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International Trade Shows Find Renewed Purpose Post-COVID-19

·12-min read

After the pandemic forced most trade shows to either cancel or offer digital versions to brands, buyers, influencers and fashion journalists last year, international events in the second half of this year reflect renewed energy for doing business in person.

As COVID-19 related restrictions lift, fashion apparel and accessories show organizers are expecting robust participation. And most are expecting a larger number of international buyers at their events. For those who can’t make the trip to the in-person event, many trade show organizers are also offering virtual meetings.

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Several major shows are also rethinking their calendars, and want to have more contact with attendees throughout the year. There’s also new venues, and partnerships that have formed as well as new ways to showcase trends. All in all, it’s a good time to get back to business.

RENEWED ENERGY IN PARIS

The trade show landscape in Paris emerges from lockdown periods a changed place. New partnerships have been made, the digital realm has taken on a whole new life — bulked up and made for use beyond the events — and, as services are bulked up, so, are offers with a sustainable bent.

After months of online-only gatherings, the trade show scene in the French capital is kicking back into life in style, with Première Vision taking to the vast, temporary Grand Palais structure at the foot of the Eiffel Tower for its first in-person in event in months.

Running June 30 to July 1, the show will fill the space with fabrics, leather, accessories and designs, pointing the way for the high end fashion sector for pre-collections as well as fall 2022.

The temporary Grand Palais structure on the Champ de Mars was designed by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte and built by GL events, the organizer of Première Vision, and it will serve the city’s Olympic Games in 2024.

Made in France Première Vision is set for the Carreau du Temple in Paris on Sept. 8 and 9 focused on the French fashion industry and featuring local materials and services.

The Première Vision Paris show, also a hybrid of physical and digital events, will take place at Paris Nord Villepinte on Sept. 21 to 23, featuring all sectors.

Première Vision, which began building digital platforms in 2018, have bulked up its system to allow exhibitors to keep in contact with buyers beyond scheduled visits. Organizers recently regrouped various shows under one internet site, including the denim and New York shows.

Over the past year, hopes for in-person gatherings kept getting thrown off by a resurgence in coronavirus cases in the French capital, and the show organizers said they felt fortunate to have already started drawing up a digital platform, which has been bulked up and improved ini recent months.

“Since 2018, we have begun building our platform with the idea of bringing people together throughout the year as the numbers of collections grew,” Gilles Lasbordes, general manager of Première Vision had explained to WWD.

The marketplace and the Première Vision Paris site have been regrouped under the premièrevision.com banner and other sites will be progressively added throughout the summer.

EYEING TEXTILE TRENDS

Texworld Evolution Paris — Le Showroom, organized by Messe Frankfurt, will take place in the center of Paris, on July 5 to 9, at 5 Rue du Mail and Atelier Richelieu. The fashion library offers thousands of samples, garments and accessories while the “Trend Forum” offers a selection of textile samples and clothing assembled by the event’s art directors Louis Gérin and Grégory Lamaud.

The focus will be on fall-winter 2022 trends, and will feature some 7,000 samples from manufacturers in 10 countries, including, for the first time, from Taiwan. The space will be organized around colors and according to themes, including a section for earthy tones as well as one with brighter colors.

Tranoï, which has joined the fashion division of GL Events, is now the official partner of Paris Fashion Week and take place four times a year, at the contemporary art venue Palais de Tokyo, starting on June 25 to 27, with a new format showing a selection of designers curated by the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode.

The partnership reflects a deepening of ties between various fashion players, reinforcing the role of Paris for the industry, as noted by Pascal Morand, executive president of the federation, when it was announced last month. Philippe Pasquet, chief executive officer of GL Events, noted that the alliance represents “an important cornerstone in underlying Paris’ attractiveness for major fashion events.”

Who’s Next, which includes ready-to-wear, accessories, lifestyle and beauty is scheduled for Sept. 3 to 6 at Porte de Versailles, featuring Impact, an event focused on sustainable options.

LONDON SET, WITH RULES

Physical fashion trade shows will return from this summer in the U.K. with safe and secure guidelines in place for visitors and exhibitors.

Hyve Group, the organizer of Moda, the largest trade fashion exhibition in the country, for example, has worked closely with the Association of Event Organisers to establish a protocol that has been approved by the British government.

At Moda, which will take place at the National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham alongside the Autumn Fair from Sept. 5 to 8, a reduced-contact registration system will be in place.

A large number of sanitizer stations will be introduced around the event in busy areas. Face masks wearing will be compulsory within the exhibition and conference venues. Exhibitors will be expected to ensure an effective cleaning routine before, during and after the show opens each day.

There is also a no handshake policy. Attendees are advised to employ an elbow bump to greet each other.

Julie Driscoll, managing director of retail & fashion at Hyve Group said: “All the measures being put in place are to help exhibitors and visitors feel confident about attending events once again. There is huge pent-up interest, but quite rightly we need to provide clear information on the detail.”

“With our longstanding heritage and experience, we can confidently deliver a trusted platform and marketplace for physical business to take place again and give buyers the chance to discover a whole host of inspirational products and collections,” she added.

Also under the umbrella of Hyve Group, contemporary fashion trade show Scoop will untie with Pure for just one season to present an edited lineup of emerging and established British and international fashion, home, and lifestyle collections at The Old Truman Brewery in east London from 7 to 9 September, after listening closely to exhibitor and retailer feedback. Confirmed exhibitors include Wicker Wings, Una de Monaco, Elisa de Cordova, Enamour, Jadien, Ilag and SZ Blockprints.

Karen Radley, founder and managing director of Scoop said: “The fashion retail community are so ready to get back to what they love doing best including coming to trade shows to see the trends, gain inspiration and meet the industry. Scoop x Pure will be the only fashion trade event in London, so we’re expecting a high attendance and an engaged buying audience at this year’s show.”

Gloria Sandrucci, event director at Pure London added that: “With wider aisles and more floor space, we will be able to create an open environment in which social distancing is possible, whilst capturing the character of Scoop x Pure.”

ITALY ENGAGES WITH EUROPEAN BUYERS

After over 16 months of stop-and-go for Italy’s trade shows, the consensus among local operators is that the digital format can hardly replace physical events, especially as online fairs have proved to be weaker business-wise.

The Italian government greenlighted larger gatherings including fairs from today, and trade show organizers are feeling energized and upbeat, albeit cautious, about a return to the usual — or revised, but still physical — show schedule in the second half, viewed as the first real opportunity to begin to make up for the ground lost thus far and despite the expected lack of extra-European visitors.

While Pitti Immagine is among the first operators to resume the physical format with leading men’s wear fair Pitti Uomo taking place June 30 to July 2, flanked by the Pitti Bimbo and Pitti Filati shows, dedicated to kid’s wear and yarn makers, respectively, Milano Unica will follow suit.

The latter fair’s president Alessandro Barberis Canonico stressed the importance of the IRL event to relaunch the country’s textile supply chain, considering declining sales, shortages of financial resources and difficult access to credit lines.

Among a handful of trade shows that were able to host a physical show also last fall, the textile trade show is already seeing signs of a rebound, with the number of confirmed exhibitors up 27 percent compared to last September.

“The exhibitors that confirmed their attendance are those firmly believing that an uptick in exports — especially to European countries — is imminent,” said Barberis Canonico citing the first half of 2022 as the most reasonable time frame to expect a return to pre-pandemic levels.

“The real burden is Europe,” he said. “While the U.S. and China are already back on track, the Old Continent lags behind, but I’m not expecting a sharp jump but a slow and steady rebound,” he added.

Every fair is implementing strict safety protocols and is planning incoming initiatives with Italy’s trade agency. For instance, Milano Unica is arranging COVID-19-free flights for European buyers, as well as Koreans and Japanese.

A HYBRID APPROACH

Fiera Milano, the city’s leading trade show operator, is also resuming its activities with bridal fair Sì Sposaitalia planned for June 25 to 27 at Fieramilanocity, flanked by a digital platform set to broaden its global reach. “We invested a lot on the digital backbone over the past year to guarantee continuity,” said Emanuele Guido, exhibition director business unit lifestyle at Fiera Milano. “The hybrid format is going to stay with us as it’s become essential for every trade show,” he said.

Focused on attracting European buyers, as well as visitors from countries that are allowed to travel more easily, Guido said Sì Sposaitalia will feature physical bridal shows and a rich schedule to sustain a sector hit hard by the pandemic but slowly resuming.

Similarly, Corrado Peraboni, CEO of the Italian Exhibition Group, the listed company which operates the VicenzaOro jewelry trade show, said there is hope that buyers from Europe, the Middle East and Russia will flock to the fair scheduled for Sept. 10 to 14, especially being the first globally appealing event for the jewelry sector “potentially attracting also those buyers that would usually skip it,” he said. The arrival of buyers from the U.S. and Asia is still to be determined, he said.

“The digital medium proved effective in spotlighting content and hosting webinars, but less so in forging business opportunities and this is especially true for our sector which offers products with a deep emotional component,” Peraboni explained.

In countries such as China and the United Arab Emirates where fairs have already restarted operators are reporting only a 30 percent drop in visitors compared to 2019 levels, he said.

“The upcoming show takes the baton from the two best performing editions in our history [September 2019 and January 2020],” Peraboni said, noting they had planned to expand the Vicenza fairgrounds, but the project was halted and postponed for at least three years in the wake of the pandemic.

Merging different branches of the fair which include T.Gold and VOVintage, dedicated to machinery and pre-owned watches, as well as a space showcasing contemporary timepiece brands, he said the fair is expected to retain if not increase its appeal, with the number of exhibitors slightly down from the January 2020 edition.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, though, he predicted: “exhibitors to travel more frequently than visitors, with trade shows increasingly becoming continental.” To this end, IEG already boasts a joint venture with Informa for Dubai-based trade shows and will announce two other partnerships in key regions by the end of 2022.

COMBINING FORCES

September will be a packed month, with the Salone del Mobile furniture and design fair confirmed after some snafus that saw its longtime president Claudio Luti step down last April. A restrained yet physical format is planned to go ahead Sept. 5 to 10.

In keeping with the Stronger Together initiative debuted last year, Micam, Mipel and Lineapelle are among the trade shows joining forces and holding their September editions at the same time — from Sept. 18 to 24 — and under one roof, the Milano-Rho fairgrounds, with the goal of improving the overall attractiveness.

“We’re hoping to get back on track thanks to the vaccination campaign and an overall improvement of the health situation,” said Danny D’Alessandro, Mipel’s CEO. While a small-scale fair was also held last September, D’Alessandro hopes buyers from Europe and the U.S. will be able to attend the upcoming show, the first marking a business relaunch for the leather goods sector.

In order to serve its exhibitors, Mipel is also forging ties with Lineapelle and Pitti Uomo to host the first Mipel Lab showcase bowing at the Florentine fair on June 30 and aimed at spotlighting third-party manufacturers.

“This event will allow producers to link up with international brands. We’re not interested in the big-ticket names but in those global companies based in the U.S., China and the Far East that do not already produce in Italy,” said D’Alessandro. The 4,305-square-foot space at the Fortezza da Basso will be flanked by a digital platform developed with Ernst & Young.

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