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Comment: Copenhagen impresses international crowds

CIFF autumn 18

A strong selection of brands, interesting new formats and a buzzing atmosphere across the Danish trade shows CIFF and Revolver, plus a busy fashion week schedule, made for a successful autumn 18 season.

Drapers has visited the Danish trade fairs and fashion weeks for nearly 10 years, and the evolution, expansion and quality of Copenhagen’s diverse international offerings have been interesting and exciting to witness. One brand, which has exhibited in the city for 10 seasons, summed up the autumn 18 edition, declaring it Copenhagen’s “best yet”.

Running from 31 January to 2 February, CIFF and Revolver are the city’s two competing trade shows. Both felt vibrant and fresh this season: tweaked layouts, new projects, and plenty of interesting and colourful product created a lively and upbeat atmosphere. Read our product highlights here.

International buyers also flocked to the city. Teams from Net-a-Porter, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Matchesfashion, Browns, Goodhood and Thread were joined by teams as diverse Hong Kong’s Lane Crawford, Berlin’s influential Voo and America’s Bergdorf Goodman.

CIFF, which is held at the Bella Centre complex just outside the city centre, is still the biggest, most international and diverse of the Copenhagen shows. From directional menswear section Raven through to contemporary womenswear hall Style Setters, its well-appointed aisles were buzzing with buyers thanks to a very busy start on day one, which carried through to a typically quieter third day.

Most areas felt freshened up this season, either from a new curation of brands bringing innovation to the offer, or different layouts that gave a more open feel to some halls.

CIFF’s diverse brand mix still offers a “one-stop shop” for a variety of buyers, and this season’s offer was particularly strong as a result of plenty of new international additions. Several buyers praised the show for still unearthing new, quality labels and bringing them together under one roof.

CIFF autumn 18

CIFF autumn 18

For autumn 18, CIFF enlisted the founder of London independent store Machine-A Stavros Karelis to curate its Special Projects area. This consisted of installations and exhibition rooms at the main entrance that all visitors had to pass through. The area featured up and coming brands such as Alyx, an exhibition from photographer Nick Knight’s Showstudio, a zine-making experience via i-D magazine and a bustling interactive furniture-making stand, which was a collaboration between furniture designer Max Lamb, curator Sami Janjer and Paris Fashion Week designer of the moment Off-White creative director Virgil Abloh.

“CIFF is a trade fair but I wanted to remind everyone, right at the entrance, about the importance of the creative side of what we do,” said Karelis. “Just before they come in to talk sales and figures, I wanted to awaken that creative element within us all.

“I also wanted to show that there are other ways of doing things outside of the standard ways the industry works. For example, the first installation is by Alyx, a brand that has never done a catwalk show or a trade show. It proves that you can think outside the box and still be incredibly successful in this industry.” Read more from Karelis here.

Exhibitors and vistors alike praised this season’s project, and having these buzzy names congregated in one area added to the creative, “on trend” atmosphere of CIFF, and successfully percolated into the other halls.

Revolver autumn 18

Revolver autumn 18

Revolver got off to a slower start but was also buzzing by day two. Located in the city, this show has also found it feet after appearing in various guises. It focuses more on Scandinavian brands and is home to heroes such as Wood Wood, 2nd Day, Soulland, Henrik Vibskov, Samsøe & Samsøe, Saks Potts and Stine Goya, all of which showed strong autumn 18 collections.

Revolver has also been working to liven up its experience for visitors. Rejigged halls made for an open atmosphere and there was a more engaging mix throughout the space, rather than the best brands being concentrated in one area. Eye-catching installations and interactive stands added interest along its central avenue.

Copenhagen’s fashion week schedule also continues to go from strength to strength. In addition to the “official” calendar, it features satellite catwalks and presentations at the trade shows, and mixes established names and local brands with up-and-coming stars. Danish womenswear brand Ganni continues to have the biggest international pull.

Mood from the shows

Axel Trägårdh, co-founder, Swedish menswear brand L’Homme Rouge

This is our 10th time at CIFF. It is still 100% valuable to be here and show in Copenhagen. This season has been the best yet, and the best curated show we’ve seen. The evolution of CIFF has been amazing, but this is definitely the strongest edition we’ve been to. We write most of our orders in Paris but we still think it is important to be here. It’s good promotion and a good way to see important local stockists. We met lots of new people this season. And we still make important international appointments here – we have Lane Crawford booked in for the final day of the show.

Rasmus Bak, co-founder, contemporary Danish brand Libertine-Libertine

It’s been pretty hectic at Revolver. There are lots of international buyers, even from Beirut, Zagreb and the Asian markets. This is one of the only shows left where you actually write orders, and there’s a good, business-like atmosphere. The show has changed around a little and there’s a really energised atmosphere – no one wants to wander the same aisles every season.

James Brackenburg, sales manager, Concrete Studios, representing seven brands, including Desmond & Dempsey and Gray Matters

Trade shows can be super-tricky. They can often be missold to young designers as incredible sales platforms, but CIFF isn’t like that. The show has a much nicer environment than most, and the layout, design and brands show that it’s a seriously good set-up. CIFF is the best show for us and the timing this season was good, as womenswear buying is just starting but menswear hasn’t yet finished. London is becoming less important for us in terms of sales. We do Paris, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, and see everyone. By the time we’re back in London, buying is mainly over.

Revolver autumn 18

Revolver autumn 18

Paul Fletcher, founder, Northern Arrow sales agency, representing JJ Emlyn

The second day was the busiest at Revolver. The others were quieter – day one was quite slow to be honest – but it has been very productive being here. We’ve seen lots of international buyers, but we are here to meet as many Scandinavian buyers as possible, and that has been good too. It is our first time here but it has been strong. The local buyers like to come and look at the collections in detail, which is great to see.

Polina Yatsenko, wholesale executive, Sunspel

It’s our first time showing at CIFF. We thought it was time we should give it a try and we’ve met a lot of new clients. We do all the other big European shows and they’re all very different, but we’ve seen a lot of people that we’d never have met at another show – there’s a different crowd here. It’s really well organised and there are a lot of really strong brands here. We’ve seen brands that we’d never come across before. We didn’t know what to expect, and we’ve had a really good time at CIFF.

Kestin Hare, founder, menswear brand Kestin Hare

Day one was quieter than the second, but overall its been a strong show at Revolver. It seems most people went to CIFF on day one and then came to Revolver on day two. Revolver is good for meeting Scandinavian buyers, and that is why we’re here. We’ve met lots of great local stores, as well as French and Brits.

Kent Rau, owner, Danish footwear brand Garment Project

The first two days at CIFF were great. We’re mainly here for Danes, but there’s been a lot of international buyers here as well – from Germany, Japan and Australia. People seem very positive about the show. The Lab [contemporary and streetwear] section, for example, has a new layout and it works much better – it’s easier to walk around and you’re not just in long corridors. The exhibitions add a nice touch. We’ve not had time to visit, but it’s created a good atmosphere for the show.

CIFF autumn 18

CIFF autumn 18

Angela Etiebet, senior account manager, Paper Mache Tiger, representing Être Cécile, Herculie and Gray Ant

We’re at Revolver for the second time, testing the waters for the Scandinavian market. It’s a great opportunity to meet and connect to the right people in the market, and as well we can really get into the market ourselves while we’re here, and go see stores in person. Alongside the Scandinavian buyers, we’ve had a few British indies visiting the stand, from Surrey and Leeds for example.

Vitus Overgaard, head of international sales, Samsøe & Samsøe

We see trade shows as a social platform. We don’t take orders here at Revolver, but we still believe it’s important to be here. We want to give our customer a different experience.

We’ve still seen all the key people and had great conversations with them, because we can catch up and chat and see the collection, but we know they don’t want to write their orders here and now. We have our showroom round the corner, so this is all about the wining and dining of our customers.

We have interactive screens and headphones on our stand instead of rails of clothes that no one looks at, so the buyers can engage, but in a new way. They can scroll through the collection, watch a video, and they can click on things and a selection and all the imagery will be emailed straight to them.

Trade shows are all about people and relationships nowadays – it’s not about the product for us.


Stavros Karelis

Stavros Karelis

Q&A with Stavros Karelis, founder, Machine A, and curator of CIFF’s Special Projects area

Why did you decide to take part in CIFF?

I’ve never done anything like it before, and it was a great opportunity to get involved in a trade show in a new and interesting way. I always try to have my own point of view, creating my own little world, and curating this part of CIFF has allowed me to bring that to life.

Why did you decide to have no products on show?

The main idea was to show the world that exists around the brands and designers, as well as the bigger world that exists around a trade show. CIFF is a trade fair but I wanted to remind everyone, right at the entrance, about the importance of the creative side of what we do. Just before they come in to talk sales and figures, I wanted to awaken that creative element within us all.

I also wanted to show that there are other ways of doing things outside of the standard ways the industry works. For example, the first installation is by Alyx, a brand that has never done a catwalk show or a trade show. It proves that you can think outside the box and still be incredibly successful in this industry.

You’re also here as a buyer. What do you think of CIFF?

CIFF is a very interesting place to be. I can tell there is a soul to this trade show – it’s very personal. That is very difficult to do, particularly in a business world, and is lacking at other trade shows. We’re here to do business but it doesn’t feel like this show is just about sales and trade – that’s what sets it apart.

Also, I think there is a very good selection of brands here. I have a pretty good understanding of new and up-and-coming brands, but I’m still here discovering new brands and labels that I don’t know about, which is great. I love that CIFF can introduce me to brands I don’t know and there feels like there is something for everyone here.

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