BERLIN — Despite a weak year behind them, retailers in Germany and neighboring European countries started the fall season in a positive frame of mind. As was made clear during the Berlin Fashion Week runway and trade fairs, Jan. 18 to 22, Germany’s capital is becoming a key communications center for the region’s fashion industry. The 10 trade shows spanned commercial, contemporary, denim and sportswear, as well as niche concepts such as sustainable, plus-size and children’s fashion, attracting interest beyond the German borders.
Starting a day earlier than Berlin’s nine other fairs, Verena Malta, chief executive officer at Show & Order said: “We wanted to give our buyers the opportunity to come see our collections before the hectic other fairs kick in and we had a great start,” while looking at aisles packed with visitors on Monday morning.
Visitors also lined up for the main fairs Panorama and Premium on Tuesday, with both events seeing many first-time buyers and fashion professionals.
“We are in Berlin for the first time because it becomes more and more important as a preparation for our orders. The fairs are a good communication platform for inspiration and to discover new brands early,” said Ellen Schoser, co-owner and chief buyer of Modehaus Schoser in Trochtelfingen, at Premium. “As it is the season’s kickoff and we’ve just arrived, it’s difficult to define trends yet, but we’re looking for a lot of cashmere and coats.”
Barbara Wiedemann-Fröhlich, owner and director of Vis-a-Vis in Krombach, noted, “Premium is good for us as a boutique because of all the individual labels. We are looking for elegant, sporty lines that are functional with a lot of fur and cashmere for the coming season.
At Panorama, a buyer from Matzen GmbH, parent of several multibrand stores in Schleswig-Holstein, agreed. “We’re here for the first time because Berlin is becoming more important as an inspiration hub and a place to discover new things. Consumers are less focused on brands and care more about the product, so we have to choose more carefully. For the coming fall season, we are mostly looking for good cashmere and knits.”
Another retailer, Gianluca Leuzzi, owner of Maesano in Rome, said, “It’s our first time in Berlin and it’s very interesting. We are here to complete our scope of the fashion markets, meet new agents from all over Europe and maybe buy something. Besides the fairs, we will also look at some runway shows.”
“Berlin is becoming important as an access point to the German and the Scandinavian markets as there are a lot of important brands, buyers and professionals from these regions. I’m here for the first time but plan to come every season now,” said a London-based account executive of Nuorder, a wholesale/e-commerce concern.
A spokesman for PME Legend emphasized the importance of a presence in Germany: “If you want to be in the D-A-CH region [Germany, Austria, Switzerland] and the Nordic markets, you have to be here…mainly to get in touch with buyers and prepare orders.”
As filtered content and the lifestyle around clothes become more relevant, all major fairs have established special sections: Panorama introduced “Nova Concept,” a platform for curated fashion and lifestyle, while Show & Order installed “Soo…trendy,” a section based on concept stores to show emerging brands. Premium added “Activewear” and “Power Retail” departments, and further profiled its #Fashiontech appearance with tech brands and a conference.
Other niche concepts like Greenshowroom and Ethical Fashion Show, both produced by Messe Frankfurt with an emphasis on sustainability; as well as Seek, Bright and Selvedge Run, a fair aiming to fill the gap of denim and raw handcrafted goods left since the closure of Bread & Butter, also saw a rise in interest.
Bernd Müller, project director at Messe Frankfurt, said: “Sustainable fashion is becoming a matter for conventional retailers as consumers are becoming more inquisitive about the roots of their clothes. A year ago, only 20 percent of our buyers came from non-eco stores, now it’s about 50 to 60 percent, and orders are increasing, too.” The expos host 166 international eco-conscious fashion brands.
“The interest in sustainable fashion is growing, we have more customers every day and have opened a second store,” said Felix Halder, owner and chief buyer of the Fairtragen shops in Bremen. “But there’s also more good supply. When we started eight years ago, we had to search for labels that were wearable. For the past five years, I’ve been swamped with offers that are good and potentially interesting, and now I really have to filter.”
At Selvedge Run, Fredy Vuille, buyer for VMC in Zürich, a player on the international denim scene, said as he was placing an order at Indigo People: “I don’t care where the fair is, I have to come because of the brands. I’m only visiting Selvedge Run in Berlin, and I have to say that the fair has improved extremely. As for trends, for us, it’s going in a more comfortable direction with wider cuts, but at the moment, skinny still sells well. But we’re working to change that.”