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A public Bread & Butter will benefit brands

Christmas parties are often a lot of fun but they are rarely humbling and uplifting at the same time.

Those were the emotions I experienced, however, last week when I looked in at the celebration organised by Jermyn Street shirtmaker Emma Willis for former members of the armed forces and their families. Through her charity Style for Soldiers this engaging entrepreneur makes bespoke shirts for ex-servicemen and women who have been injured, often very badly, in combat, mainly in Afghanistan.

Dressing smartly is part of the military ethos. The often specially adapted clothes that Emma makes go a long way to restoring some of the pride of the brave souls who have lost one or more limbs and find it hard to dress as they would like. The thank you letters she receives from the recipients are very moving.

To meet these young people, some barely out of their teens, who are facing the future without hands, arms, legs, and eyes is humbling. The main message of the evening, however, was not about sympathy or pride, but more about the fact that these well-trained and intelligent ex-service people require employment.

A liaison officer, Mark Schorah, reminded us that, although physically disadvantaged, these impressive characters make excellent employees - they just need to be given the chance. Email to learn how you can help.

On Monday bright sunshine greeted me as I arrived in Berlin for the press conference at which Karl-Heinz Müller revealed his plans to reinvigorate the Bread & Butter Berlin (BBB) trade show. As Drapers reported online on Monday and on p3 of this issue, Müller’s radical proposal is that from July 2014 BBB should devote its first day to the press, then have two days for buyers and press and then run for two days on which the public would be admitted on the purchase of a €25 ticket.

All the details have yet to be worked out, but Müller was insistent that no direct selling to the public should take place at the show. He suggested that the public days could turn into a festival of fashion, featuring bands or a vintage flea market and other entertainments.

Müller pointed out that a significant number of trade events also successfully welcome the public, such as the BaselWorld watch fair, the Frankfurt Book Fair, various motor shows, the Milan Furniture Fair, Art Basel and so on. Not everyone is convinced.

The usually staid and respectable TextilWirtschaft, the Drapers of Germany, previewed the press conference with a highly sceptical piece entitled “Has he gone crazy?” or words to that effect. There were naysayers among the 200 or so press, brands, agents and others gathered at the launch.

One representative of a huge US footwear brand, who asked not to be named, told me he thought the entire idea of inviting in the public was “rather pointless”. “We have 4,000 points of sale in the German-speaking countries and probably 15,000 across Europe, so we have plenty of contact with our end-consumers already,” he argued.

But that misses the point, I believe. Although the strategy is not fully formed, I can see that this idea would provide a platform from which brands can communicate directly with the buying public in a celebratory, yet controlled, manner. I can see that plenty of questions need to be answered, such as whether in July 14 a brand would show the upcoming autumn 14 collection or the spring 15 ranges that are aimed at the trade buyers, but let’s not forget that Müller is one of the industry’s visionaries.

People said he was crazy to move in 2003 from Cologne to Berlin after just three shows. They said the same when he shifted to Barcelona for eight seasons from July 2005 and questions were asked when he returned to the German capital in July 2009. He proved the sceptics wrong and I suspect he may be about to do it again.

So, wishing you all a good Christmas period and a happy, healthy, prosperous and fulfilling 2014, the Drapers team is taking some time off. Your next issue will be dated January 11. I hope you like the changes to the magazine and website we have instigated for the new year.

I am looking forward to it already.

  • Eric Musgrave

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