There has been an unfortunate outbreak of schadenfreude in the past week.
As the rumours about the cancellation of Bread & Butter Berlin began to crystallise into fact, mostly anonymous commentators on our website began to display the pleasure they derived from the misfortunes of others. The literal translation of the German word is “harm-joy” and that neatly sums up the feelings of some about the show’s demise.
Whether that demise is permanent or not will depend, I suspect, on the personal mood of founder Karl-Heinz Müller. To declare an interest, I have regarded him as a good friend since he launched the ground-breaking concept in Cologne way back in July 2001. In my freelance days between stints at Drapers I wrote for the B&B magazine a couple of times. Recently, along with Sabine Kühnl, my opposite number at German title Sportswear International, I was the only journalist invited to Seoul with Müller and his team in September this year to scope out the city for the proposed B&B expansion to the Far East (see here for some Seoul retail action).
During the trip, Müller admitted feeling the pressure on his show, which ironically has been in decline since celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2011. I am surprised that it could not be held together for January, but that, literally, is show biz. Readers with long memories will recall that the disappearance of IMBEX and MAB in London, Sehm in Paris, Herren-Mode-Woche in Cologne and CPD in Düsseldorf also seemed highly unlikely - until it happened.
The official line from B&B is that it is resetting and rebooting. “This is not the end. We will return,” is the sign-off line of Müller’s letter to the trade. “Our whole fashion industry is at a point of radical change. This is why challenges of the future have to be met with new solutions,” he says. While that is undeniably true, I am not sure the business is waiting for a return from B&B. The rival fairs Premium and Seek (part of the same stable), plus Panorama (which is advised by Norbert Tillmann, one of the founders of Premium) have hoovered up most former B&B brands. All three fairs, plus smaller options like skatewear event Bright, are doing a good job. So where is the gap for B&B to fill?
The power broker in Berlin now appears to be Anita Tillmann, who co-founded Premium with Norbert (who is no relation) in early 2003. They stayed in Berlin, quietly growing their premium womenswear fair when B&B moved to Barcelona from July 2005 to July 2008. Anita, now in sole control after an acrimonious split from Norbert last year, backed Seek, which is the cool favourite in Berlin now. In a new venue, its January edition is much bigger.
At the time of going to press on Wednesday, Müller had not confirmed what was happening about the Seoul initiative. The concept - to present a platform to introduce European, US and Asian brands to South Korea - seems a good one, but it will take considerable effort to get it off the ground. Maybe Müller, who also runs the impressive 14oz multi-brand stores in the German capital, will have his hands full in the Far East. I take no pleasure in thinking that it will take more than one season before the industry wants B&B back.
Meanwhile, I confess to a short burst of schadenfreude myself at reports of delivery problems following the Sale madness of Black Friday etc. Isn’t a golden rule of online selling to fulfil your promises?
Finally, etailers who have got their act together ought to get in their entries to our Drapers Digital Awards 2015. The ceremony will be held on April 30 and the deadline for entries is December 19.