January 30, 2012

Berlin Fashion Week Roundup Part I

Last week we talked about New York’s Kingpins and Continuum trade shows.

As promised -- here’s Part I of a two-part series on Berlin’s Fashion Week. In addition to two of the largest trade shows – the Bread & Butter and the Premium Exhibition – there was a “new kid on the block”.

In a relaxed environment and with a select group of about 70 exhibitors, while attending the newly launched boutique Gallery Berlin – this January located at Berlin’s Moscow Café – we sat down with executive director fashion IGEDO, Mirjam Dietz and project director CPD Signatures/The Gallery, Elke Sautter.

MBF: So The Gallery Berlin was started because you felt the market needed something new.

Mirjam Dietz: Exactly. Several niche market designers – such as the Avant Garde movement -- were looking for a Berlin platform – earlier in the season. Designers such as Annett Roestel and Annette Goertz.

MBF: Let’s talk a little bit more about Avant Garde designers – we’re familiar with Annette Goertz. Is this the niche market you’re looking for? And how do you distinguish your self from other fairs?

MD: Though we had requests from many other segments, our niche or focus is the Avant Garde and design-oriented collections. We have to be careful how we grow. It’s not just about putting together different segments without a cohesive concept. The retail market is not quite so black-and-white anymore. As we continue to focus on Avant Garde, our growth should evolve quite naturally -- in response to market demands.

MBF: How do you vet your exhibitors?

MD: Elke [Sautter] spoke with several designers who had expressed an interest in joining us in Berlin. They were very forthcoming in describing who they envisioned sharing exhibition space with and they suggested several collections they thought we should see, potential exhibitors. Within two weeks the trade show was sold.

MBF: So it was a very natural evolution.

MD: We occupy the same segment you see at the Paris trade show, Atmosphere. So when we were last there, we announced we would go to Berlin. It was quite funny -- there was quite a demand. Exhibitors would suggest we speak to other exhibitors whom they said would also come to Berlin. They told us they had been waiting for us, for this opportunity.

If you’re familiar with Igedo’s history [Duesseldorf], there are a million reasons why this no longer works.

Our criterion is for a product that is not only desirable but also completely different.
And we have market credibility; we know what we’re talking about. All of this allows us to respond quickly to new demands, enact different strategies.

Of course, we had to take into consideration our shareholder – Messe Duesseldorf. They too have understood the market has changed. As a result they green-lighted this new concept.

MBF: Do you plan to remain a “smaller” trade-show?

MD: We have our “foot in the door”, a platform in Berlin and a home base in Duesseldorf -- we’re comfortable waiting to see how this market evolves. We booked our location in Berlin last September. We can easily consider additional locations.

MBF: Talk a little about the future.

MD: Well first things first … we’ll definitely be in Berlin this summer.

We’ve seen tremendous change impacting both mid-market and volume markets. The German industry – Gerry Webber, Bianca, Passport et cetera -- was the backbone of CPD. Because the market is so competitive many mid-market companies were pushed out.

Companies have changed – they have their own distribution system and retail stores. But the smaller brands do not necessarily have a showroom or are in Duesseldorf only temporarily – even though they may already show in Berlin there’s a demand for a Berlin platform.

Berlin’s all about exposure and Duesseldorf is all about business and writing orders. As of next summer we will have a new concept . Berlin will be followed by a smaller show in Duesseldorf in a great location Areal Bohler – that will cater to the needs of the independent retailers.

MD: Our audience are independent retailers looking to discover something new or visit with their suppliers. Also high-end department stores, both national and international.

MBF: What are your plans for short and long-term growth?

MD: We’re providing something very individual to our exhibitors. We are closely aligned with the Premium, complementary but not competitive. We have a very good relationship with [Premium founder] Norbert Tillman.

MBF: That’s great to hear – it ties in very nicely with the idea of being completely transparent.

MD: Yes – of course! Karl Heinz Mueller [BBB] is also a very good friend of ours – he sent us a text … “Good show! Crossing my fingers!” We’re very welcome here in Berlin.

MBF: So what are your biggest challenges and will you overcome them? Challenges are also opportunities.

MD: Our primary challenge is to produce a great show. And then there’s the feedback. So we have our homework cut out for us. It’s about bringing in the right retailers and delivering the right content. It’s really all about delivering the right content.

Please stay tuned for Part II reporting on the rest of Berlin Fashion Week later this week!

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