure isn’t competitive with Premier since Premier is targeted at the designer, diffusion, classic and fashion-forward categories. Premier, on the other hand, focuses more on mass-market lines for the domestic market; Pegler said it is already almost sold out.
Paul Keenan, managing director of EMAP Fashion, said Pure will give U.K. and overseas buyers a chance to view these collections up to two weeks earlier than in the past, when they had to wait for the London women’s designer runway shows and the accompanying exhibition.
“Pure Womenswear is after an international audience,” Ahmed said. “London provides a focus for international buyers and enables them to buy up to two weeks earlier than they are able to at London Fashion Week.”
EMAP Fashion aims to attract about 350 women’s wear exhibitors. Companies that already have taken space at Pure include Paul Costelloe, Apostrophe, Beppe Bondi, Carole Lee Designs Ltd., Chevron, Daniela Vecchi, Enrico Coveri, Fenn Wright & Manson, Kevan Jon, Mondi, Philippe Adec, Rene Lezard, Votre Nom and Unanyme de Georges Rech.
“Pure will be an event, like 40-degrees,” Ahmed said. “But we will start slowly with it and concentrate on doing it well.”
Meanwhile, EMAP Fashion is not eager to develop more trade shows in the near future.
“We have no master strategy to roll out a string of exhibitions,” Keenan said. “It is all idea-driven and market-driven. Our aim is simply to respond to what people want.”