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Harrogate Fashion Week makes headway

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The Yorkshire trade show is gradually growing as more brands seek a fresh space in which to exhibit.

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After a week of soaring temperatures across the UK, the doors of Harrogate Fashion Week opened on a noticeably cooler morning in the Yorkshire town on Sunday 28 July.

The halls of the Harrogate Convention Centre were light and airy, and provided a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere for visitors to the womenswear, footwear and accessories trade show, which ran over two days. Footfall ebbed and flowed, and it was generally quiet in the aisles. However, some stands were consistently busy, and orders were being written.

This was the third edition of Harrogate Fashion Week, which was launched in 2018 by trade show stalwarts Sarah Moody, Stephen Dixon and Wendy Adams. There were 94 exhibitors for spring 20, an increase of 30 compared with the last edition – and plans are afoot to expand into a third hall of the convention centre next season.

Plenty of familiar names exhibited, including John Charles, James Lakeland, Pomodoro, Sahara, Bitte Kai Rand, Charli, Barbara Lebek and Closet London. But the show still needs to work on bringing in fresher, emerging labels, to add a sense of excitement and discovery to the offer. 

Most of the visitors to this regional show were independent retailers, largely from the north of England, Scotland and Ireland. There was no sign of buyers from larger retailers and department stores. 

However, brands Drapers spoke to said the earlier timing of Harrogate Fashion Week was better than that of larger ITE Group-owned rival Moda, which will take place on 4-6 August, as buyers have not yet allocated all of their budgets. They also noted that the stands are cheaper.

Indeed, Harrogate continues to benefit from uncertainty about the direction of Moda, which axed its swimwear and lingerie section in 2017, and moved menswear to ITE stablemate Pure London in February 2019 (views from the show, below). 

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“There is a buzz to [Harrogate Fashion Week] – people are talking about it,” said Moody. “They want something new that’s cost effective. Pre-registrations were more than double that of last season.”

Still small, the Yorkshire show is not yet a serious threat to Moda. However, ITE will no doubt be watching its expansion with interest. The next edition of Harrogate Fashion Week will take place on 2-3 February 2020. 

Views from the show

“We usually go to larger shows, but we’re now homing in on the regional shows. Harrogate Fashion Week is good for our boutiques in the area. Sometimes we feel we’re a bit stuck in our London bubble, and it’s nice to get out to see other parts of the country and how people are trading. We weren’t sure what to expect here, but it’s been really positive.” Becky Haldane, key account manager, Closet London

“I bought my shop four years ago and I was going down to Pure, but the hustle and bustle was quite intense, and it was hot and clammy. It wasn’t for me. I heard about Harrogate last year. It’s so open, bright and breezy – the air con is good, it’s very relaxed, and there’s a good mix of brands. It could do with some more jewellery and handbag brands to spice up the offer.” Diane Taylor, co-owner of womenswear independent C’est La Vie in Crieff, Perth and Kinross

“Moda has been a good show for us over the years, but I fear for it – they are not listening to the requirement of exhibitors. I’m here [at Harrogate Fashion Week] to write orders. If we open a few new accounts, it’s worth coming. We’re having a great season, but it’s a matter of how you approach things. Everyone is looking for something new and different. It will stay tough out there until we get the ‘B’ word out of the way, but there are many indies still doing good business.” Nigel Hughes, managing director of Apt Collections, showing Ozai N Ku

“We come here because it’s the start of what we hope will be a niche show for occasionwear. We wanted to support it from the beginning. We would love to have some more brands and accessories to strengthen it up. There are some nice brands here, and it is so lovely in Harrogate. We want this to grow – we want our competitors to come here.” Barry Waterman, chairman, John Charles

“There is uncertainty in the marketplace for sure. The strong customers are getting stronger, and the weak are doing badly and going out of business. We have been writing orders pretty solidly [on day one]. It’s definitely a show that’s growing, and there are some quite big brands that I haven’t seen here before, like Barbara Lebek.” Robert de Keyser, managing director, Jonny Drama

“I like the fact that it’s a smaller edit of brands – it’s easier for customers. The majority of customers we’ve seen are regulars, but there have been one or two new faces. We come to the show for an overview. It’s not just about writing orders, and there are benefits to be gained from speaking to [several] buyers.” Alex Cates, partner, Cates Showroom, showing Barbara Lebek

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