Trade shows are notoriously cyclical, and last week I attended a much-changed edition of menswear show Jacket Required.
When I joined Drapers in 2014, Jacket had recently moved to The Old Truman Brewery in east London from Victoria House in Holborn. It was a busy, expanding show, which was attracting an increasingly international following. At the autumn 15 edition, more than 230 brands exhibited.
But by growing so quickly, it lost its curated feel, and an increasing proportion of skate and streetwear brands in the line-up took it away from its premium roots. Some of the big names stopped showing and visitor numbers started to dwindle. Co-founder Mark Batista’s exit in early 2019 sent a signal that the Jacket of old was no more.
Recognising the folly of trying to recapture its heyday, Jacket’s organisers are embarking on a fresh strategy. So, Jacket will move to the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea – home to its premium womenswear stablemate Scoop – for its spring 21 edition in July.
At first, it’s hard to imagine Jacket at the Saatchi Gallery. It is a lovely space and has served Scoop well over the years, despite some frustrations with its layout limitations and fluctuating temperatures. But the venue has a very different, soft-lighting-and-scented-candle atmosphere from what we’re used to seeing at Jacket.
Nonetheless, Jacket’s organisers are determined to bring back its premium feel, and the Saatchi will certainly create the right environment. The Old Truman Brewery no longer works for Jacket – the edgy and cavernous space that was once its strength now overwhelms it.
If this bold “reboot” of Jacket Required pays off, surely a merger with Scoop would be a logical next step? A consolidation of some of the UK’s many trade shows is needed, if they are to compete with some of the European fairs and attract international as well as domestic buyers.
As I write, we are finally on the home straight to Brexit and a new, uncertain future outside the trading bloc. The UK is in the spotlight internationally, and we need to hammer home the message that we are still open for business. A strong and united front from the UK fashion industry has never been more important.