The relevance of Berlin’s flagship trade shows for British buyers has been hotly debated in recent years. When Drapers headed to Panorama, Seek and Premium for the autumn 20 shows, UK buyers may have been scarce, but the new-look events had won over British brands.
More from: Comment: Brit brands out in force in Berlin
There was an edgy new venue for Panorama, bustling halls at Premium and brand positivity at Seek – but when Drapers returned to Berlin for the autumn 20 trade shows, British buyers remained a rarity.
Once one of the biggest international destinations in the fashion retail calendar, Berlin’s popularity with the international crowd waned after trade show Bread and Butter folded in 2015.
A subsequent consumer-facing edition – backed by German ecommerce giant Zalando – failing to ignite comparable enthusiasm and ended in 2019.
In recent years, the number of trade shows held in the city has dwindled. Premium Group’s streetwear-focused Bright from November 2018, womenswear event Show and Order was also absent from the autumn 20 roster.
The autumn 20 Berlin shows ran on 14-16 January. Seek took place at the Arena Berlin, while Premium was at its long-time home under the railway bridges of Station Berlin. Panorama, which now includes sustainable show Neonyt and premium denim exhibition Selvedge Run and Zeitgeist, moved to a new home in the sweeping grandeur of the former Tempelhof airport, which was home to Bread and Butter at its height.
The last time Drapers visited the Berlin shows was for the spring 18 season, when questions were raised about their relevance for British buyers, and the opportunities the shows presented for discovering new brands.
These questions remained for the autumn 20 season. Brands across all three shows reported a scarcity of UK buyers. Most preferred to visit brands in the UK to save costs or instead to attend Copenhagen or Paris. Several menswear brands said the shows’ timing – between Pitti Uomo in Florence on 6-10 January and Paris Fashion Week Men’s on 14-19 January – made Berlin easy to skip in a time-pressured business environment.
Established brands with agents or showrooms based in the UK dominated, rather than the small, exclusive new brands that could drive buyers to return to Berlin. As such, the lack of UK buyers was not a surprise.
Nevertheless, buyers from TK Maxx, Next and JD Sports, as well as the occasional notable independent name, including Guildford womenswear retailer The Courtyard, were spotted browsing the shows and big international names such as C&A, Galeries Lafayette and Zalando were seen at all locations.
British brands put in a strong showing across all three shows. The German market is a key opportunity, in which many well-established UK names were seeking to increase their presence.
Seek in particular proved a hub for Brit brands. Menswear brand Farah showed there and reported writing 50% of all German orders on the stand. Another brand, Luke, was showing at Seek for the first time, aiming to increase its profile in the market.
Other British names at the shows included Hunter and French Connection at Premium, Joules and White Stuff at Panorama, and Herschel and Farah at Seek, demonstrating the importance of the German market for fashion exports.
The season’s big talking point was Panorama new location. The former Templehof airport was lauded as an entirely new direction for the show. Previously held in the cavernous Kraftwerk exhibition centre, the new venue comprised two giant hangar halls for the main show, and smaller offshoot rooms for Selvedge Run and Zeitgeist, as well as a smaller hall for sustainable mini-trade show Neonyt.
The giant central outdoor area on the airport’s former tarmac played host to a dedicated showroom space for several larger brands including Fynch-Hatton, Camel Active and Canyon, in a similar fashion to th main square at Pitti Uomo. These brands had their own dedicated, repurposed shipping containers to host events and appointments.
German outerwear brand Dreimaster Schmuddelwedda was one exhibitor that drew attention with its immersive rain installation in one container, which showed off the brand’s waterproof jacket.
Visually impressive, the curved sweeping roof, expansive runway views and vintage planes dotted among the stands of the outdoor space failed to attract much of a crowd – perhaps because of the January chill – and acted more as a concourse than a place to do business.
Exhibitors praised the more spacious halls, natural light and simple layout of the new. Brands at Selvedge Run and Zeitgeist, which was acquired by Panorama in September 2018, also reported feeling a much more integral part of the show than in previous seasons.
Nevertheless, the scale of the show was still overwhelming and proved challenging to navigate. While the show shifted to a paper-free approach, removing paper maps and show guides, the app failed to be as comprehensive as needed for such a large-scale event, and some directions and functions were counterintuitive. For example, there was no way to annotate a map with the locations of relevant brands, and the app did not include the location or opening times for the show.
All three shows were received with general positivity – a busy first two days, followed by a typically slower final day on the Thursday – and, despite some complaints about footfall seeming lower than in previous seasons, orders were still written across the stands at all three.
Seek and Premium both retained a more welcoming atmosphere than Panorama. At Premium a focus on up-and-coming talent and young designers – including German womenswear brand Nove and former Graduate Fashion Week designer Amesh – brought a sense of vitality, as did the panel talks in the main halls and drew large crowds of curious buyers.
Seek similarly won praise for its closely curated brand mix, and focus on a more youthful, edgy brand mix than its competitors.
Exhibitors said its recognisable aesthetic made it a hub for a strong set of buyers. One menswear brand recommended other shows – namely, London’s Jacket Required – follow Seek in creating a modern trade show for contemporary, young fashion brands.
Overall, the Berlin shows retain their immense importance for local brands, and are essential for those from outside building their presence in the market. However, despite a smattering of newness, the focus on international names rather than new discoveries make them a lower priority for buyers. In tough times, retailers are limited in the number of buying trips they can make, and with shows like CIFF and Revolver in Copenhagen or Tranoi and Who’s Next in Paris offering both newness and established names in equal measure, Berlin takes a back seat.
The word in Berlin
Vivian Findlay, sales at London-based accessories brand Katie Loxton London
The show was a lot busier than last year. It was busy all day, every day, with visitors flocking to the stand.
We’ve noticed mainly German buyers, but there were also quite a few people wandering around from Austria and Istanbul. The atmosphere felt very positive, with lots of people buying directly on the stand.
The new venue works better for us. It’s in a better location and seems to be drawing in a lot more people.
Malte Kastrup, sales at sustainable Scandinavian sneaker brand Woden
We’re happy with the new venue. It’s a good location, and we have definitely noticed more visitors and more traffic.
Panorama is the best show for us because we’re a Danish brand looking to attract the German market, and other international buyers.
This year it feels like there was a real drive towards sustainability at the show, which is good for us as we are a sustainable brand selling products made from fish leather.
We noticed lots of international buyers. However, we find that it is not normal for them to buy at the fair, unlike at Scandinavian trade shows.
Selvedge Run and Zeitgeist at Panorama
Jim Artaiz, partner at US denim and jacket brand Dehen Knitting Co
We’ve showed at Selvedge Run since it started for spring 2016, and this new venue is a really good move for the show. At the old venue as part of Panorama, we were often overlooked by visitors, but now in the halls here we are much more a part of the show. The new space is well curated, warm, welcoming and is attracting a lot of people in.
For us, the German market is very strong and that is why we show at Selvedge Run and Zeitgeist. The market has a real focus on quality. We’ve mainly seen German buyers so far on the first day, but have also seen Swiss and Austrian names as well.
Neonyt at Panorama
Svenja Detto, founder of handbag and accessories brand Nuuwai
I really like Neonyt. I love the new location and the venue. It’s much more open and there is lots of natural light. There have been so many people visiting – it’s been crazy. We hope it will be at the same venue for the next season.
People seemed willing to spend, but most people order afterwards. We noticed a lot of international buyers, but this edition it was mostly people from Europe. There were less visitors from the US and Japan.
There was definitely a bigger sustainable push this year. Lots of big brands retailers were here, like C&A and Zalando, looking for more ethical and sustainable alternatives.
Sarah Freise, founder of Sarah Freise Distribution at Premium with Californian brand Alexa Fairchild
The show has been OK so far, but we are not impressed with the levels of footfall that we’ve seen. We’ve seen a lot of German and Austrian buyers, and generally people from the Benelux countries, which we are here to target.
This is probably the biggest show that we do in terms of scale, but because it is early in the season people will not write orders for us here. People come on to the stand to view the collection and then come to us at one of the other, later shows to do their buying. The Dusseldorf shows are where we write the most orders.
Stina Andersson, European sales manager at Danish footwear brand Sofie Schnoor
The atmosphere here was very good. We really enjoyed it. The location and venue were both good. We think it’s good that it was in the same place.
As usual people seemed to be visiting the show just to look, and then will be placing orders afterwards. The customers and visitors here seem to be mostly German, but we noticed a few from countries such as Japan and Spain, and eastern Europe. We didn’t notice any UK buyers here.
Hannah Beaumont-Laurencia, director of Manchester-based sustainable womenswear clothing brand Beaumont Organic
We have been covering the show for the past few years. I would say the footfall was consistent and that it was positive overall.
It was nice to see more buyers here this year. Usually there are lots of students. From the UK there were mainly small independents here, as well as from France and Italy. We didn’t really notice any buyers from big department stores or retailers.
But I have to say the Copenhagen trade shows are better.
Connor Poole, international brand manager of heritage menswear brand Luke
Seek has been OK. There was a real nice mix of markets, from Germany, Spain to Greece. This is not a trade show for UK people.
We decided to show here this year because we’re really established in the UK now and want to expand globally. We noticed that there are more agents here than independents, department stores and retailers.
The pound is currently strong against the euro, so I think people are out there wanting to spend. However, for us as a brand we have a 200-piece collection, so it’s not really about making orders. Instead it’s about meeting key customers.
Simon Fisher, managing director of Kontoor Brands, representing Wrangler and Lee
We came back to Seek for the first time in a couple of years for autumn 20, with both Lee and Wrangler. We used to show here, and for the past couple of seasons showed at Zalando’s consumer-facing Bread and Butter, but once that finished we wanted to keep a platform in the market.
It’s great to see the buzz at the shows like this and to meet people at shows like Seek. We’ve found that both buyers and consumers are here, so it is a good way to connect to both. What’s key for us at Seek is talking to our customers and making sure that what we are doing is delivering. It’s also about finding new customers, new inspirations and new business ideas, and sharing what we do with the other brands here.
We’re very happy to be back and the indications so far are very positive. It’s a locally driven show, but we’ve seen international names, as well as a few UK independents and high street stores.
Ally McAnally, business development manager, Farah
The show has been really good for us so far. We sell directly in Germany – with no agent or distributor – so Seek performs partly as a showroom for us as well as a place for orders to be written.
We see a lot of good customers here, and we’ve had new French and German accounts so far. We see a lot of independents from Germany, and I would say we write 50% of all our orders for the German market while we are at Seek.
Seek has been getting busier and busier in recent seasons, but we’ve not seen all that many British buyers – although we did see Next and their design team at the show. Fewer British agents are coming to Germany now as well, the preference is absolutely to show in Paris instead. The timing works better for the Brits, too.