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Comment: Jacket Required lures buyers with exhibitions and innovations

Jacket required overview (2)

Men’s and women’s wear trade show Jacket Required opened its doors in east London this week, drawing UK and international independent retailers and multiples to the Old Truman Brewery on 24-25 January.

The chilly January rain made for a miserable prelude to the first day, but spirits inside the halls were unaffected: the aisles were full of visitors and exhibitors reported a busy first day. Domestic attendees were joined by some influential international buyers from as far afield as South Korea and Australia, and Japan’s United Arrows added to the long-haul crowd.

A strong showing from key UK independents was observed by several exhibitors, and representatives from Asos, Shop Direct, Thread and JD Sports were also in attendance.

Day two dawned with clear skies, but the pace in the halls was more subdued, and many stands were empty until lunchtime.

Jacket Required expanded its experiential offering for visitors at this season’s show. Buyers pored over a central exhibition of cult archive items from streetwear brand Supreme – part of an archive produced by British DJ Ross Wilson in collaboration with retailer The Idle Man. Supreme-branded boxing gloves, dominoes and a bible all featured.

Henri Lloyd’s extravagant showcase of archive jacket styles dominated the main hall, and the brand’s adjacent stand was buzzing throughout – possibly in part thanks to liberal servings of champagne.

Product-wise, the trend for urban athleisure showed no sign of slowing. Functionality was core to many offerings. Padded down-filled jackets were a popular trend: in kaleidoscopic prints at Element x Griffin, and more muted, herringbone materials at Native Youth.

The trend has also filtered into other product categories, and buyers opted for practical styles to meet consumer expectations.

“Stretch denim has been popular so far,” said Ally McAnally, UK wholesale account manager for men’s Japanese denim brand Edwin. “We used to sell a lot of the rigid styles but, with the move to athleisure, that’s changed what buyers are looking for.”

Among the urban, streetwear-inspired styles there was an emerging prominence of sustainable and eco-friendly brands. Swedish label Sandqvist debuted an entirely sustainable collection for autumn 18, and numerous other brands highlighted the eco-friendly and organic properties of their collections. Recycled materials and plastic-friendly processes were popular additions.

Buyers responded well to this shift, although some felt more could have been done to highlight the sustainability credentials of brands.

“I want to know what the ethics behind each range is – [perhaps] a big ‘green’ list on the wall or something that shows brands with [certain] ethical standards,” said Sarah Johnson, buyer at Manchester’s McQueen Independent. “I want to see clearer brand information, and more of it. If you don’t give buyers the choice, we can’t pass it on to the consumer.”

For the second season of womenswear at Jacket Required, the edit remained small and came from established brands’ existing collections. Native Youth, Wrangler, Gloverall and Spanx all showcased women’s collections. 

Overall, the show’s brand mix was dominated by returning regulars, although there were several strong new additions of smaller brands – for example, Spanish brand Loreak, footwear brand Oli X Oliver and outerwear brand Jago.

Some exhibitors felt the autumn 18 edition of Jacket Required, the show’s 14th season, had “moved on” and “grown up”, after “plateauing” in recent seasons. Many praised the addition of larger, showier exhibitions and stands: Henri Lloyd, the Supreme archive and Schott NYC all took up large areas of floor space and drew in visitors.

Although the show felt a little more subdued for some, the view from exhibitors was largely positive: the evolving brand mix and added focus on exhibition spaces made for a strong start to the London buying season.

The view from the stands

Andy Tompsett, head of UK, contemporary menswear brand Merc

Despite a challenging Christmas for retail, it seems there is a sense of urgency and positivity among buyers, which is nice to see. I think there was a malaise in retail over Christmas, but I’m pleasantly surprised to see the show has gotten busier [this edition], so I’d hope that coming to an event like this would make retailers feel a bit better.

Ciara Stenson, sales manager, young fashion brand Native Youth

We took a break from Jacket for a couple of seasons, but when womenswear was brought in, the show was more relevant for us. So far there’s been a fantastic atmosphere. The show had plateaued a little but now it’s improved. There’s a lot more going on and – people doing interesting things with their stands – and the small number of womenswear brands works in our favour.

Morgan Barfield, brand manager, British heritage wool brand Peregrine

Jacket Required is much more of an environment for us to showcase our product than take orders. People prefer to have a look first and place orders later. Independents are facing an onslaught every day [in terms of market conditions]. Budgets are down and buyers are more cautious when it comes to purchasing – they’re going for lower-risk pieces. We’re doing everything we can to support them and help them grow.

Aaron Gale, buyer and owner, Chippenham-based menswear independent Outfit78

It’s been good – there are lots of like-minded people here. I’m looking for accessories – our stock for (clothing) brands is full for autumn 18, but there’s scope to buy anything different that stands out in the meantime. It’s great to speak with people within the trade and get a feel for the next big thing.

Ben Charlesworth, sales manager, lingerie brand Hanro

As an underwear brand, we’re a bit more niche than the other brands here, but its been going well. We don’t show our womenswear collection at Jacket, as we find that 99.9% of the buyers only look for menswear, so we do other shows for the womenswear offer. We only do Jacket Required now with the menswear. We tried Pure London, but we found that the headcount and footfall here was much stronger.

Greg Hurley, manager and buyer, Danish menswear brand Native North

We’ve seen a lot of interest, in particular from independent retailers based in Belgium, as well as a few from the UK. Generally, we’re not worried about the UK market [conditions], but we’re a small business, so we have become a bit stricter with first-time customers based in both the UK and US, and have adjusted our terms to [reduce difficulties] with our budgets. We’ve also become pickier with buyers, and work more from references.

Stuart Trevor, creative director and designer, etail start-up Elensa (and founder of AllSaints and Bolongaro Trevor)

This is the first show I’ve done with Elensa. We’ve had some great feedback on our concept here. In current market conditions, it’s not easy for retail. The clothing market is saturated – that’s why we’re looking more at bringing in jewellery, accessories and other lifestyle product ranges, such as homeware.

Mark McNulty, account manager, heritage outerwear brand Gloverall

It’s been going really well today, and people are responding really well to the brand and the new direction. The buyers here have been a really good quality – with good indies and multiples. There have been a lot of international buyers today – Korean, Australian and American. It’s quite a similar crowd to [Florence menswear show] Pitti Uomo, but we’re expecting more Brits on the second day. The weather on the first day might have put some people off.

Mat Galvani, area sales manager, Norwegian outdoor brand Helly Hansen

It’s our second time here after showing in July (for spring 18). We decided against exhibiting womenswear this time, though. We brought some with us last year but there weren’t really any buyers here that were interested in seeing it, so we decided not to waste a rail on it.

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