At the press conference to mark the opening of Copenhagen Fashion Week, Anja Bisgaard Gaede, the editor in chief of Danish fashion business magazine Toj, told me that visitor numbers to the event have been down in the last few years.
Later that evening, we had dinner with an influential UK indie who had come to Copenhagen as a guest of a brand (she’s unlikely to have made the trip otherwise due to the expense). Another leading UK indie is also in town on an invitation.
This would suggest that buyers clearly want to come, but sometimes struggle to justify the trip. And if they don’t come, they’re missing out on some great brands offering something different.
So, it was interesting to arrive at CIFF - the biggest of the three fairs which include CIFF-owned Gallery and Vision - to find an area right at the entrance called Crystal Hall. It’s new for this season but - as an impressive, edited showcase of new or unknown designers (see next week’s Drapers for the lowdown) - somewhat at odds with the mainstream brands and their huge collections inside.
CIFF’s creative director, Pierre Tzenkoff, told me that this area aims to “build a new image of the fair” and we “will see more next year”. Helene Le Blanc, who heads up communications at CIFF, added that “the way forward is to unite all brands under one roof” when I questioned whether this move to introduce design-led, boutique brands would conflict with the exhibitors at Gallery. “If you want the top buyers to come, you have to make things easier for them.”
I didn’t get a definitive answer on how/if Gallery would continue to exist in its current form, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t. It seems silly for the same organizer to pay for two venues when both fairs could be housed at the Bella Center.
But CIFF has to be careful. I can understand why directional indies head to Gallery (and not CIFF) and why they would love the brands at Crystal: the collections are small and/or edited, and have a strong identity. Many of the brands at CIFF are the established heavyweights with collections so big they could fill a boutique three times over. It’s overwhelming and buyers won’t find a lot of newness. So, incorporating design-led labels into the mix should attract the directional and contemporary buyers.
But the organisers at CIFF must ensure they retain the values of Gallery and the new Crystal Hall to attract these buyers. CIFF certainly adopts the right tone and visual identity across its communications and environment to fulfill this more directional strategy; it must also back it up with the right brands.
I look forward to seeing the results next season.
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