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An Intimate Trade-Show Setting Spells Success for Preface New York

In its third edition, hosted at Studio Arte in New York City’s garment district July 17–18, Preface NYC created a relaxed atmosphere in which attendees and exhibitors could network, conduct business and learn. Focused on more-ethical and -sustainable sourcing, the show was well received due to its ability to organize a blend of exhibitors whose businesses complement one another to serve brands that are looking for quality over quantity.

“Sustainability is a movement within the industry—it’s not a trend,” said Betsy Franjola, show founder and owner of BFF Studios. “When I created BFF Studios, I saw poor decisions being made by these corporate companies that were financially irresponsible and detrimental to the environment.”

By beginning her show-planning early, Franjola was able to bring together key aspects that attract attendees to trade shows but kept the segments engaging by involving exhibitors and speakers well in advance. Through blending these components, Preface NYC allowed an event that is traditionally focused on business to be an educational experience in which all facets were complementary.

“The design perspective was a key point for us and a source of inspiration. We created a trend deck three months in advance and sent it to all the partners and also had a vintage pop-up section,” Franjola said. “The largest attended event was the speaker series in which Six Chung, owner of [the Hong Kong–based] Chaintex, spoke about fiber from fabric production through sustainable methods.”

For first-time exhibitor Dana Weinstein, owner of the 7-year-old Los Angeles–based company Vector Apparel Projects, Preface was a show that provided a pleasantly surprising new approach.

“It was refreshing to present without feeling like you’re presenting at a trade show because it was an informal, relaxed atmosphere. There were big and small brands,” she said. “The values and goals of everyone there were so aligned in terms of sustainability and ethical practices.”

An apparel-manufacturing professional who has worked in Los Angles for more than 30 years, Weinstein is now focused on ethical and sustainable manufacturing for high-end wovens while also promoting stateside production. In the future, she would return to exhibit at the New York show.

“This should be the direction that trade shows start to go,” she said. “A little smaller, a bit more intimate. Because of the way it was set up there was enough time for people to walk through and just chat.”

Many exhibitors reported meetings with major brands who were searching for quality options along the supply chain. Jeff Johnson of Global Edge Source reported meetings with Nautica and seeing Gildan for American Apparel.

“The thing that really struck me was how intimate the environment was, and that led to a different kind of dialogue,” he said. “It was great because it provided a unique sourcing experience in a cool, clean space.”

“The ambience was very intimate and the atmosphere relaxed and hearty,” said Gaetano La Sala, sales manager of Dynamo, located in Istanbul. “The single booths were not restricted, but the show space was open space. The workshops about textiles were amazing, particularly the one on pleating—that was really great.”

In addition to the workshops, visitors found the show’s nod to vintage extremely alluring and helpful to create fresh vision.

“What I loved about it was having some old and new,” said Cesar Renteria, a Los Angeles designer who consults for LRS—Studio and has worked with True Religion, Seven For All Mankind and Vince. “The vintage portion of it was great. Taking some of the newness in your fabrications, taking a vintage silhouette and making it your own for the future provided an old-meets-new vibe.”

For his current client, Renteria was searching for synthetic fabrications with coatings for a novelty approach. His search brought him to Charming Textiles, whose offerings he said were “on point.”

Launched in August 2018, Preface will add a Los Angeles component in January 2020. The success of the East Coast show has inspired Franjola to bring the intimate, ecologically focused event to this apparel-manufacturing center.

“We have a positive future,” she said. “There is a lot of excitement happening in the industry, but there is still a lot to learn, and people should be open to new ways of learning.”