THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL
Byline: Melissa Drier / Michael Kepp
The rallying cry goes out from retailers across the globe: “Show me something different.” With pressure on them to perform more intense than ever, buyers are perpetually in search of products that will help them stand out from their competitors, and looking for the Next Hot Thing. As global transportation of goods becomes swifter, worldwide production is increasingly concentrated in low-cost-labor countries, and trade barriers fall, the answers might lie outside of fashion’s usual megacities. Trade fairs and fashion weeks in secondary cities are attracting more international buyers. Here is a look at two such markets. (In future global issues, WWD will continue to explore other emerging venues.)
COPENHAGEN — When it comes to fashion fairs in Scandinavia, Copenhagen leads the way. In the last few years, Copenhagen’s two concurrent apparel trade shows — the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair and CPH Vision — have not only established it as Scandinavia’s primary show venue, but also they’ve turned the Danish capital into a hotbed of junior and contemporary fashion activity.
The Copenhagen International Fashion Fair, held in the Bella Center near the Danish international airport, will present its 16th edition Feb. 8-11.
“We’ve had a fashion fair in Denmark for 50 years, so it’s an old tradition,” said Jens Bloch, of the Danish Textile & Apparel Federation, which organizes the fair in cooperation with the Bella Center. “But in 1993, the fair had become too self-confident and didn’t listen to the exhibitors. We tried as an industry organization to put pressure on the organizer, but it didn’t work. So we took it over.”
When the new organizers started in 1993, at which time Denmark competed with shows in Oslo, Sweden and Finland, “the goal was to become the leading Nordic fair. The fair in Sweden recently closed down, Oslo and Finland are half the size of Denmark,” he noted, and the Copenhagen show keeps racking up exhibitors, visitors and space.
In February, more than 700 exhibitors representing 2,250 different collections for women, men and children will be showing in about 300,000 square feet of exhibition space within a total area of about 650,000 square feet.
“We try to set up areas of relaxation, and leave the space as open as possible to provide a less-cluttered environment,” Bloch said.
In terms of exhibitors, the Danish fair has become more international over the years, he said, attracting participants from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, England and Holland, as well as its main core of Danish firms. At the show last Aug. 19, 108 buyers from about 40 countries attended, with Danish and Swedish visitors predominating, up 17 percent compared to the February 1999 fair.
Nevertheless, Bloch acknowledged that both as a company and a fair, the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair is small compared to productions in Germany, Italy and France.
“The major difference is that companies spend a huge amount of money on their stands here,” he asserted. “You’ll only see a few set up with racks of clothes. Instead they tend to build mansions to present their collections,” he said. “It’s always been that way, and [it] improves the atmosphere as well as giving visitors something more to look at than at the other fairs.”
In the center of town, CPH Vision takes a completely different approach. Geared toward smaller, trendy and up-and-coming fashion companies, this fair of about 120 exhibitors in the 19th-century Oksnehallen, a former cattle market, prefers a simple, low-key setup.
“Our stands are rather minimalist, with paper walls, white walls, hangers, no carpets,” said Jan Busch Carlsen, founder of CPH Vision. “My main concern is that exhibitors show what their clothes look like versus building huge stands. There’s not a lot to disturb the impression of the clothes, and it gives the whole show a clean edge.”
Carlsen, formerly the sales manager for the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair, started CPH Vision in 1998. He felt smaller designers were drowning in the vast expanse of the Bella Center, and also couldn’t afford prominent stands that could effectively display their collections.
“Young designers need a platform for showing their collections and for testing new ideas,” he said. “Money is not plentiful when starting a new company, so we are very flexible with our stand sizes.”
Indeed, there are no standard stands at CPH Vision, which range from 40 to 500 square feet.
“We prefer smaller booths and check on how big a company’s collection really is. We then advise them on how much space they need — and get — because sometimes companies that want a lot of space just want to show off,” Carlsen said. “For us, the finished product is the most important issue and that is what people come to see.”
CPH Vision also makes it a principle not to place companies in the same location twice. “Exhibitors get new neighbors every time. It keeps the attention of visitors on a high level. If you have the status quo,” Carlsen suggested, “buyers always go to the the same companies time after time, and don’t look further.”
The idea of “the more change, the merrier” also holds for the trend shows and even the logo of the fair.
“We come up with a totally new image every time, and it works well. People always get to see what’s now, what’s new,” he declared.
Designers featured at CPH Vision are mainly Scandinavian, but the streetwear collections are quite international, with exhibitors coming from as far as Australia. In August, 6,000 buyers attended, 48 percent of them from abroad, with 24 percent of the foreign visitors hailing from Sweden and Norway. The remainder came from Japan, Canada and all over Europe, Carlsen said. “The non-Scandinavian presence is gaining a lot.”
Besides a major trend show daily, and five to six shows of individual companies, CPH Vision does what Carlsen calls “sudden events, like parties where people can relax and have something to eat. We don’t really have closing times,” he explained. The fair is officially open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., “but it normally goes to midnight. People are keen on staying and they still do good business after 8 p.m., or some would just like to sit and chitchat. We try to keep things flexible, and if exhibitors need it, we do it.”
Carlsen said the fair aims to “combine fun with business. Everyone talks to one another, they do parties together, go out together, they even have common clients. All in all, this is a place for young designers who want to show their peers what they can do.”
RIO DE JANEIRO — A sudden burst of interest by foreign retailers may put the Sao Paulo Fashion Week permanently on the international calendar.
This twice-yearly show — in early February and early July — has, almost since it began 4 1/2 years ago, mainly been a way for local retailers to see the latest that local designers have to offer. But this sleeper of a show is on the verge of waking up.
Henri Bendel of New York, Harvey Nichols of London, Galeries Lafayette and Le Printemps, two major French department store chains, and Le Claireur, a small chain of exclusive Paris boutiques, have all confirmed that they’d be at the year’s first Sao Paulo Fashion Week, from Jan. 31 through Feb. 5. Others expected to attend include Neiman Marcus and Barneys New York.
“All that’s pending with Neiman’s and Barneys is who they’re going to send,” said Ana Luisa Pessoa de Queiroz, with Girault-Totem, a Paris p.r. agency and designer sales rep, which is helping to put the show together.
During the show last July, organizers began inviting the international press from New York, Paris and London to cover the event. This coverage, along with invitations by local designers, helped spark some interest among retailers. But this year, the show’s organizers made their first big push directly to merchants, inviting them to Sao Paulo Fashion Week.
Promoters have lined up top local designers — including Alexandre Herchcovitch, Fause Haten, Lino Villaventura, Reinaldo Lourenco, Walter Rodrigues, Marcelo Sommer and Gloria Coelho — to unveil their winter 2001 collections. Most don’t want to reveal what they planned to show, though Herchcovitch, whose signature line intrigued many at the last show, said that his winter 2001 collection would be “more colorful than usual.”
Ready-to-wear fashion labels like Zoomp, which brought Herchcovitch into its design room three years ago; Zapping, which is Zoomp’s secondary line; Ellus, Forum, the signature line of designer Tufi Duek; Triton; M. Officer; Equilibrio; Iodice, and Patachou will also show their 2001 winter collections. These are expected to feature less outlandish, more classic wear and a wide selection of designer jeans.
A total of 25 local designers and fashion labels displaying their collections to be worn by dozens of models, among them top-drawing models like Gisele Bundchen, Caroline Ribeiro and other internationally known Brazilian models.
“Our push to put Sao Paulo Fashion Week permanently on the international calendar is based on our belief that local designers have both the high-quality product and the creative flair to attract foreign retailers who, until now, have gone mainly to New York, London, Milan and Paris,” said Paulo Borges, the show’s chief organizer. “Our designers are young and are developing very personal styles, often putting more color and sensuality in their collections than you find elsewhere.”
Foreign buyers have, in fact, already discovered much of that new talent. Bergdorf Goodman and Joyce Ma already buy Zoomp; Neiman Marcus buys Forum; Galeries Lafayette buys Reinaldo Lourenco, and Joseph of London and Henri Bendel feature Herchcovitch and Fause Haten.
“Part of what we do is discover new talent, and now with more of that new talent coming out of Brazil, we have to go, not just to all the established shows, but also those off the beaten track,” said Ed Burstell, Henri Bendel’s general manager. “A year ago, we were in Prague and Warsaw. We’re going to Brazil to see who we already buy from and who we might add on. Also going to [one of the first shows] of the year, internationally, helps us define trends early on.”
(Among large international fashion fairs, Hong Kong’s starts today and runs through Friday.)
Foreigners first began to see Brazil as a fashion market in the mid-Nineties, when import barriers were lifted, allowing foreign fashion labels and fabrics to be sold here for the first time. As foreign designers began coming here to see how their clothes were being displayed, they began taking a closer look at what local designers were turning out. This, along with growing awareness of Brazil’s unique fashion output, the spotlight on Gisele and the media attention last summer’s Sao Paulo Fashion Week aroused, should make upcoming Sao Paulo shows a must for many retailers in the coming years, argued Burstell.
“Brazilian designers are producing very seductive-looking clothing, using innovative fabrics, cuts and silhouettes,” he added. “It’s too simplistic to say the clothes look sexier than most. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that they have a stylishness that shows off the body very well. That’s why it’s going to become harder and harder to overlook them.”
Kika Rivetti, a partner in Sao Paulo Eclat, Brazil’s second largest retailer of foreign fashion labels, agrees.
“Brazilian designers know how to make clothes that drape over the body in such a way or that shimmer in such a way as to draw attention to them and to who’s wearing them,” she said. “Foreign retailers are now beginning to notice.”
Because Brazilian designers and fashion labels at the Sao Paulo Fashion Week will be showing their 2001 winter collections, the fabrics they use will be heavier than those going into their summer 2002 collection, to be displayed during the Sao Paulo Fashion Week in July.
That second fashion week will feature 33 designers, many of them bikini makers not present at the upcoming show.
The Sao Paulo winter 2001 collections will also be “in total sync” with the big fashion shows that follow, like New York, which will be hosting its fall 2001 runway shows in mid-February, according to Pessoa de Queiroz of Girault-Totem. She added that because of their earlier timing, Brazilian designers don’t have an opportunity to see what trends are dominating other international runways.
Brazilian designer Fause Haten said that he wouldn’t adjust his collections to the U.S. and European markets in terms of style, even if he weren’t part of the first round of international fashion shows.
“I find it does no good to make style adjustment to suit the tastes of foreign markets,” said Fause Haten, the only Brazilian designer to have taken part in the last two New York fashion weeks (last September and February). “The minute you start catering to foreign looks, you begin to lose what makes your clothes look unique.”
Haten said that during this show he promises to unveil some “outlandish, statement pieces. Though most of what I’ll be showing will be very commercial, with sexy cuts that appeal to someone from 25 to 45 years old.”