A trail of vibrant turquoise hair, swishing dirndl skirts, leather overcoats and cascades of glitter wound its way out of London’s Angel tube station last weekend, as alternative trade show LondonEdge made a characteristically bold return for Spring 18.
Taking place from 4-5 September at London’s Business Design Centre, LondonEdge attracted a mix of buyers and exhibitors from around the world.
There was a busy hum throughout the show. Exhibition director Carole Hunter said attendance was up 19% compared to last September, after an initial post-Brexit tremor.
“We had a little kickback in the wake of the June vote, which we now seem to have bounced back from,” she said. “Things have settled down and there’s a big European presence this year. There’s nothing else quite like this show in the world for niche brands.”
Buyers came from as far afield as the US and Australia, as well as Austria, Norway, the Netherlands and Germany.
Several US brands exhibited at LondonEdge this season, crediting the show’s international reputation as the key draw.
“International customers all talk about LondonEdge, we do see UK customers but the majority of orders we take at this show are from Europe,” Jina Han, wholesale sales manager for Californian-based brand Unique Vintage.
“It’s important to meet people face-to-face and to show off the product. We build better relationships with buyers by coming across to this show.”
There were 19 new brands at LondonEdge this year, adding newness to the show.
“The amount of new brands this year has brought a lot of new people to the show which has been great,” said Julia Metz, head of design at Collectif, a regular exhibitor at LondonEdge. “This is a one-stop shop for buyers, we see about 80% of our regular customers here, as well as new faces.”
As for the newcomers themselves, enthusiasm for the show was palpable. Stephanie Dulieu, founder of accessories brand Frilly Pops, who won the show’s award for Best Pop Culture collection, described the experience as “overwhelming”.
“It’s been such a great show, with a really nice atmosphere,” she said. “It’s great to meet people and make friends, and we’ve had a lot of interest.”
Many of the new brands showcased trends covering a playful, festival aesthetic with Hunter saying the pink, neon, glitter and unicorn trend was “huge – an industry in itself”.
Megan Crook, designer at festival disco brand Get Crooked, which made its debut at the show, praised the event as uniquely attractive to this emerging market. “We specialise in alternative festival fashion, and sell directly at a lot of festivals, but this is the best place in the UK for that kind of market,” she said. “It’s been relatively slow traffic-wise, but we’ve had some serious interest from big stores, such as Dolls Kill from the US and we’ve had great feedback.”
The booming influencer market was also a core focus for the show this year. “We’ve focused a lot on the influencer market, both in the run-up to the show and during the show itself,” said Hunter. “Most retailers buy directly through Instagram now and find brands via influencers – so working with influencers is really important in terms of profile building for us and making sure retailers see who is showing here. The alternative market is more defined as a niche, so is more inclined to be impacted by influencers.”
This approach appeared to have paid off. Not only were stands busy with bloggers clamouring over exotic creations, with brands praising the opportunity to connect with key influencers, but brand’s themselves had discovered the show through its increasingly visible social presence.
“We had been following LondonEdge for a while on Instagram, and we approached them hoping to work with them after discovering them online,” said Erika Tempest, owner and designer of New York-based leather accessories brand Tempest and Serenity. “It’s been really good for us, and we’ve had some great feedback. It’s an awesome, fun show. All the brands are very different, but they all have an attitude in common.”