The fashion trade show is an entity regarded with some mystique, we go behind the curtain to discover what it’s all about.
January’s here and what does that mean?
Twice a year brands, buyers, press and all other sorts of industry professionals, a gather together for any number of Fashion Weeks. You’ve got them in New York, Florence, Paris, London, Milan, Berlin and so on. They are a chance for the brands to show off their latest collections, for “industry professionals” to get a flavour of the upcoming season for buyers to buy movers to move and shakers to shake.
What Makes a Fashion Week?
Fashion Weeks are made up of a lot of events, openings, parties, exhibitions, showrooms, runway shows and of course, trade shows.
When you think of fashion and fashion events, your brain most likely conjures up images of models stalking up and down catwalks while the crooning masses look on judgmentally. This is only really applicable to a small percentage of brands, the Burberry’s, Vetements etc.
The rest of the brands also need to get their collections in front of the right audience. And this is where tradeshows come in. In very basic terms, it is a great big space where the brands come, set up a stall and the buyers come along and decide what they want to order for the coming season.
What’s a Season?
The fashion calendar is broken up into two separate seasons. Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter and the collections reflect appropriate clothing for the weather at these times of the year.
Ok, so a “collection” is a range of clothing that a specific brand offers to their customer, which in the case of trade shows would be stores or agents. Not the end consumer.
This can be anything from a range of graphic tee’s to shirting to shoes to jeans to coats, accessories anything and everything and even all of the above for the larger brands.
Now the Buyers, Buy.
A buyer is a guy who decides for his store or organization what will be stocking the shelves six months in the future. He has to know his customer, the mood of the market, upcoming trends and also have a kind of sixth sense.
Being a good buyer is an artform, it takes a certain amount of intuition to look at a garment and think right there and then. My customer will love this, it will fit next to this or that in the store, the guy who buys that jean will also love this jacket and it will go with this shirt and so on.
A good buyer is worth is weight in gold and doesn’t necessarily have to be the owner of the store, it can be a job in itself. They have to have a vision of what the store represents, the image they want to project and who their customer truly is. It is a balancing act.
Where Sales Come From
Sometimes they will pick a total wild card, something that will only be for 1% of their customers but will look great in the store window or will create a buzz with their customer base. And yes, sometimes they fuck it up and that where our lot find ourselves trawling through sales bins.
So the buyer will visit one or more trade shows that host the brands he is interested in. When he’s there he will visit brands he already has a relationship with, looking at their new pieces, reordering pieces that were successful in the past and deciding on what to buy, in what quantities and in what sizes.
That New Thing
He or she will also be on the lookout for that latest and greatest new thing that no one else has spotted yet. That brand or piece of clothing that will give him a competitive edge over his rival(s). This is where the artistry comes in. It’s that intuition, a little guesswork and a bit of a gamble.
Not Just For Buyers
Along with this, it gives other industry professionals, press, designers, other brands a chance to meet and see what’s going on in their area of the business. Much of the time these guys won’t see each other from one season to the next and are hailing from all over the globe. These events are the perfect place for them to come together, have a conversation and do business.
Why are these things not open to the public?
Well, for just that reason. Because it is a place for doing business. Imagine if an enthusiastic stranger off the street was to come to your work for three days straight, touch all the things on your desk and incessantly talk to you. How much work would you get done?
Another thing to point out is that none of these things on display are for sale there and then. They are samples and much of the time they are prototypes or one-offs. It is just for the buyers, people with stores or others with a professional interest in the industry to see what the brands up to and where they are going for the next season.
It really isn’t about exclusivity or eliteness.
So what will we see?
First up, is my old stomping ground, the Selvedge Run. I worked for these guys for a couple of years as a Brand Representative for the show. It is home away from home for many of the brands we denimheads know and love. Many of the greatest Japanese brands come over to Selvedge Run and for the craft and artisanal brands, there is no better setting.
Next up we have SEEK. This is another, mostly menswear show where a couple of firm favourites find their home. It is decidedly more contemporary than Selvedge Run but we will find the likes of Eat Dust, Naked and Famous and Banzak Denim Developers there plus a few more. Certainly going to be worth a visit!
So there we have it… that’s the fashion trade show. Hopefully, we’ve whetted your appetite a little bit and we’ll be back next time with that look behind the curtain.