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UK and Irish buyers resist the pull of Berlin

The second day of the staggered Berlin fashion week saw a confident turnout of domestic buyers at the city’s main events, but international visitors were in short supply.

On Wednesday morning (July 8) the upscale event Premium, its contemporary menswear spinoff Seek and the skate-focused show Bright all kicked off, joining the schedule a day after Panorama, Show & Order and Bread & Butter. All three newcomers were busy from the off, pleasing exhibitors with their appeal to local buyers.

Premium, which alongside B&B established Berlin as a revived fashion destination in 2003, was as busy as usual, its rather cramped layout adding to the general buzz. It has about 1,500 exhibitors this season.

The enlarged Seek, with around 200 collections on show, has been joined by 21st edition of Bright, which also brings together around 200 ranges, at Arena Berlin - a suitably cool former factory venue next to the River Spree. There was general agreement that this pairing had replaced the insolvent B&B’s role as the urbanwear centre of the week.

Yet despite the impressive roster of brands across the city, British and Irish buyers were not in evidence, suggesting that the demise of Bread&Butter in recent seasons has undermined Berlin’s attractiveness, although the buoyant mood of London was given as another obvious explanation by some.

Keith McNichol, owner of Richmond Classics in Bournemouth, who was visiting BBB, Seek and Premium, said: “There is nothing in Berlin that we can’t get in London. The UK is now in control of what’s going on in fashion across Europe. Everyone is looking at what we are doing.”

Seek’s mix of international brands drew comparisons with London’s Jacket Required. “Seek is a cooler show [than B&B] and it’s still small, although it does feel like it has grown for the spring 16 edition,” said Leonard Hamilton of agency Northern Lights, which represents Farah and Original Penguin.

“Having Bright next door for the first time should be good for footfall. There aren’t many UK buyers here, although there are a lot from continental Europe.”

Despite the dearth of indie retailers, JD Sport, TK Maxx, Asos and Urban Outfitters were early visitors to Seek/Bright. Asos menswear buyers Alice Slade and Maria Cassidy told Drapers Seek “feels like the spirit of the old Berlin trade shows has come back and everything feels more relevant”.

They added: “We’re always on the search for new brands and we come here to get a sense of the direction everyone is going. While we do make some selections, we’re more here to see what’s new.”

“Seek is a good, really well-organised show. There’s a really good combination of shoes, accessories and clothing,” explained co-founder of Portuguese brand La Paz André Bastos Teixeira. “We’ve been attending for five years and we like it because it’s not a very big show, although lately it is getting bigger. We come primarily to meet our German customers.”

Patrick Hill, designer at streetwear label The Hundreds, which was showing at Bright, said: “The new location is not as good as before, but the layout overall is better and we are seeing crossover from Seek.”

At Premium, the main talk was of the problems in the eurozone. Rosa Costa, vice-president of international at denim brand Hudson, said: “Concerns about the euro are coming through. At the last minute a lot of our Greek partners have not been able to make it. But the Germans are still pretty confident.”

Emil Krainer, export manager at Danish label Bitte Kai Rand, reported steady traffic on Wednesday: “We see a lot of German buyers here. They are a bit nervous about the eurozone situation and because the summer hasn’t been the most fantastic.”

UK agency Fourmarketing was showcasing Nicole Farhi for the first time at Premium. Salesman Christopher Dearman said: “The first day is always busy and it’s a come-and-see show for many as it’s so early in the season. We are mostly seeing German customers but we have seen Beales today (Wednesday). It’s a bit too early to say whether the problems in the eurozone will have an impact this season.”

Contemporary womenswear event Show & Order, which brings together 280 brands, was based around a theme of ‘boho summer’, a familiar trend in Berlin. Featuring a new Parisian showroom with around 20 labels and a new accessories area, the show attracted good traffic on its first two days (Tuesday and Wednesday).

B&B, which mustered only one hall of streetwear brands, was very quiet on both its first days. Bob Fenner, north German agent for John Smedley, showing at the Tempelhof Airport venue, said: “We have seen very few people; this is not like Bread & Butter.

“Retailers don’t come to shows like they used to – they look for brands on the internet. Next season we may not show anywhere because Berlin has too many shows now.”

Regular visitor Laurence Davis, owner of the Choice mini-chain in Essex, spent just 20 minutes at B&B, saying: “I was shocked at how quiet and small it is.”

While an obvious success for the German market – the most successful economy in Europe – the reformed fair schedule in Berlin needs to make itself more relevant as it is struggles to engage with British and Irish buyers.

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