The Changing Tides of Trade Shows

Trade shows have evolved over the last decade to include more technology, multisensory experiences, event apps and interactive connections with attendees. We caught up with executives from some of the most important industry trade shows to paint a picture of what has changed on the trade-show scene in the past decade and what tech aspects are making an appearance.

Jennifer Bacon

Fashion & Apparel Show Director

Texworld USA

Apparel Sourcing USA

Texworld USA has changed quite a bit in the last 10 years. Among many things, the quality and quantity of exhibitors has improved. In an effort to ensure the quality of products from exhibiting companies are topnotch, and to offer a wider range of exhibitors, we have put in place a textile advisory committee.

Now, the diversity of our exhibitors has grown from a global perspective to include companies from China, Turkey, India, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Korea and more.

In addition to international suppliers, we have also focused on local suppliers by introducing Local Loft, a designated area at the show that provides direct access to apparel-fabric buyers, research and development specialists, designers, and fashion companies. As we continue to be a platform for all apparel-textile buyers and designers, we also take pride in supporting startups and up-and-coming designers by catering to their needs for low-minimum suppliers.

A key part of our success story began with the relationship with our longstanding partner, Lenzing, which continues to bring a compelling seminar series that highlights industry topics from across the textile supply chain.

As an added bonus for attendees, we’ve boosted our complimentary educational component over the years with our popular Textile Talks, an open discussion with industry experts on the show floor, and Explore the Floor, which includes guided tours with industry experts through the show floor. This gives attendees the opportunity to meet new exhibitors and learn about their vast capabilities.

Additionally, brand new to this year’s show is Fashionsustain, a one-day conference that originated in Berlin, dedicated to sustainability, traceability and transparency. This year more than ever we’re aiming to have a hand in what’s happening in the industry as a whole by placing more focus on sustainability—not just with Fashionsustain, but we’re also offering more sustainable and innovative exhibitors.

We as trade-show organizers are reducing our footprint as well. For 2019 we have substantially reduced our volume of printed material and carpet used on the show floor, upcycled our banners from previous events for show bags, eliminated the use of plastic straws and water bottles, and implemented recyclable signage throughout our event.

Moving digitally, we also encourage attendees to use our mobile app and other technologies to reduce paper waste. Over the years of Texworld USA, we’ve established a more user-friendly website. We offer preregistration to make the process onsite stress free, and we are taking advantage of all social-media platforms to engage our markets.

Adam Eisenhut

Vice President of Shows and Community

Brand Assembly

Brand Assembly is proud to be celebrating its sixth anniversary and has been leveraging technology from its inception.

Over the last year we have launched and sustained a meaningful partnership with our friends at JOOR, a wholesale digital-data exchange and marketplace, in an exciting initiative we call our “Favorite Things.”

Each season, we feature between 10 and 15 brands—from fashion to lifestyle to beauty—that have iconic items we love.

We display selected items in a dynamic display and help buyers shop each brand’s entire line via JOOR. It’s taking the physical trade show virtual and making it more accessible for brands wanting to test our market without the investment of travel and booth setup.

More abstractly, Brand Assembly has leveraged its social presence to build our community—a critical aspect of our shows that we take pride in.

Our brands and buyers know that our shows offer more than just business transactions but also an inviting, exciting atmosphere and relationships that serve as a respite in the midst of market madness.

We take every opportunity through our social and email channels to feature and engage our community in meaningful ways so they can take part in and out of market.

We are excited to continue to challenge the concept of trade shows and build our collaborative fashion community through our shows and digital platforms in the years to come.

Desiree Hanson

Vice President, Fashion Events

Womenswear In Nevada (WWIN)

Clarion UX Urban Expositions

WWIN has evolved in many ways, such as how we are reaching new customers, our brand identity and creating an inviting, inspiring buying experience at the show.

We use technology to support all of our efforts and have introduced matchmaking, mobile technology, tech-focused education and increasing our digital marketing efforts through smart-technology solutions.

WWIN will continue to build upon the successful launch of its newest show feature, appointment setting. Acting as an online tool to connect and preschedule meetings between buyers and exhibitors, MATCH! and the buyers’ concierge club give participants the ability to fill the four-day show schedule with prebooked appointments.

These programs are designed to bring exhibitors and top womenswear and fashion-accessory buyers together based on mutual product interest, resulting in a more personal buying experience and increased exhibitor return on investment.

Known for its full lineup of hospitality features, the WWIN show delivers an unforgettable show experience coupled with ever-changing initiatives for improvement. Our growing education program offers many essential career-building opportunities, providing retailers with tips and tools to stay relevant in the world of new and changing technology.

Led by industry experts, workshops at WWIN will take a deeper dive into the digital-information age and continue to inform and influence our top decision-makers.

Emilie Lewis

Director of Events

California Market Center

LA Textile

Over the last decade, the California Market Center and its in-house-produced trade show, LA Textile, have borne witness to the resurgence of international apparel manufacturing in downtown Los Angeles.

We are well-versed in the benefits and challenges that advancing technologies have brought to the fashion industry. We often wish these walls could talk as they would tell a fascinating story of the thousands of fashion entrepreneurs who started and grew their apparel businesses within the walls of the CMC and LA Textile.

Over the next two years, CMC will undergo the largest transformation the building has seen since its creation in 1963. By the end of 2020, Brookfield Properties will invest more than $170 million into renovating the 13-story building. The CMC will be relaunched as a mixed-use creative campus featuring top-of-the-line fashion showrooms, modern event spaces and a new portfolio of inspiring events.

In March of 2020, LA Textile will find its new home in the re-envisioned C Building. Exhibitors and buyers will enjoy all the perks of the state-of-the-art facility, including the latest event check-in and security technologies providing smart analytics on show attendance and interactions.

Beyond the building, the CMC team is dedicated to staying at the forefront of what’s happening within the global manufacturing industry, deepening our strategic partnerships and exploring new ways to strengthen our international presence.

For this reason, we will be attending ITMA this June in Barcelona, Spain, the world’s largest textile and garment technology exhibition held just once every four years. We will conduct extensive research on new technologies, trends and partners that we can join forces with to elevate LA Textile now and in the future.

Most immediately, this October we will be launching live digital textile printing at LA Textile. Designers can look forward to interactive demonstrations showing how their unique designs can be crafted through digital sublimation printing onto the fabric of their choice.

Bob Maricich

Chief Executive and Chairman

International Market Centers

Atlanta Apparel

The past 10 years have seen Atlanta Apparel survive and thrive in a tumultuous economy and rapidly changing fashion business.

In the past decade, Atlanta Apparel has opened two new showroom floors, one new temporary floor and started—and then expanded—a new market: VOW | New World of Bridal. In 2018, it added apparel to International Market Centers’ business portfolio when the gift and home-furnishings trade-show powerhouse merged with AmericasMart in Atlanta.

In 2019, the Atlanta Apparel trade shows are the largest to date, breaking records in square footage and number of exhibitors year after year. The five Atlanta Apparel markets are robust working markets for the Southeast’s fashion retailers while the VOW and World of Prom markets bring in social-occasion retailers from across the United States and around the world.

The last 10 years have also seen major advances in the role of technology. Buyers receive market information via targeted digital outreach, navigate the market and find new lines with the Atlanta Apparel app, explore trends on the Atlanta Apparel Instagram feed, and place orders via tablets and computers.

Digital influencers are often featured speakers at market and provide education on the retail business and fashion trends. Market education events frequently focus on helping retailers understand digital-marketing channels, from using social media to best practices for working with influencers.

While the impact of technology on the markets has increased, buyers still find value in in-person, at-market experiences. The re­imagining of runway events, trend presentations, industry celebrations, educational programming, interactive opportunities, and the show’s look and feel over the past 10 years have refined the Atlanta Apparel experience and distinguished it as a must-attend event in the fashion-trade-show calendar.

Product categories also have evolved. As retailers transition to more-lifestyle-driven product presentations, the lines are blurring between traditional fashion and gift stores. The market is seeing established gift lines break into the fashion industry and fashion lines selling to gift retailers. Increased crossover between the Atlanta Apparel markets and the gift product offered year-round at AmericasMart will continue to expand the resources available to buyers.

Moving into the second half of 2019, IMC is exploring and embracing the new normal of the fashion trade show. Forthcoming updates to the Atlanta Apparel app and digital experience will expand at-market discovery opportunities by making it easier to source product throughout the year and prepare for buying trips.

Programming and events will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the next generation of retailers.

Steve McCullough

Event Manager

Functional Fabric Fair

Since we launched this show in New York only in July of 2018 and are launching the Portland event in October 2019, the question isn’t directly relevant to us, but, I can answer how this event was launched differently than a show would have been launched 10 years ago.

Buyers, designers, sourcing directors and merchandisers do not have the time to spend hunting for relevant suppliers in large sourcing shows or walking larger trade shows that contain an adjacency dedicated to sourcing.

Smaller, curated and focused events receive the best reviews from our attendees. We do a lot of research and put a lot of thought into whom we invite to exhibit at our events. Studying trends and offering relevant, forward-thinking suppliers allows us to bring the best of the best to the floor and to properly offer the right speakers who are on-trend for tomorrow’s products.

The same is true for our visitors. Our aisles are filled with decision-makers who attend our fair specifically for finding the latest technology to be used in performance fabrics and find the right suppliers capable of delivering that product.

Larger events are not always better. More exhibitors and more visitors are not necessarily the answer today. The right exhibitors and the right visitors are the correct ingredients for a meaningful, focused and efficient trade show.

Cindy Morris

President and Chief Executive

Dallas Market Center

The Dallas marketplace today is vastly different from 10 or even five years ago. That’s because we have made a bold commitment to produce interactive experiences for our customers as opposed to passive events.

What does that mean exactly? We want all aspects of the customer journey through the Dallas marketplace to be efficient and inspiring via in-person and digital connections. Let me point out a few ways we are doing this that sets us apart.

First, we have advanced the design of our shows to be more inviting to buyer exploration and to personal interaction. Showrooms have larger entryways, and the trade-show space has wider hallways and open-booth designs. We also have added exhibitor partners such as Brand Assembly, which showcases leading-edge products in a similar style.

For our new health and wellness area, called Shine, we take this idea to a new level—a completely open exhibit encouraging buyers to test products, take them home or to their stores, and order based upon their personal experience.

Adjacent to the apparel and accessories showrooms, we have complementary neighborhoods of gift products and health, beauty and wellness so that we offer a wider range of product inspiration for buyers seeking unique and unexpected items. We have made a concerted effort to promote interactive discovery while at market as more stores seek additional categories of products to stand out.

This idea of discovery and product diversity in Dallas is actually best represented by our new corporate identity, which combines different colored bars into a single shape signifying the unity of products and ideas in Dallas.

For on-site displays and vignettes, again, we have developed a new approach that guides buyers through trends and exhibitor brands but also invites sharing on social media and with their customers. In fact, we know retailers who have taken our display concepts and replicated them in their stores.

Technology is what drives the business and our marketplace today, so we continue to invest significantly in tech platforms and tools that allow Dallas customers to experience unmatched interconnectivity. For example, we now have enhanced Wi-Fi throughout the marketplace and recently launched the largest private 5GLTE network for cell connectivity.

We are the only marketplace streaming custom content throughout the show via dozens of monitors including our own live morning show featuring designers and trend experts. Outside of the show, we know buyers want helpful information and that’s why we are about to launch even more direct digital channels of content that can reach buyers between market events.

For all these efforts and because of our strong regional economy, we are seeing results. So far this year we have experienced an increase in buyers from our immediate region and a jump in attendance by buyers outside this region. We have also welcomed more buyers from store types such as gift and Western attending Dallas apparel markets to discover new products.

This is a 24/7 world for commerce, especially for a fast-paced business like fashion. We understand intimately that there is as much risk in doing nothing as in doing something. That’s why we continue to make the Dallas marketplace active and interactive with new tools and new exhibitors and improved partnerships.

Hisham and Kari Muhareb


NW Materials Show

NE Materials Show

The NW Materials Show in Portland, Ore., and the NE Materials Show in Boston are America’s largest sourcing events for footwear materials and components. This coming August, the NW Materials Show will expand by 25 percent to include Première Vision Sport, geared toward apparel brands.

We have also worked with members of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America to designate a special area of the show as Material Tech Central, hosted by Material Exchange and FDRA. This area will showcase how materials are digitizing and how tech companies can offer products and services around digitization. The area will be very visual with TV monitors and demos, which are meant to be fun and lively.

FDRA members invited to exhibit include HP, X-Rite/Pantone, Algorithmic, Romans Cad, Atom-Lab, Clo3D, Browzwear, PTC and others.

Tom Nastos

Chief Commercial Officer

Informa Markets

The fashion business will continue to experience growth. We are seeing digital native brands now attending fashion trade events in order to gain new channels of distribution and further extend their brand presence.

Today we have enabled our customers to connect 365 days a year and are continuing to incorporate new technology tools to provide more efficiencies to our buyers to communicate and discover brands. Our vision is to create innovative platforms that connect and inspire the global fashion community.

Lucia Palacios

Executive Director

Apparel Sourcing Show

Guatemala Apparel & Textile Association

In an ever-changing industry, the dynamics have changed in the last 10 years, especially technology, and we have to keep up with it.

Every year the show looks for companies that can showcase new technology that adds value to the participants and the industry attending the show.

The show itself offers a registration system with matchmaking services to all exhibitors and print-at-home badges for quicker entry. We are using social media as one of the key promoting tools targeting specialized executives of the sector.

Igor Robinet-Slansky

Press Manager

Première Vision

Our shows have changed a lot over the past 10 years. The Première Vision Group has grown through acquisitions and with technological developments. Today we organize 14 shows every year.

The best example of our evolution is our main biannual show, Première Vision Paris. We now offer more with know-how from six different activity sectors. When you are a creative brand, you can find anything for your collections, from the yarns, fabrics and leathers to design, accessories and components or even production.

We actually have a manufacturing area with experts from Europe, Asia and all over the world, which is quite new. Exhibitors are chosen by a selection committee that goes through a rigorous process. We select our exhibitors for their creativity, the quality of their material collections as well as being reliable and trustworthy with an ability to deliver on time. They have to fill out a big file with their financial details and other economic information, which is reviewed by professionals from the industry.

We refuse many companies every season. But once you are selected, it is a lifetime thing. This was not the case for every show we took over. We harmonized everything to guarantee quality standards to the brands and designers visiting our shows.

Ten years ago, Première Vision Paris had yarn, fabric and design. Then, in 2011, we acquired Modamont, which is now Première Vision Accessories. In 2013, we acquired Eurovet’s fashion shows, including Zoom, which became Première Vision Manufacturing.

There is also a Made in France Première Vision, a show dedicated to French premium manufacturing and materials for fashion, which takes place in Paris every April.

Then we integrated Fatex into our group, which was a show with suppliers from Asia. It has been renamed Première Vision Manufacturing Overseas, which is now within Première Vision Paris each season. It is for big international manufacturers, and we added a rigorous selection process. We are working with Bureau Veritas on this so our visitors can expect to find reliable suppliers and partners.

In 2014, we acquired Cuir à Paris, which became Première Vision Leather. It is integrated into our Première Vision Paris show with a selection of the best tanners for luxury and premium fashion and accessory brands.

One of our specialized shows, the Denim Première Vision, is dedicated to the denim industry. It was launched in Paris in 2007 and is now a roving event. It will be in Milan on May 28 and 29 at Superstudio Più and in London next December. As a roving event, it allows exhibitors to meet in different European cities, get new inspirations and meet new customers.

One of our show’s highlights are the areas to showcase fashion trends for the upcoming season. Our in-house fashion team collaborates with international professionals and experts in the fashion industry to elaborate seasonal guidelines in terms of materials and colors. We create a specific and unique Première Vision color card each season.

Then we share this with our exhibitors before the show so they get inspired to build the collections they’re going to propose at the next show. A few weeks before the actual show, they send their most innovative and creative samples to our fashion team, which sorts and organizes them. It enables us to enrich the seasonal trends presented during the show on our fashion forums or in our fashion seminars.

In addition to our inspirational role, five years ago we launched a section devoted to responsible and sustainable sourcing, displaying alternative materials. There are displays by exhibitors who have specific innovations and more-responsible processes. Three years ago, we launched something called the Wearable Lab, which is about fashion tech, meaning technological solutions to enhance fashion. We show innovation and startups our visitors can work with.

Last September, we launched the Première Vision Marketplace, a B2B e-commerce platform that’s a first for the industry. Uniquely reserved for Première Vision exhibitors, it houses their catalogs and gives them an opportunity to market their products online. Intended for buyers from around the world, the platform is open 24/7 so buyers can identify new suppliers, request samples and be informed of new creations throughout the year even after the show is over.

Lastly, in August, we are launching Première Vision Sport, which is dedicated to materials for activewear and sportswear. It will be in conjunction with The Materials Show in Portland, Oregon.

Judy Stein

Executive Director

Swimwear Association of Florida/Miami SwimShow

In our efforts to be more eco-friendly, we are moving from a printed format for our 200 pages–plus show directory to a digital platform by utilizing the SwimShow app.

The app will be a comprehensive communication hub for our vendors and retailers to connect with information on the trade show, including special events, seminars, floor plan, brand description, imagery, a restaurant and nightlife guide plus the newest addition to SwimShow—Nu Wave Swim.

Nu Wave Swim will transform the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, which is just steps away from the Miami Beach Convention Center, into the epicenter of Miami SwimWeek.

Nu Wave Swim is a new experience and elevated resource for all swimwear categories, featuring various runway shows, presentations and a coveted press lounge—all with a commitment to sustainability and ocean preservation.

Mary T. Taft

Executive Director

Fashion Market Northern California

Fashion Market Northern California is based in one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, the heart of Silicon Valley, and many changes have happened over the last 10 years. We are happy to be located at the San Mateo County Event Center, right between San Francisco and San Jose.

FMNC has new marketing programs in place utilizing Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat as well as direct marketing to our retailers and exhibitors.

Another new addition is a photo booth where buyers can post their visit on social media and “tag” friends, which will result in growing our social-media base. FMNC has an advertising campaign that promotes digital ads on most major social-media platforms in addition to traditional press.

Five weeks prior to the show, buyers receive a digital list of exhibitors along with the show book allowing time to plan their show schedule. We offer and recommend online preregistration to cut down on registration time, and we have a drawing for a $100 Visa card for one lucky buyer.

This year, we raised the bar with an overall “fresh new look,” utilizing every part of our show floor. It is an exciting and inviting space for fashion to be shown. We have elevated the look, feel and essence of the show using expert trade-show designers to keep our show fresh and relevant.

We are in the business of selling fashion, and we want to present that at every turn, from the show entrance to our stylish lounge area. The buyers lounge has been redesigned using vintage-style lamps in addition to more seating with fun pillows giving it a total “kitschy” or “camp” look.

The food presentation has an elegant appearance of an inviting reception. Even the ladies’ room has a basket with quotes from famous designers and fashion icons, which buyers love and take. Our famous afternoon cookies have been enhanced with the addition of fun, healthy snacks including coconut clusters, popcorn, nuts and fruit. As fashion and trends continue to change, so will Fashion Market Northern California.

Chase Vance

Show Director

Apparel Textile Sourcing

The Apparel Textile Sourcing trade shows are organized by, which enables attendees to connect with exhibitors year-round along with hundreds of thousands of other suppliers.

Because of this, technology has been woven into the entire buyer experience since the ATS events began.

Integration of technology has facilitated the way our attendees discover new vendors and the keynote speakers and subjects participating in our panel discussions.

During the 2019 show cycle, business-to-business and business-to-commerce has become a core theme of the ATS events organized in Miami, Toronto, Montreal and Berlin.

Each year we see more exhibitors with different tech services presenting at the show. Examples of these are and Vast e-Tech, which will be featured during ATS 2019 May 28–30.

Over the next three to five years, the brands and retailers that will succeed are those who have socioeconomically sustainable supply chains and the ability to buy or sell across borders to the end consumer and transact with their B2B suppliers/customers.

The growth of the technology pavilion at the ATS shows has been both by design and organic need. As the apparel and textile supply chain becomes more homogenized, the need for new technologies arises.

Conversely, as new technologies are developed, previously well-defined lines in the supply chain become blurred. Overall, a few fundamental goals of these services include decreasing cost of goods sold and shortening the concept-to-consumer process.

We anticipate the trend for technology interests will continue well into the 2020 ATS trade-show season with the launch of our FashionLAB Conference Series this May at our Miami event with expert-led discussions on product lifecycle management, enterprise resource management, social-media marketing, influencer marketing and other similar topics that leverage the Internet.