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Chic Shanghai uses showrooms to bring brands even closer to the Chinese market

The third Autumn edition of Chic Shanghai, a fair that has been held in China since 1993, but only took place once a year in March until recently, closed its doors on October 13, 2017 after welcoming a total of 65,722 visitors. Visitor numbers at Chic (short for China International Clothing and Accessories fair) were essentially in line with its 2016 edition, which welcome 65,71 visitors in total.

850 exhibitors participated in the fair this season, the vast majority of whom were Chinese. There were a few product catalogues present at the stands, but there was a QR code present in every space from which all information about the brand could be directly downloaded on WeChat, the social network used for communication from all the Made in China companies.

Chic Shanghai uses showrooms to bring brands even closer to the Chinese market

There were also 13 Italian companies present at the fair, promoting 20 fashion brands and 6 French labels. In the exhibition halls of the crowded National Exhibition and Convention Center, there was no shortage of Korean brands, such as fashion brand Kim Chul Ung Mode, which was recently exhibited on the runway in Seoul fashion week. As Kim Chul Ung, the label's creative director, explained to FashionUnited, the brand will soon also participate in New York Fashion Week and it is preparing to debut in Europe with its cashmere garments and its pleated tartan skirts. The brand's innovation lies above all in its flowing shapes.

Chic Shanghai welcomed a total of 65,722 visitors.

And as Chen Dapeng, Vice President of China National Garment Association and Head of Chic, told FashionUnited, innovation must be the focus of the brands that want to go abroad. “Chic remains a platform dedicated to fashion labels that intend to focus on the Chinese market, but brands that want to go abroad need to invest in creativity and innovation. When companies set internationalisation as a goal, they have to check whether they actually have the capabilities," said Mr Chen.

Chic Shanghai uses showrooms to bring brands even closer to the Chinese market

At the moment, it seems that many of the Chinese companies present at the Chinese fair are still organising their development across borders. According to official figures, the number of fashion textile companies in China, at least the large ones, amounts to 100,000 and they employ 90 million people.

Despite owning trademarks, the larger companies primarily position themselves as third party suppliers. The young brands, many of which were created by designers who have studied at the top European schools, show creativity and innovation, but lack the economic resources and the right advice to position themselves in other markets. This, for example, is what the young designer who launched Art On, a fledgling Chinese label that offers Trench Bon Ton and also Lu Joe Nottingham, thinks. This brand is named after the founding designer who completed his studies in fashion in Nottingham itself. Both brands were present in the Chic Impulse area, a space dedicated to promising Made in China talents.

Chic Shanghai uses showrooms to bring brands even closer to the Chinese market

Chic hosted young Chinese talent in the Impulse area.

But if businesses in this market struggle to cross the border, except for some such as Guangzhou Zhuofeng Clothing, already a supplier of the well-known Primark chain and present in Chic with several denim lines, foreign brands, including Italian ones, appear instead to be directed towards Chinese consumers.

According to the Altagamma Worldwide Market Monitor, created by Bain & Company in collaboration with Altagamma, the global market for high-end personal goods will reach 254-259 billion in 2017, a steady growth rate of between 2 percent and 4 percent, mainly driven by the recovery of Chinese consumers both in the local and overseas market and by the increased propensity to buy in Europe.

Chic Shanghai uses showrooms to bring brands even closer to the Chinese market

Finding local Chinese partners at the moment seems to be one of the most popular paths, also because even though China is the leading online retail market (543 billion for products in each segment), the risks of counterfeiting and fraud lead Chinese consumers to be wary of online shopping for luxury goods. According to the Altagamma Digital Luxury Experience - DLE3 (e-commerce, experience and enterprise), created in partnership with McKinsey & Company, only 16 percent of Chinese luxury consumers expect to increase their online spending over the next year.

Young Chinese people, the so-called millennials, are looking for increasingly sophisticated shopping experiences and for personalised garments. "Chinese consumers are more and more careful and selective, no longer looking for the logo and label, but rather for individuality and also a sustainable approach by fashion clothing manufacturers," stressed Mr Chan.

Chic Shanghai uses showrooms to bring brands even closer to the Chinese market

“Chinese consumers are more and more careful and selective", stressed Mr Chen Dapeng.

European labels are therefore sharpening their weapons to attack this market, as evidenced by the emergence of trade fairs such as Milan Unica Shanghai and the debut of Style routes to Shanghai. A platform created by Confartigianato businesses with the Italian White Fair and supported by the Italian trade Agency to promote the internationalisation of Made in Italy. However, for some years now, Emi's tried and tested partnership with Ente Moda Italia has continued and has brought the Made in Italy businesses to the March edition of Chic. At the edition just concluded, the Italian brands - a total of twenty - were at the Italian Fashion exhibition hall.

Chic Shanghai uses showrooms to bring brands even closer to the Chinese market

Mr Sun Guowei said: "We are trying to attract international showrooms and buyers.”

The Chinese company Famory, which produces garments inspired by traditional Chinese dress, made of silk and embroidered by hand, has been exporting abroad for some time, especially to the USA, Europe and South Asia. Founded in 1955, the company has also developed across borders, thanks, at least in part, to the maxim that the "Chinese get married in Chinese dress".

To export, however, it is also necessary to attract international buyers. “We are trying to attract international showrooms and buyers”, Mr Sun Guowei, General Manager of China World Exhibitions, told FashionUnited. Mr Sun explained that the fair organisers are moving in this direction also because of the fact that the Chinese market is changing. The distribution network is moving, though still slowly, towards multi-branding. “Competition in the fashion industry pushes fashion companies to improve their quality and to seek distributors throughout the territory. But also foreign companies that want to grow here are looking for reliable partners”. That is why, from the next Chic edition, there will be meetings of the present brands with showroom representatives.

Photo: Chic, credit FashionUnited

First Indian edition of Denimsandjeans concludes on a high note

The first Denimsandjeans India show, which took place from 25-26 September in Bangalore, attracted over 1,500 visitors and more than 30 exhibitors from nine different countries including Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and Vietnam. Apart from brands and retailers, the show also brought together garment manufacturers and exporters with international buyers as well as technology providers and garment suppliers.

"The buyers' turnout at the exhibition as well as during seminars was phenomenal, we are very happy to see the responses. We thank everyone for supporting us and I hope all the stakeholders will be surely get benefited by such events in a long run," said Sandeep Agarwal, founder and CEO of Denimsandjeans.com, according to the show's media partner Fibre2Fashion.

First Indian edition of Denimsandjeans concludes on a high note

More than half the exhibitors were from India - among them Archroma, Arvind, Raymond and Reliance Industries - but many made the trip from abroad to support and showcase their wares at the first international denim supply chain show in India, among them Bluesign Technologies from Switzerland; Delta Composite Knitting, Denimach, Mahmud Group and M & J Group from Bangladesh; Hyosung from Vietnam; Jeanologia from Spain; Kanoria Africa Textiles from Ethiopia; Kilim Denim from Turkey; Mactec and Ribbontex from Italy and Vicunha Textil from Brazil.

On the visitor front, all major international denim retailers and brands had sent their representatives to Bangalore, among them Asmara International, Benetton, C&A, Gap, H&M, Levi's, Li & Fung, Marks & Spencer, Ostin, Pepe Jeans, PVH, Spykar, Target, Tesco, VF Corporation and Zara. Among the Indian brands and retailers, Aditya Birla Fashion, Arvind Brands, Being Human, Blackberry, Hypercity Retail, ITC Limited, Jabong, Killer Jeans, Landmark Group, Mufti, Myntra, Pantaloons, Raymonds Apparels, Reliance Trens, Shoppers Stop, Tata Cliq, V-Mart and Westside were represented.

On the first day, Stefano Aldighieri, former creative director of 7 for all Mankind, spoke about "The secret of success for a denim brand" while Jordi Juani, division director at Jeanologia, pondered "The evolution of jeans finishing from hand to technology". On the second day, denim expert Dilek Erik from Turkey explained the question "Why should we use stretch denim in men's fashion despite the rebirth of the rigid look?", while Vasco Pizarro, director of Pizarro laundry from Portugal presented "Denim wash trends from op European brands for AW18".

Denim has been one of the most promising textile segments in India in the past decade and is set to grow further, given India's status of being an avid producer of denim - second only to China - as well as an avid consumer with a higher volume of jeans sold than in the USA and the second largest consumer worldwide.

Photos: Denimsandjeans and Killer Jeans website
First New York Denim Days: Consumer focused, with a hint of Dutch

INTERVIEW Amsterdam - This weekend marks the first edition of New York Denim Days, the denim event for both industry professionals as well as denim aficionados. The first-ever New York Denim Days follows on from several, successful editions of big-sister event Amsterdam Denim Days, as members of the event organisations felt the time was right to introduce the concept in the United States. FashionUnited spoke to Lucel van den Hoeven, one of the organisers of New York Denim Days, before the event kicks off to learn more about his vision of the festival.

The first Amsterdam Denim Days took place in the capital of the Netherlands four years ago. The event took place simultaneously with boutique denim trade fair Kingpins, as it attracted both a national and an international audience. “It’s a unique event,” said Lucel van den Hoeven. “We had plans to expand for a long time, we have been asked by several countries to come.” After considering several options, the organisers announced in March that New York City, the home of their partner event Kingpins, had been selected. “It was the logical follow-up.”

New York Denim Days: ‘We are more focused on the consumer

The concept behind New York Denim Days, which aims to unit denim enthusiasts, will take place from September 29 to October 1 at the Metropolitan Pavilion. The event will include hands-on workshops and interactive installations, as well as seminars and lecturers run by denim experts and leading denim mills. For example, the first day is set to see a FIT Denim Talk from Stefano Rosso from Diesel and Adriano Goldschmied, also known as the Godfather of Denim. The following days are set to include one on one fit sessions with the Godmother of Denim, Christine Rucci, as well as expert styling sessions, pop-up shops and DIY workshops.

Although its big sister event in Amsterdam focuses on both consumers and professionals, New York Denim Days is more focused on consumers. “There is more for sale than in the Amsterdam edition,” says van den Hoeven. For example, a vintage denim market is set to take place on Sunday, next to a number of food trucks and musicians who will also be on site to serve the visitors every need. Another big difference between the two events is the noticeable absence of Kingpins, which usually runs simultaneously with Amsterdam Denim Days. “Due to the lack of the trade fair, we have opted to take a more consumer-oriented approach, among other things.”

The event will host both established as well as upcoming denim brands from the American denim industry, as well as a number of Dutch brands, as part of Denim Days international denim exchange, to add a hint of Dutch flavour. “In my opinion, we couldn’t miss that,” says van den Hoeven with a laugh. “We made a selection of brands to showcase what is happening in the denim industry in Amsterdam. Together with House of Denim [one of the partners behind the denim event, together with the city of Amsterdam], we made the choice to tell our Dutch story at New York Denim Days.” Kings of Indigo, Anbasja Blanken, Tenue de Nimes, Benzak Denim Developers and Tossijn are the Dutch brands which will be present at the event. In total, 75 to 80 denim companies will be present at New York Denim Days.

New York Denim Days: "A hint of Dutch should not be missed”

Tickets are said to be selling at the same pace as that of Amsterdam Denim Days, which van den Hoeven thinks is a good sign. "We are, of course, curious about how many tickets we will sell at the door.” However, the turnover figures from the event will not go directly to the organization. "It's mainly about the image we want to create. We want to have a nice start in New York, with the right target audience.” But will there be a second edition? "Of course, we need to evaluate how the first edition went, but we do not just want to do one or two editions, we're in for the long run."

Originally written by Caitlyn Terra for FashionUnited NL. Translated and edited by Vivian Hendriksz

Photo: courtesy of Denim Days

In Picture: Sneakerness Amsterdam

Amsterdam - Sneakerness is a real Walhalla for all sneaker lovers. Europe's biggest sneaker conference returned to the capital of the Netherlands once more for its seventh edition. Taking place at the Kromhouthal, the event welcomed international brands, independent sneaker retailers, brands, private sellers and collectors from across Europe, marking it largest event to date. In total, nearly 9,000 sneaker heads visited the event, which ran from June 3 to 4, which is 3,000 more than its previous edition.

In Picture: Sneakerness AmsterdamIn Picture: Sneakerness Amsterdam

15 European stores were present at the event with their own dedicated stand, ranging from France, Germany, Switzerland and well as newcomer Poland. In addition to stores, 140 private sellers who represent some of the world's biggest collectors were present with their own stands in Sneakerness Amsterdam.

In Picture: Sneakerness Amsterdam

According to Marketing Manager Matthijs van der Meulen, the event also attracted a broader audience this year. "You still have the sneaker freaks who are waiting outside the shop first thing in the morning to score that one exclusive pair, but this year we also saw visitors who were attending the event for the first time and curious about the sneakers and the event itself."

In addition to scoring a new pair of kicks, visitors could also in listen on a number of panel discussions between designers, collectors, and vloggers or visit the Sneaker Art Gallery.

In Picture: Sneakerness AmsterdamIn Picture: Sneakerness Amsterdam

Unique sneakers from Sunika sneaker shop in Amsterdam.

In Picture: Sneakerness AmsterdamIn Picture: Sneakerness Amsterdam

The most expensive pair of sneakers present at the event were the Nike Air Mag. Also known as the 'self-shrinking sneaker' from the film classic 'Back to the Future', the sneakers drew a big crowd. The price tag: 60,000 euros.

In Picture: Sneakerness Amsterdam

There was also sneaker jewelry for the real die hard fans.

In Picture: Sneakerness AmsterdamIn Picture: Sneakerness Amsterdam

Sneakerness takes place once a year in Amsterdam. The traveling conference already took place in Düsseldorf and Zurich earlier this year and is set to move on to Berlin, Cologne, Warsaw, and Paris.

In Picture: Sneakerness AmsterdamIn Picture: Sneakerness AmsterdamIn Picture: Sneakerness AmsterdamIn Picture: Sneakerness AmsterdamIn Picture: Sneakerness AmsterdamIn Picture: Sneakerness AmsterdamIn Picture: Sneakerness Amsterdam

The first edition of Sneakerness took place in Switzerland back in 2008 and was organized by a small group of sneaker lovers. Since then the consumer fair has grown to become one of the most important events for the European sneaker and footwear industry.

Photos: FashionUnited

Tommy Hilfiger and Paul Smith to show at Pitti Uomo 92

Tommy Hilfiger is returning to Pitti Uomo's 92nd edition, the men's fashion tradeshow destination in Italy. From June 13-16, Florence will welcome back both Tommy Hilfiger, who showed last January at Pitti Uomo '91, as well as Sir Paul Smith.

With the action taking place both inside and outside the walls of Fortezza da Basso, the designers will present their Spring / Summer 2018 Hilfiger Edition and PS collection by Paul Smith at the fair this season.

Tommy Hilfiger will show in the Ottogonal Hall and present a 'Store of the Future', a retail project that aims to digitize the brand stores in the next two years following the 'Digital show-room' introduced in Florence six months ago.

PS by Paul Smith will be showcased in the Pavilion of the Gravel, in addition to the Spring Summer 2018 collection also being shown during a Fortress event.

Photo credit: @TommyHilfiger, Pitti Uomo 91

4 Key Denim Trends Fall/Winter '18 spotted at Kingpins

Amsterdam - What denim trends are set to dominate the market next season? Although it is clear that sustainability and innovation will continue to driven the denim industry forward, some of the leading trends to emerge for Fall/Winter 2018-2019 will be driven by an era not too far gone, according to Amy Leverton, founder of Denim Dudes, denim trend forecaster and consultancy advisor. Rather than simply looking ahead, a number of key denim trends will retain a sense of nostalgia - although these 70s, 80s and 90s influences will be fused with modern flourishes for a contemporary feel and not simply transcribed, stresses Leverton. Think vintage silhouettes paired with custom patches, sportswear stripes and embellished denim with over the top detailing. Presenting her predictions for upcoming denim trends during a trend presentation and installation at Kingpins Amsterdam, FashionUnited caught up with Leverton to learn more about her four main predictions for denim trends fall/winter 2018-2019.

4 Key Denim Trends Fall/Winter '18 spotted at Kingpins

Trend 1: Art-School Indie

This first trend brings is perhaps the most nostalgic of them all, according Leverton. Looking to the 90s for inspiration, this trend is linked to consumers sense of uncertainty in politically unable times. “We are looking back, looking for things that are familiar to feel safe,” says Leverton. This is set to be translated into 1990s silhouettes, sportswear inspired mixes, with a thrifted eccentric touch. “Think of it as a post norm-core trend,” says Leverton, one which is more anti-fashion and ugly than fashion driven. “But it has a strong hand made aspect to it as well.” This handicraft aspect includes do-it-yourself trends, such as customised denim patches and detailing, like side seam inserts for a new denim jean silhouette to give denim items a more hand-done and personal look and feel to everyday basics. The DYI part of this trend also revolves around upcycling, taking something already made and making it into something else.

Hover your mouse over the image below to learn more about the trend Art-School Indie 4 Key Denim Trends Fall/Winter '18 spotted at Kingpins

“This would be an eco-friendly trend, as it is about taking something existing and transforming it into a something new. I see a lot of emerging brands remaking old jeanswear into new jeanswear, which is great,” adds Leverton. “It’s about basics, norm-core but customised to make them unique - think painting on denim, giving piece an art-school makeover so to speak.” Deconstructed denim, such as ripped knees, busted seams and different coloured patches is also a key part of this trend. “This is also where vintage lives. But as far as vintage is concerned, this trend is driven by recent vintage - rather than old vintage from the 30s or 40s.” This includes unusual proportions, exaggerated sleeves or pants lengths as well as wide jeans. “As far as denim goes we have been inspired by old garments for a long time, looking back to the 1930s and 1950s. Expect now we are looking back to the 80s, 90s and 2000s instead. And that’s a big change.”

4 Key Denim Trends Fall/Winter '18 spotted at Kingpins

Trend 2: Blue Collar Basics

“So this trend, Blue Collar Basics, and Art-School are both inspired by similar eras, but this trend is the cleaned up friend of Art-School Indie,” says Leverton. This second trend is said to be driven by society’s disillusion with high fashion and moves on from subcultures and movements like punk, skate and indie to focus on the working class for inspiration. Whereas the previous trend was focused on DYI, this trend looks to clean lines and silhouettes, leaning more towards activewear inspired cuts. “Although some trends previously looked towards technical activewear, this trend looks to nostalgic activewear,” points out Leverton. Think adidas iconic three striped jogging suit bottoms and the Fila logo sweatshirt, items which were very big in the 1990s which have been reemerging in style once more. Blue Collar Basics also looks to skewer proportions, playing with fit and volume while meshing different styles and finishes together. “It includes stone and acid washes, with 80s and 90s vibes.”

Hover your mouse over the image below to learn more about the trend Blue Collar Basics 4 Key Denim Trends Fall/Winter '18 spotted at Kingpins

However, unlike the previous trend which is more rebellious at heart, Blue Collar Basics looks reinvent denim by keeping its styling neat and crisp. “This trend is more about basics and core uniform dressing, keeping things very clean and simple.” But do not think this means boring, as this trend also revolves around the concept of taking something previously unattainable and making it attainable - think Vetements collaborations with Levi’s Champion, Reebok for example says Leverton. It looks to take something, such as a logo or design, which was previously seen as high fashion and subverts into something which is normal, basic and can be used daily. “It’s about poking fun at authority and corporations and high-end fashion as well.” Another key part of this trend focuses on creating something which is almost on the verge of ugly, using different textures, proportions and fit. “I also feel like this trend is pushing in an ugly direction, rather than a fashion driven direction,” adds Leverton. “For me, because I love trends, I always think there is a rule to them. Just as you are starting to think it’s bad, it means it’s about to come back.”

4 Key Denim Trends Fall/Winter '18 spotted at Kingpins

Trend 3: Post-Denim

This trend shares some attributes to the previous trend, as it is also quite clean but in a more minimalistic way, notes Leverton. However unlike Blue Collar Basics, which is anti-fashion, Post-Denim can be seen as a high fashion driven trend, incorporating new textiles and technical details. “It’s very eclectic, but in a runway sense, and more contemporary than the other trends.” This trend looks to elevate denim to a higher end fashion item once more, by playing with proportions and design, to ensure it is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. “It’s about taking workwear and making it clean, returning to basic but not in a uniform way.” The denim overall, or bib and brace, is said to a key part of this trend, but is set to be reinvented to give it a cool, contemporary feel, using pocket play and white topstitching to reinforce the feeling of newness.

Hover your mouse over the image below to learn more about the trend Post-Denim 4 Key Denim Trends Fall/Winter '18 spotted at Kingpins

Skewered seams, monochrome denim and asymmetrical pockets are also all part of this trend, as is feminine flourishes such as ruffles and frills. “Think kimono styled belts to create that nipped in waist” for the perfect hourglass silhouette says Leverton. “This trend also looks to explore what denim is going to look like in the future, so it focuses on the more technical aspects of denim, such as fabric innovations,” adds Leverton. Think denim fabrics which aim to keep you cool or warm, smart denim which responds to touch or non-denim fabrics which look like denim but aren’t. These new denim fabrics will be used to create pieces which may look like classic items, but really are flipped on their heads - think flared jeans which have been cropped at the ankle, with ripped bottoms and a twisted seam line as deconstruction is also key to this trend, or tonal denim dressing.

4 Key Denim Trends Fall/Winter '18 spotted at Kingpins

Trend 4: Beatnik Bohemian

“This is the most eclectic trend of them all. It’s called Beatnik Bohemian as the beatnik aspect is taken from the 50s and 60s, and the boho is very bohemian, opulent, luxurious and embellished,” says Leverton. She describes the trend as ‘retro vintage meets bohemian fashion’, as it bring together numerous cultural influences from around the world. “This trend is also inspired by newer denim markets, such as South America, who are looking to their own history and creating new looks from it.” The trend looks at the history of the classic American denim and merges it with culture influences, such as pairing a kimono sleeve with western stitched detailing to reinvent the denim jacket. “Think of it as a far-east meets west hybrid.” Rodeo inspired looks, such as exaggerated yolks, embroidery patches and bedazzled jackets are also part of this trend, although they have become more stylized and sophisticated and less kitsch, adds Leverton.

Hover your mouse over the image below to learn more about the trend Beatnik Bohemian 4 Key Denim Trends Fall/Winter '18 spotted at Kingpins

This trend also brings together tailoring, with over the top embellishment and embroidery in a dandy meets Spanish matador, mid-century playboy over the top style. “For instance, this outfit is very tailored and sleek on the outside,” says Leverton pointing to the jacket in the photo above. “But then the inside of the jacket is very fun and bohemian, with bright colours, eclectic print and quilting.” Pajama dressing, with decorative trimming or playful embroidery is also a key part to this trend when it comes to styling this trend, say Leverton. “ It’s about combining that sharp tailoring with a 50s vibes, think spread collar, and a bit of dandyism.” Although Beatnik Boho is about mixing up eras, everything does have a bohemian feel to it, which ties it all together. “This is Gucci second generation, looking to take denim out of its normal comfort zone.”

Photos: Kingpins, by FashionUnited

4 Key Denim Trends Fall/Winter '18 spotted at Kingpins During the month of April, which sees Denim trade fair Kingpins and the Amsterdam Denim Days taking place, FashionUnited focuses on Denim. For all our articles on Denim, click here.
White Milano adds a day to September edition

Italian trade show White Milano is adding a day to its calendar for its September edition to “act synergistically with all the other sector’s players” and to help increase Milan’s appeal for international buyers.

White Milano, the trade show dedicated to womenswear collections and contemporary accessories, sponsored by the Municipality of Milan will open on Friday, September 22 and run until Monday, September 25, 2017.

The addition of the new day will mean that the White Milano along with Milano Moda Donna and trade shows like Mipel, The Micam, The One Milano will coincide with almost the entire duration of the fashion shows.

As well as renewing its buyer-orientated format with a four-day show, White Milano is also organising a series of events and “live happenings” to present their international scouting activities to the fashion insiders in what it describes as a “dynamic and interactive way”, as it continues to evolve its trade show format.

“This important synergy among the sector’s insiders will make Milan fashion week more appealing. This is a very strong signal testifying the renaissance the city of Milan, and more broadly what the country is undergoing,” said Massimiliano Bizzi, founder of White. “Despite the indisputable success of the three-day formula of the womenswear and menswear shows, we felt it was appropriate and strategic to offer our companies the chance to be the protagonists of this change, so as to make the most of the ensuing synergies.

Bizzi added: “I believe that this is a unique occasion for the Italian production chain and for Milan, which will increasingly catalyse the interest and favour the permanence of international fashion insiders.”

White Milano attracts more than 500 exhibitors and more than 22,000 visitors each season.

Image: courtesy of White Milano

Swiss watch exports tumble ahead of Basel trade fair

The world's biggest watch fair will open in Switzerland this week, even as slumping exports of luxury Swiss timepieces appear to dash hopes of a market rebound. Global exports of Swiss watches slid 10 percent in February to 1.5 billion Swiss francs (1.5 billion dollars, 1.4 billion euros), the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FHS) said Tuesday.

The news cast a shadow over the looming Baselworld trade fair, which opens its doors to the media on Wednesday and to the public a day later. The giant gathering in the northern Swiss city of Basel is the highlight of the year for watch and jewellery makers, with hoards of retailers looking to fill their showcases with pricey bling.

Investors had been hoping this year's 45th edition would open on a more positive note amid signs that the market was stabilising and even on the verge o f a rebound after two years of deep crisis. C itigroup analyst Thomas Chauvet described Tuesday's export numbers as a "reality check". He said the figures showed there was "no underlying improvement" in the industry, despite a more "upbeat mood" from senior watch executives, and a more optimistic tone from the FHS in its January release.

Exports to Hong Kong, the biggest market for Swiss watches, slumped 12.1 percent last month. And exports to the United States, the second biggest market, plunged 26.2 percent. Most European markets also fell, and sales to Japan tumbled 17.3 percent. Exports to China, however, rose 6.7 percent year-on-year in February.

That represents some much-needed good news for the industry -- China was the main driver of several years of euphoric growth for Swiss watches, with Chinese consumers' thirst for luxury goods sparking a production boom. But the market suffered a severe hit after Beijing in 2013 began cracking down on corruption by banning extravagant gifts like expensive watches to public officials.

And since then the storm clouds have multiplied, with the pro-democracy Umbrella protests in Hong Kong also chipping away at sales, followed by a range of deadly terrorist attacks in European cities frightening off luxury-seeking Asian tourists. In 2016, Swiss watch exports shrank 9.9 percent, after contracting 3.3 percent a year earlier.

But in recent months, there were some indications the market was stabilising. Exports to China gradually inched back into positive terrain during the second half of 2016, and a number of markets around the world put on a healthy glow during the holiday season at the end of the year.

Watch makers themselves have also been making increasingly soothing sounds about the health of the market and justifying production hikes. Swatch Group chief Nick Hayek told reporters last week that he was now aiming for "healthy growth", driven particularly by China's growing middle class, which he said once again appeared hungry for consumption.

With uncertainty abound, Baselworld, which each year draws around 1,500 exhibitors and some 150,000 visitors, should help gauge the actual state of the luxury watch market. (AFP) group

Photos: Senator Excellence Panorama Date and Senator Excellence Panorama Date Moon Phase, Omega, Swatch Group

London - Jonathan Anderson is set to follow in the footsteps of Tim Coppens, Sir Paul Smith and Raf Simons as the next upcoming guest designer at Italian menswear trade show Pitto Uomo. “I'm honored to have been asked to show at Pitti Uomo,” said Anderson in a statement. "Florence’s aesthetic is beautiful, which will lend itself to be the perfect backdrop for the collection."

Founder and creative director of his own eponymous brand J.W Anderson and creative director at the LVMH-owned Spanish luxury brand Loewe, Anderson announced that he had been selected as a special guest designer for Pitti Uomo 92nd edition via his Instagram account.

VERY EXCITED TO BE THE NEXT SPECIAL GUEST AT #PITTIUOMO 14TH JUNE 2017 #JWANDERSON #SS18

A post shared by JW ANDERSON (@jw_anderson) on

"We have been keeping a careful eye on Jonathan Anderson’s career for several seasons," added Lapo Cianchi, Pitti Immagine Director of Communications and Events. "Above all, we are drawn to the creativity and eclecticism he expresses in his collections that are further enhanced by high-quality manufacturing and – in menswear -- by undisputable sartorial skill. The way he reinterprets elements from the contemporary art scene and from the youth culture, alternating emotional impact (such as out-of-scale volumes) and transgression that are projected towards anticipating the future leaving little room for nostalgia, is very interesting. And his shows are always surprising, with great communicative strength."

The young designer, who first launched his own menswear label in 2008, is set present his label's Spring/Summer 2018 collection on the catwalk on June 14, during the celebrated trade fair in Florence. Seen as somewhat of a trail-blazer within the menswear sector, with inspirational sources ranging from Peter and the Wolf to dating apps like Tinder and Grindr, attendees can expect an a one-of-a-kind show, as Cianchi hinted.

Retail in flux: trends observed at the EuroShop 2017 trade show

“Future” was probably the word cited most often during EuroShop, the world’s largest trade show, which ran for five days and ended on 9 March in Düsseldorf. But the look of this retail future is uncertain. The only certainty is that retail will look much differently in the future than it does today.

The borders are becoming blurred – in every respect

The consensus in the fashion industry is that it will be facing major challenges in the coming years. The disruptions associated with digitalisation will fundamentally alter the design and function of conventional stores. The seasons will be reshaped due to climate change and people's passion for traveling and not least, because of the constant demand for new, fresh merchandise to be displayed in store. At the same time, product offerings are becoming increasingly diverse and creative, whereby clothing is designed to evoke emotions in combination with food, repair services, and so on.

Retail in flux: trends observed at the EuroShop 2017 trade show

More than ever before, sales clerks are required to take on the role of advisor and provider of inspiration. ”I believe that conventional sales clerks on the floor will all be replaced by stylists in a few years’ time”, says Raul Sanchez of Interstore, who used to be head of design at Jelmoli. The centre of attention will therefore shift to the changing rooms. Experts point out the importance of making these more appealing in the coming years, as this is where the purchase decision is made. At Schweitzer and Interstore, steps have been taken to the effect that the store of the future will only consist of a changing room. The customer will select the items of interest online in advance and come in to try them on in a comfortable, relaxing setting. The stores of the future will be smaller, because their function of actually fulfilling the whole transaction will diminish as a result of the online presence. Instead, they should focus on the real experience, evoke emotions and showcase the brand. That is to say: the ratio of surface area containing merchandise to convenience areas e.g. dedicated to the changing rooms will change considerably.

Retail in flux: trends observed at the EuroShop 2017 trade show

Flexibility: the store must change constantly

While in the past a store had to be redesigned every seven years according to an unwritten rule, this timeframe has increased drastically today. According to the industry, it is now necessary to redesign a store every three to four years. In order to finance this endeavour, store fitters are feverishly working on the development of modular, flexible store equipment elements, which can regularly be rearranged or expanded as necessary. For example, this means going to such lengths that all merchandise fixtures are mounted on the ceiling in the existing track lighting system at Vizona. As a result, no expensive constructions need to be mounted on the walls or the floor at all. The electricity for powering narrow LED strips that are integrated into the shelves and provide different moods of light is also accessible from the top. The trend toward flexibility continues with the mannequins, whose faces can be modified at lightning speed, using different eyes and lips for example, such as at Window in France.

Retail in flux: trends observed at the EuroShop 2017 trade show

Lighting: it all depends on the target audience

Light is perceived unconsciously, but it is nevertheless one of the key components of the store design. After all, lighting plays a crucial role in whether or not a customer feels comfortable in a shop. Only if he feels comfortable, is he then willing to linger for a while and only then will he make a purchase and return to the store. So far, so good. However, according to a recent study conducted by lighting specialist Zumtobel, different target groups have different expectations with regard to lighting. The focus of lighting on certain types of target groups, known as human centric lighting, was one of the innovations in the area of lighting. When designing the lighting concept for a store, it is therefore increasingly important to be cognizant of one’s target audience.

Retail in flux: trends observed at the EuroShop 2017 trade show

Digitalisation: from electronics to Big Data

Digitalisation in retail was among the main topics at the EuroShop. In the future, customers will increasingly expect all channels to be interconnected, irrespective of how the processes behind it are organised. Comprehensive IT solutions are required to achieve this. The digital dimension is not an “add-on”, but an integral component in the planning of the respective retail strategy and the store outfit. For example, it includes the supply of electricity to merchandise fixtures such as shelves, so that tablets or screens can be mounted on them. By now, store design specialist Vitra equips all merchandise fixtures with electronic connectors. ”We are not developing any more systems without electric connectors”, says Sebastian Nisi von Vitra.

Big Data has also arrived in the fixed stores. In the past, it was the privilege of online players to generate data regarding their target group in a way that enabled them to obtain valuable insights with regard to marketing and the merchandise portfolio. In contrast, the fixed store was considered a black box by many. With the help of thermal imaging cameras and so-called heat maps, store operators are now also able to generate data in their shops and to measure for instance the customer frequency in different places of the store at different times of day and to find out which marketing strategies are most effective in which target group. Nowadays, these cameras are even capable of establishing people's gender. In addition, the aim is to identify logos and determine clothing styles in order to obtain information that is as accurate as possible about their target group.

Retail in flux: trends observed at the EuroShop 2017 trade show

Visual merchandising: uniqueness is compulsory

The visual merchandising halls featuring the store display models and new merchandise presentation ideas are always a optical highlight of the EuroShop. Metallic sheen was the favourite among the new designs, followed by graphic elements in the trendy colours of the 1980s. While Dutch mannequin producer Hans Boodt drew his inspiration from the elegance of the 1920s, Window Mannequin in France developed a brand-new method for creating customised lifelike mannequins. It is based on a technology that is used in animated movies, where a human body is captured three-dimensionally in seconds with a multitude of cameras and reconstructed within several days by means of robots. This method enables a brand to commission unique, lifelike mannequins. Ralph Hutchings, art director at Window elaborates: ”brands spend large amounts of money for the right model and for their own store design – particularly in the luxury segment. So when it comes to mannequins, why should they resort to cookie-cutter solutions?"

High demand for information

EuroShop, which takes place only once every three years, has evolved from a conventional trade show to an innovation platform and a forum for discussion for new trade ideas. This is also demonstrated by the extensive program of presentations. For the first time, 2,367 exhibitors from 61 countries presented their merchandise on nearly 128,000 square meters in 18 instead of 16 halls, making it the biggest version of the EuroShop in its 50-year history.

Photos: by Regina Henkel, FashionUnited