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Behind the glamorous: fashion and textile exhibitions

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The world of fashion is more than champagne parties, scandalous models and designers of worldwide fame. It is also a world of smaller brands searching for the perfect fabric, investors observing cultural trends and less conventional creators. Although one could imagine that such events consist solely of cat-walks, that certainly isn’t the case. Fashion and textile exhibitions, similarly to other trade shows, offer plenty of educational opportunities or discussion panels, where attendees can discuss the latest hits.

It is worth to notice, nonetheless, that fashion trade shows are not traditional in the sense that they “reach out” to people far more than many other industries do. Fashion has become something of daily importance for many people and it is present in most magazines, online, on TV… Therefore, ordinary people are bound to hear a review or two of the major fashion events. Quite simply, these expos also attract the largest number of celebrities (including pop and film stars), which adds that extra sparkle.

 

Where the buzz is

The most well-known of them all (and ones with excellent international marketing) are THE Fashion Weeks (FW). You have probably heard of New York, Paris, Milan and London Fashion Weeks: all four are icons of the fashion industry, hosting the most sought-out stars and designers. Although they started as rather niche and perhaps slightly closed-off events, each Fashion Week currently attracts about 60-100 prestigious designers and thousands of professional buyers, photographers, journalists and talent-scouts (for models).

These are the events where names such as Dior, Dolce & Gabbana or Ralph Lauren do not come as a surprise and where Vogue or Elle editors are seated in front rows. Needless to say, the Fashion Weeks have great coverage by international fashion magazines and an outstanding reputation thanks to the top exhibitors of the industry. They are, probably, the most commercial of the fashion exhibitions.

It is also worth to note that New York Fashion Week is the oldest event from the industry, as its first edition was held as early as 1943, consisting mostly of European collections. Although Paris was the undisputable fashion capital of the time, the French designers were forced to move their showcase across the globe due to the war. Currently, each Fashion Week is held twice a year in order to showcase spring/summer as well as autumn/winter collections separately.

Although it is hard to find any event as commercial as FW, Texworld (organized by Messe Frankfurt) is another giant of the industry. This Parisian show attracts approximately 9000 exhibitors and over 15, 000 professional visitors from all over the world. Focusing entirely on textiles makes the fair slightly different from the more fashion-show oriented events. Its main sectors focus on manufacturing equipment and accessories, best solutions for fashion sourcing, latest fabric trends, schools of fashion as well as business and more. For instance, since 2012, Texworld is quite dedicated to ecological and ethical fashion, featuring over 100 certified, eco-friendly designers or manufacturers.

A unique feature of the show is its focus on fashion and fashion management students – visiting students have the opportunity to take part in several specialist workshops, where they are advised and supervised by influential figures from the textile industry.

 

The Alternative

If you take a look around the streets of any large city, you are bound to see people who prefer to dress alternatively. If they deal with the fashion industry directly, you might meet the same people at the London Edge Show (now also starting out with the Berlin Edge Show) – the largest fashion and textile exhibition for alternative apparel. Unlike the Fashion Weeks, this show provides a networking arena for both established as well as very young brands.

Considering the steady rise in underground fashion, the show is an influential one for the industry. The fashion shows are dominated by gothic, punk and heavy metal clothing, accessories or hair products (all this includes tattoos and piercings characteristics for such styles). The event is held concurrently with London Central, an expo dedicated to “street styles” – hip-hop, skate and surf.

Another style-specialized show, known as the Trendz Show, takes place four times a year in Florida. As the location may suggest, this trade fair is a relaxed one, with resort-like, summery styles dominating the 3-day event. The general aim is to attract fresh fashion to the forever-sunny Florida and to promote local designers, who specialize in footwear, accessories, casual clothing and many more.

Moreover, there are also shows specializing in one specific material. This is the case for the Italian Pitti Immagine Filati – the major international event for the yarn industries. The aim is to present relevant innovations and support yarn-industry brands, as well as to bring in some creative fresh ideas on presenting yarn. Most of the 100 exibitors are producers of yarn and fabrics, but there are also many designers and stylists among the 6000 professional visitors.

 

Lingerie

Naturally, lingerie and swimwear is a large part of fashion too and separate events are organized for this aspect of clothing. The number one event for this sector in North America is Curvexpo, attracting over 3000 buyers annually to the large showcase of designer male and female underwear and swimwear. The fair features multiple fashion shows, seminars on the latest trends and more traditional item displays. Some of the impressive names one can encounter at Curvexpo include DKNY or Hugo Boss.

The other leader, the International Lingerie Show, is based in the US as well. This show slightly deviates from the “all-designer” scene, with many younger or less well-known brands showcasing their products too. Despite the show leaning towards more erotic products, designers are also welcome to display some of their lines for daywear or clothing accessories.

 

Oriental Hint

And where should one go in search of more oriental clothing? A possible destination could be CHIC – the China International Fashion Fair, held annually in Shanghai. It is, without doubt, an event of monstrous size compared to other fashion trade shows – it hosts about 1000 exhibitors and 100, 000 local as well as international visitors.

CHIC can be considered as the gateway to the Chinese Fashion Market, as it provides various seminars and workshops on fashion in the area and features a number of prominent Chinese companies related to the business. Matchmaking services offered by the show also make navigation and time management much easier.

Again, this show is rather full of all kinds of innovations and certainly gives smaller brands a chance as well. Its main mission is to promote commercial cooperation between brands and channels.

The fact that the show features numerous Chinese designers enables visitors to gain insight into the country’s culture and current trends. The fashion shows are a pleasant mixture of traditional apparel spiced with modern tastes.

On the Asian scene, the Asia Fashion Exchange (AFX) draws in quite a lot of attention too, despite it being formed only in 2010. This major fashion even from Singapore successfully supports Asian designers’ talent and aims to develop long-term sustainability of Singapore’s fashion industry.

AFX is composed of four subsections. The Audi Fashion Festival presents the most successful international and local designers. The Blueprint section is the opportunity for promising Asian designers to network with international key players. The Audi Star Creation boosts the youngest designers through multiple-category competitions, offering internships as prizes. The Asia Fashion Summit is the business-side of AFX, where trends and ideas are discussed by managers and other key representatives.

 

Conscious Fashion

In the era of ecological and health concerns, some of the most important aspects of fashion are the actual process of making the clothes and the ideas behind them. The German Ethical Fashion Show is a simple response to the increasing demand for fair-trade and eco-friendly products. It is composed of all sorts of brands – some very well-known and some just starting out. The only criteria that must be met in order to exhibit are ideological and technical ones.

Some of the exhibiting brands help to, for instance, improve working conditions in sewing factories in Bangladesh. Some show off innovative ways to make jeans in the most sustainable way possible. Others still use only leftover materials and promote organic cotton. Overall, the show is a large networking platform for conscious brands and customers, currently featuring over 150 exhibitors. Although most of the brands are German, more international representatives seem to arrive each year as the ethical trades gain momentum in other countries.

 

What does the future hold?

To some extent, the fashion and textile industries are very unpredictable. Trends come and go, designers try to sell all sorts of crazy, “creative” ideas and every season or major event is equivalent to a whole fashion chain tugging along. It is for this reason that the more specialized events run the risk of simply becoming outdated – although they do seem to draw in thousands of dedicated followers so far. One thing does seem to be clear: the key players and designers are beginning to pay more attention to sustainable production and eco-friendly materials; partially because of the scandals of the past few years related to inhumane working conditions in several fabrics factories. Nonetheless, there are simply too many factors affecting fashion for one to be able to accurately foresee its future direction.