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Why Pure London's Julie Driscoll is betting on indies

The show’s managing director explains why she launched Pure Origin, and gives her take on the direction of the market.

Pure london autumn 18 (19)

How has the autumn 18 edition been?

The show has been very busy. There’s a real buzz out there – it’s been very hard to get on to a lot of stands. People have turned out in droves and you can see orders being written. We now have two entrances as well, which has enabled people to discover sections such as young fashion for the first time and changed the flow of the show.

It’s like retail. We’re a department store for the trade, and in retail you need to change [the layout] every so often, which is what we’ve done.

Our visitor numbers are also up – we can’t confirm exact numbers yet, but we can see it. [There is growing appetite for] newness every season. Perhaps retailers are realising they can’t drive growth by just sitting on and marketing old stock – they have to innovate.

Why did you launch Pure Origin?

A big trend we will be seeing is that more indies will be creating their own labels. This is why we launched Origin – so that manufacturers and fabric suppliers can [help educate] indies and big department stores on how to shop, from fabric to finished product. The two can co-exist beautifully.

Creating more individuality and personalisation is [crucial] for retailers. Next season, we will have a pattern designer exhibiting here, which we’ve never had before. It’s another link in the fashion supply chain that can offer [retailers] another aspect in offering individual, creative collections that no one else will have, and ensuring we lead the UK fashion industry to be future thinking, creative and ready to do personalisation. It’s what London is renowned for.

What’s your view on how retailers are feeling at the moment?

If we look at predicted trends for fashion spend by retail in the next few years, the UK is forecast to outstrip many other European countries. We’re a nation of spenders that loves fashion. Tourism is another factor – everyone loves to shop in the UK. It’s still a great place to be. If you’re going to be in retail, you’ll probably want to be in retail in the UK.

We as consumers will buy [many] ranges of things in the UK, whereas in countries such as Germany, the consumer is more conservative. So there are huge opportunities out there. It could be a really good time for indies in particular [to shine]. They’re often the first to discover a brand before it catches on.

What are the challenges for retailers at the moment?

Certain high street stores will be feeling the pinch. Undoubtedly, looking at consumer confidence – how much is in consumers’ pockets and what they’re spending on – people are going to make choices on what to spend their money on. But retailers can overcome this challenge by being innovative. As long as we can marry experiences with retail concepts, retail will still do well.

There are challenges, but there always are and will be. I think everyone has been feeling really optimistic. The bigger stores are perhaps challenged a bit more, but with indies, you get the sense they’re powering through.

However, I think if you have not innovated, you are going to struggle. If you have had the same collections for the past six seasons, you’ll want to think about changing it up.

How can retailers survive the current market environment?

It’s the creative people that will survive and thrive in a challenging industry, especially in a post-Brexit environment. One of the key trends we’re seeing come through is that everything we do is data-driven. What the industry really needs is data combined with creativity and intuition.

Pure london autumn 18 (24)

We’re really trying to champion this at Pure, as well as working with young designers. One of the key trends I’m seeing, speaking with lots of indies and trend forecasters, is that personalisation from an independent retailer is going to be the next big thing.

I think the return of the indie [will happen around] Generation Z, millennials and beyond. They don’t want to be wearing the same thing as everyone else. What people want is to be able to go to a store and buy brands such as Tiger of Sweden and Religion, and know that’s the only shop in town that’s going to be selling it, and that no one else will be wearing that look.

What does the future hold for trade shows?

Human beings are made to interact – it’ll be a long time before we will want to stop interacting. I spoke to a brand this season that said it wants retailers to buy online and that the only place they can see collections are at trade shows, in order to move forwards.

Because, why pay for a showroom all year? Why pay for people [to go] on the road all year? It doesn’t make sense anymore – those overheads are really high. While in between trade shows, retailers can buy from a brand’s platform. I wonder if that’s the future. It’s really hard to showcase a brand gorgeously when garments are crammed in a suitcase or a lookbook. Retailers want to see branding, concepts and stories, and that’s what trade shows can do.

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