SKIRMISHING IN ASIA
Byline: Melissa Drier
BERLIN — A trade show battle may be brewing to satisfy Asia’s appetite for European fashion.
Under the leadership of Dusseldorf fashion fair producer Igedo, Europe’s apparel industry will present a multinational front at the new fashion fair, Europe Selection — The Stars of Fashion, scheduled for Feb. 14-16, at the Hong Kong Convention Center.
The first fair of top-level European fashion to be held in the lucrative East Asian market, Europe Selection is the result of an unusual partnership among Igedo; EMI, the Italian Institute for foreign promotion of Italian apparel; Associacion Gaudi, Barcelona, a Spanish men’s and women’s apparel association; BKCEC, London, a council for British apparel exports; La Federation de la Maille, a French knitwear association; Promas, Paris, the promotion agency for the French men’s wear industry, and Fenecon, Amsterdam, an association for the Benelux countries.
What will be missing from this show, however, is a solid delegation of French ready-to-wear. Originally, the agency of the French Women’s RTW Federation that promotes exports — Profem — had been expected to participate in the project, according to Igedo’s director Manfred Kronen.
“But they decided to do it alone. They want to make competition, and we are prepared, though I would still invite them,” Kronen said.
While French apparel companies have been showing in a small trade show in Hong Kong for the past three years, Profem first’s big effort will be in August in Hong Kong under the banner of Hong Kong Paris Prêt (see related story this page). The timing — Aug. 21-23 — will hit just before Europe Selection’s second edition, planned for Aug. 25-27 in Singapore.
Meanwhile, between 100 and 120 better to designer women’s, men’s, outerwear, accessories and innerwear firms from Germany, Italy, France, Spain, England, the Netherlands and Belgium are expected to participate in Europe Selection’s 50,000-square-foot exhibition in the Hong Kong Convention Center in February.
To date, Gruppo GFT — with its prestige labels Valentino Uomo, Miss V, Ungaro Uomo and Donna and Montana Uomo and Donna — has signed up. Also from Italy will be Malo, Pancaldi, Reporter and Arfango. German lines represented will include Escada Group, Strenesse, Comma, Joseph Janard and Dino Valiano.
Participants must be passed by a jury, Kronen said. “We are strictly looking for quality and fashion,” he said.
At this point, no American labels are participating, Kronen said, but they would be welcomed.
“Right now, we are more or less booked out for space. But we’ve doubled our space for the summer show in Singapore,” Kronen said. In addition to the fall show’s participants, makers of casual apparel and shoes are expected to take part.
The growth potential of the Asian market is widely acknowledged by European manufacturers, some of whom have already made inroads into Hong Kong, Taiwan and neighboring countries, Kronen said.
“But many medium-size companies are nervous to go alone and need an incentive,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to do the marketing alone. I’m not talking about huge companies like Cardin or Esprit, but good medium-size European companies need to go together. And a trade show is the only way to unify efforts.”
Recently returned from preparatory meetings in Hong Kong, Kronen reported press conferences were set for this week, starting today in Tokyo, Taipei, Seoul, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Given the absence of an established trade press in the region, Europe Selection will make use of 48 TV spots on CNN and Star TV, scheduled from now through the show dates in February.
A fair representative also has been visiting the major Chinese department stores.
“He’s reported back that they all want to come,” Kronen said. “They are looking for European fashion. It’s a status symbol.”
The show organization has stepped in to help solve visa problems for Chinese buyers. However, the distribution system in China is not as well developed as in Singapore, Hong Kong or Taipei, Kronen pointed out, and fewer Chinese buyers are expected at the first editions of Europe Selection.
“But China is obviously the focus of the future,” he added.
As Kronen anticipates this new venture, Moda Berlin, another Igedo project that focused on what was the former East Germany and neighboring countries in Eastern Europe, has recently foundered. The fair’s next planned edition, scheduled for Feb. 18-20, has been canceled, primarily due to lack of support from Berlin-based manufacturers, Kronen said.
The Berlin Moda Messe, Igedo’s partner in the fair, has lost its government funding and will be disbanded in early 1995, according to the organization’s director, Kurt Geisler. Many Berlin-based manufacturers did take the opportunity to present their collections during the Moda Berlin dates, but in their own premises or at the Berlin Moda Centrum.
Over the years, the show’s exhibition space shrunk by about 42 percent, due to lack of interest and support by the Berlin manufacturers.
“And finally, we had to question why we should make the investment if the Berlin industry is not interested. When the regional market is not working, it’s difficult for international or other exhibitors to succeed,” Kronen stated.
Moda Berlin’s target customers — who were retailers from the new German states, as well Poland and the Czech Republic — now come to Dusseldorf to shop, where Kronen stages two major fashion fairs, CPD (Collections Premieren Dusseldorf) and Igedo.
“They didn’t have the money before, but now they do,” Kronen said.
“But we don’t want to leave Berlin,” he went on. “Berlin is an excellent place for media. Almost everyone [in the print and broadcast media] has at least a representative there, and we will try to do consumer- oriented presentations in Berlin of the best German labels.”
The first such presentation is tentatively scheduled for summer 1995, to coincide with the retail introduction of the fall-winter collections.