One of the unexpected side-effects of the relatively quiet turnout of buyers at Pure London this week was a flurry of discussion on the good old subject of show dates.
Exhibitors with plenty of time on their hands bent my ear with all manner of ideas on why the three-day event was too early or too late. Lots of others confirmed that the timing was absolutely fine.
The tangled arguments around the fair calendar have been going on all the 30-plus years I have been in the business. On one side of the fence are fashion retail buyers, who often - but not always - want to place any orders as close to the actual selling season as possible. Facing them are clothing suppliers of all sizes and disciplines, which generally would rather get retailers’ commitments in early so they in turn can place orders with fabric mills and garment factories.
The classic production cycle for fashion items is extraordinarily long and even Zara-inspired fast fashion has not moved it for many suppliers. There are plenty of brands that have the confidence and financing to back significant short-order or never-out-of-stock lines. Many did very well, thank you, at Pure from Sunday to Tuesday. They take the risk, buyers pay-as-they-sell, and consumers get fresh injections of new looks to tempt them.
So with all these considerations, and against the background of continued challenging trading, what is an exhibition organiser to do? The menswear sector seems to be better served than its sisterly counterpart. London Collections: Men started the official round of events in mid-June, quickly followed by Pitti, Milan, Paris, Berlin, Jacket Required in London and this weekend, Moda at the NEC. (Gossip at Pure suggested it is looking at hosting a menswear offer, but which bit isn’t already covered?) Womenswear, as usual, is trickier. Scoop made a bold move by jumping forward three weeks earlier than Pure. The jury is still out on whether this is the right strategy. On my visit to the Saatchi and Phillips Galleries last month, I heard plenty of encouraging noises from exhibitors that it was good to start showing spring 15 to stockists. With typical perversity, I heard almost (but not quite) as many complaints that Scoop was too early, giving problems in getting sample collections ready.
The womenswear buying schedule stretches way into September before the Milan catwalks and attendant events are over. Truly, this is a mad industry. Having been a fair organiser myself, I can confirm it is impossible to get a consensus among exhibitors or buyers.
But what do readers of Drapers think? Is Pure’s timing good? Or could it be better? Should it move (if occupancy at Olympia would allow, which is a big if) to a mid-week run, rather than starting on a Sunday? How should the Scoop-Pure-Moda sequence run? And you can add London Fashion Week, if you really want to complicate matters!
Rest assured that whenever and wherever the major industry gatherings happen, Drapers will be there to bring our independent view on proceedings. We are already considering which shows should get our attention in 2015. All suggestions from readers gratefully received. Like everyone else, we don’t have unlimited budgets. But my motto always is, if you don’t go, you won’t know. It’s a pity more buyers didn’t turn up at Pure with that in mind.
Finally, talking of dates, Thursday August 6 was the 127th anniversary of the first edition of The Drapers’ Record. We were going to have a cake with the right number of candles in the office, but you know what Health & Safety regs are like these days…