Trade-Show Q&A: What shifts or advancements in trade-show production are you most looking forward to over the coming year?
During 2021, the apparel industry saw it all as the devastation of 2020 was followed by hope and recovery. Now, as the fashion business ends this year, there is a continued atmosphere of hope as the industry looks back at COVID-19 in the rearview mirror—it’s still present, but the distance from it continues to grow.
The latter half of 2021 saw enthusiasm for returning to on-site apparel productions as event organizers took with them the lessons learned over the course of 18 months defined by video meetings and a few in-person shows that conducted business safely and steadily.
With exhibitors and brands happily returning to the trade-show floor filled with gratitude for opportunities to come together and conduct business, an atmosphere of serious buying has been apparent during recent on-site events. It seems everyone has learned a lot from the time away and, now, a welcome return, but what is next for industry events? With trade-show calendars quickly filling up for 2022, California Apparel News asked event experts: What shifts or advancements in trade-show production are you most looking forward to over the coming year?
Show Director, Fashion and Apparel
Messe Frankfurt, Inc.
It is evident that how we do business is changing—it must change.
For us, this change can be seen in all areas of the business from expanding our reach and implementing new technology to obvious safety protocols. Earlier this year, we strengthened our relationship with the leading West Coast sourcing event LA Textile. Our continued cooperation with LA Textile is indicative of the changes happening across the industry as we adjust to widen our reach while being conscientious of the obvious travel and safety concerns encountered by buyers nationwide. This relationship is a win-win; having two regional events affords exhibitors and visitors access to markets coast to coast.
The onset of the pandemic accelerated our plans for the future as we developed a hybrid showroom unlike any other. The Sourcing Showroom incorporates our virtual technology into the overall platform. Buyers are able to experience the touch and feel of fabrics and apparel, and with a simple QR scan connect with exhibitors through the virtual platform without leaving the event. Unveiled this past July during our summer show, it was well received by exhibitors and attendees alike. As a globally diverse trade show, Texworld and Apparel Sourcing New York City have been faced with the ongoing challenges of travel restrictions and quarantine regulations for our international exhibitor base. The Sourcing Showroom ensures that the textile-sourcing community is able to continue to network with suppliers across the globe.
As we continue to move forward with our in-person events, providing a safe environment to conduct business is paramount and the biggest incentive surrounding the shift from the overcrowded show floors to more-concise areas of networking. We can all agree that being face to face is irreplaceable, and we see that excitement and anticipation as our exhibitors from India, Turkey, Bangladesh, the U.S. and other countries commit to joining Texworld and Apparel Sourcing New York City this January. As trade shows continue to evolve, we will remain focused on elevating our shows to meet the changing needs of the textile-sourcing industry.
The most highly anticipated shift we’re looking forward to in 2022 is continual opening of face-to-face events! At OFFPRICE, we have been able to produce two successful live events in 2021, and we couldn’t have done it without advanced technology attuned to the buyer’s needs. AI-driven chat bots offer the ability to communicate consistently with our attendees. Lead-retrieval smart-phone scanners eliminate the need to exchange contact information. No-touch registration is a quick way for attendees to get on the floor. And pre- or post-show digital platforms help facilitate year-round relationship building and product sourcing, creating a support system when not face to face. Technology is key to success.
Attendees will be choosy when deciding what shows to attend, so creating a seamless experience from start to finish is now the norm. Using matchmaking assistance or omni-channel customer service, trade shows are about human connection—even if it’s six feet apart and as we remain flexible in the ever-changing landscape of public health. Creating the experience, whether it be done with fireworks and passed champagne or specialized tours and fun giveaways, is necessary to foster the buyer relationship. Trade shows are symbiotic, and when the buyer thrives so will the show.
For 18 months we have not been able to organize live trade shows. Like many industry players, we partnered with some virtual platforms and launched successful online events for Curve and Interfilière. We produced a wide diversity of content to inform our clients about the intimates apparel industry, e-commerce and social media. A lot of the content we created was leveraging the creativity of the lingerie brands, our exhibitors, and the inspiration of our visitors, the specialty stores of our market.
When in August 2021 we were able to come back to N.Y.C. and L.A. with our Curve live shows, we realized that there was an opportunity to offer a different experience to our visitors and continue to produce more content for them and their online followers. Our visitors are specialty-store owners. They are incredible ambassadors for the lingerie world. Over the years, they have become excellent social-media users and great influencers about the brands they carry. Their clients, the consumers, trust their choices, the level of authenticity they convey and that they often cannot find directly from the brands.
When they visit Curve, the store owners are now embarking on behalf of their social-media followers in their shopping journey. They ask their opinion about new products they find at the show and help them feel special by preordering some collections even before receiving the merchandise in their stores. At Curve, we want to continue this trend in 2022 and the coming years and create memorable experiences and media content for our clients. We are very proud to help the intimate-apparel industry move forward.
Associate Show Director
2022 is going to be a big year for Swim Collective and Active Collective as we return to in-person events with an entirely reimagined experience and format as well as a new beachfront resort location at the Paséa Hotel & Spa in Huntington Beach, Calif.
The Paséa is the ideal backdrop for us to deliver on our mission to create a unique luxury experience where everyone can really engage with the swim and active culture with a keen focus on providing a marketplace experience that is an immersive luxury retreat for both retailers and brands.
The shows, which have not been staged since the start of the pandemic, will introduce refreshed branding, all new displays and immersive activations for retailers to not only see but also feel and try for a more elevated product experience. The new format truly supports brand storytelling and the ability to share the heritage and lineage of the textiles behind the products they are experiencing.
Our new look includes neutral displays and all-white fixtures to create a blend of luxury and minimalism that will highlight and allow the merchandise to be showcased more than ever before. The event experience includes contemporary cuisine, exclusive sunset-cocktail events and lush amenities to create a unique experience and mix of business and pleasure.
The vision has been welcomed with enthusiasm from our community of brands and buyers, and we look forward to reuniting with them for Swim Collective and Active Collective.
Here we are, getting ready to turn the corner to 2022…and things are back in action! People are meeting in person and excited to interact in real time and space. Trade shows are all about connecting, and the excitement to be back in a physical way is palpable.
COVID-19 gave rise to a lot of creative thinking when it came to connecting people to products, and I can’t wait to see how this is applied to this year’s events. PREFACE will be back in N.Y.C. this January with our biggest show yet, and we have some special events planned to enhance our unique inspiration experience.
Vice President of Partnerships
The trade-show industry is undergoing a significant transformation as we see pressures on the overall value proposition. Purposeful and relevant production is a critical component in creating memorable and tangible experiences. Production of experiences that amplify brands and engage attendees is necessary for our industry to thrive. The acceptance of virtual and hybrid components as essential elements of trade shows has added a new dimension to on-site event production. The ability and capacity to integrate content across multiple channels and extend the value of events well beyond the event itself are now a reality.
Executive Vice President of Fashion Events
Over the past year, the WWIN team became closer than ever to our customers. We discovered that our industry was embracing technology in a deeper way than in the past yet still has a high demand for in-person and tactile experiences. We continue to learn and find out exactly what they need and format our event to service those needs. We’ve gone back to our roots of traditional marketing, personalized outreach and providing a hands-on concierge with offerings like our MATCH! meetings program.
As we plan for the coming year, we have an increased focus on the on-site-event experience—people are craving face-to-face meetings, and in an industry like fashion it is paramount for them to see, touch and feel the products they are purchasing for their stores. During our WWIN February edition, we will be enhancing our activations, experiences and educational offerings through live demos, guided trend tours and relevant workshops to bring elevated energy to the show floor. In addition, we are continuing the hospitality offerings that our customers have come to know so they can focus on the important things like writing orders and exploring new brands.
Our signature networking reception, “Pop, Fizz, Clink,” will return featuring a hosted full bar and extended hours to shop the show floor. We are consciously curating our show floor to optimize the buyer experience and navigation as well as delivering brands that buyers are seeking and the products that match their specific needs. The merchandised show floor will include the newly launched offering ADORN—an exclusive accessories section of WWIN covering select aisles of the show floor.
WWIN is looking forward to hosting our February edition at the new state-of-the-art venue at the Caesars Forum Conference Center, which is both aesthetically inspiring as well as conveniently connected to the strip and accessible through any means of transportation.
We were impressed by the high quality of committed buyers that we saw at our August 2021 show and expect to continue to see both familiar and new faces in 2022. The last few years have tested the strength of business owners across many industries, and we are truly grateful to our loyal WWIN customers who stuck with us and embraced new ways of doing business to drive their businesses forward.
Informa Markets Fashion
We are excited to continue our return to live events with the advantage of also bringing digital solutions that help drive a richer omni-channel experience. We’re offering our community the experience they’ve grown accustomed to in their daily life—the opportunity to connect with and research products and suppliers online before making a purchasing decision. But most importantly, I am excited about the continued evolution toward sustainable practices in our industry and how we encourage that through our events.
While sustainability has always been a focus for us, this year we have amplified those efforts and will continue to do so in new and more meaningful ways next year. We launched a Sustainable Alternatives Gallery at our August Sourcing at MAGIC event and a shoppable mock-shop experience featuring sustainable products at our September Coterie New York event in addition to moderating a panel as part of Climate Week.
A few years ago, we moved to digital badges to eliminate paper waste, and this year we also removed carpeting. Next year, we will continue to amplify sustainable brands and find ways to eliminate waste and move closer toward being a net-carbon-zero event. We will also expand our education and live-experience offerings, providing timely learnings and of-the-moment information on sustainable products and brands so that we can support the transformation of the fashion industry—something we are truly passionate about.
President and Chief Visionary Officer
OC Apparel Show
I have over 22 years of experience in technology working with companies that use cutting-edge marketing. I also have over 15 years in the apparel industry as a retailer, buyer and on the wholesale side as a rep. With that said, I can honestly say that the apparel industry has a lot of growth ahead of it. We may see a bit of a step back in technology for the trade shows. We moved light years during COVID-19 with Zoom versions of shows and individual meetings. This, as we know, was a necessity for survival during a time that we all were quarantined in our homes.
Now, looking into 2022, I think that we have missed seeing people face to face and touching merchandise. Our passion was taken away by forcing us to see new lines either via cameras and monitors or getting boxes of samples only to not give the lines a fair assessment due to time restrictions or lost information to coordinate a quality presentation.
I have found that simple websites are not giving adequate information about a show. For some reason, the apparel industry doesn’t see a website as something that can enhance a business. I look at it as a tool to tell your story. Think about it, nobody can show a line in its entirety and tell the design story like the designers and people that put the line together and why certain details, colors and trim were used and what influenced them.
I would love to see augmented reality used by vendors. I would love to see companies with hangtags or even tags in garments with the ability to tell a story. Show how the product can wick moisture and show how you benefit from buying and wearing the garment.
The last year and a half has been full of uncertainties. Physical events couldn’t take place, which led to the increasing development of digital shows. Over the coming year, this digitalization of the events should go on developing as it’s now inevitable, especially if you’re an international company. However, going digital can’t be the only solution for the industry. And with a likely stabilization of the world’s situation and the reopening of international markets such as the USA and Asia, we can expect a comeback of strengthened physical events.
In fact, physical and digital are more interrelated. We can thus expect events to be more hybrid. The digital content and features are complementary to what you can achieve with a physical show, especially in our fashion sector. That’s what we experienced with our last Première Vision Paris show in September, which was the first hybrid we’ve organized and the first physical edition in more than a year. At a physical show, you can more directly strengthen your relationship with your partners and discover new ones more easily. For the fashion sector, where the touch and the feel of the product is crucial, physical shows can help create the future of a collection by providing inspiration through dedicated fashion areas but also by facilitating the sensitive meeting between buyers and materials.
On the other hand, the digital part of the show, which took place on our website and on our marketplace platform, was also a big success. Besides the development of new functionalities to provide reinforced networking features to help fashion brands and suppliers strengthen their interactions and develop their business, we had a digital program to keep the industry professionals informed: digital trend talks, a virtual 3D forum and a live sourcing session to give inspiration and the main seasonal orientations to buyers, as well as a series of 15 online conferences to explore the topics facing the industry: the latest trends, market developments, sustainable fashion.
Speaking of eco-responsibility, it is one of the most striking and growing evolutions for the industry in recent years. We can expect it to be omnipresent in future shows too. At Première Vision, we will increase the development of our Smart Creation program and platform we launched in 2015. Online and on-site, we will go on showcasing the latest creative and eco-responsible developments of our exhibitors. Regarding the physical show’s organization, we are already working to reduce energy consumption and our carbon footprint and also to recycle materials such as booths and carpets.
Designers and Agents
While D&A is always re-evaluating ways to improve the experience for both retailers and brands, the foundation of our model has remained consistent. The trade show is, first and foremost, a platform for the discovery of new resources for retailers and the opportunity for both emerging and established brands to increase their bandwidth through exposure to the right audience.
The goal at D&A is to deliver those objectives in the best way possible and through these efforts build a tremendous sense of community, which was very evident at the recent September show.
The September edition challenged us in new ways as a result of COVID-19, and we took the time to review every aspect of engagement for exhibitors and attendees. The registration process, layout of the show, food service as well as other aspects were all taken into consideration and revisions were made. The tremendous enthusiasm in response to the return of business in real life, the retailer confidence and general sense of resilience were really encouraging.
We are currently reviewing possible initiatives for the upcoming shows. In the past, D&A has highlighted and hosted designers from various locales and has been a pioneer in supporting sustainable design. For D&A, the focus is and will always be on producing the ideal environment for the business of fashion.
International Market Centers
IMC is committed to the return of hallmark programming at our Atlanta Apparel and Las Vegas Apparel markets in 2022. While our virtual programming expanded in 2021, we recognized that our attendees missed the signature Atlanta Apparel experience. Next year, on-campus education across categories with curated events will ensure all attendees have a memorable market.
2021 was a growth year for IMC with the launch of our West Coast apparel market—Las Vegas Apparel—and we look forward to continuing to expand our Las Vegas Fashion Week offerings in February and August. We’ll take learnings from our successful apparel-buying events—630-plus showrooms and temporary exhibits in Atlanta and with a refined and expanding collection of temporary exhibits in Las Vegas—to continue to enhance the market experience for record numbers of retailers and brands.
As our industry returned more to a sense of normalcy in 2021, Atlanta Apparel exceeded 2019 attendance numbers and order-writing levels. Buyers returned to market ready to maximize sales with live social-media events, and savvy brands were ready with the tools and inventory needed. As we continue into 2022, we believe this live experience, which connects brands, boutiques and customers, will be a key component of the market experience.
Virtual buying tools popularized during the pandemic will become a mainstay of between-market sourcing from now on. Augmenting IMC’s in-person buying opportunities is JuniperMarket – the industry’s newest B2B wholesale-buying platform—launching in December 2021. Powered by IMC, JuniperMarket will showcase thousands of brands with millions of product SKUs, seamlessly connecting physical and digital wholesale commerce and enabling buyers and suppliers to connect and transact anytime and anywhere.
President and CEO
Dallas Market Center
We have seen three important shifts over the last year as we welcomed a surge of buyers and exhibitors and as record levels of business were conducted in Dallas. We expect these three shifts will only accelerate.
The first shift is buyer traffic. We have significantly broadened our reach in 2021, and we are now welcoming more buyers from across the country—that’s independent retail but also department stores, chain stores and buying groups. We are also welcoming more buyers from gift stores, Western stores and other business types. For our recent October market, we had a store owner fly all the way from Michigan for one line that’s exclusive to Dallas. This pattern creates more opportunities for brands to reach new customers from across the country choosing Dallas.
That leads me to the second shift—new resources. Retailers purchasing closer to need means that we continue to emphasize brands with products available quickly. Also, with demand for space at our shows at near-record levels, we have had to make strategic decisions about expanding temporary show space and adding categories and brands that will best serve buyers. That means integrating more contemporary brands at a variety of price points, expanding categories like footwear, but that also means emphasizing to buyers that we are a lifestyle marketplace. That means they can find everything they need in Dallas—from leading-edge apparel and curated accessories to gift, indie beauty brands and artisan items.
The third shift is digital. We strongly believe that trend intelligence, product discovery, ordering and business management can—and should—be accomplished online as well as in person. At the same time, we know that you can’t replace the unique in-person experience—you need both. That’s why we support our partner MarketTime, which is bringing everything together for 24/7 business by brands, retailers and sales teams. The pandemic strengthened our resolve to carefully and thoughtfully work on solutions that allow for brands to reach buyers throughout the year as well as tools to help make the market experience more successful. We are excited about the months ahead as we debut new business tools.
Senior Vice President and Show Director
Outdoor Retailer was founded on commerce and gear, and through the years it has grown into a true community experience. Time together like this is invaluable for both business growth and pushing our industry forward, and the continued evolution of industry-wide gatherings is exciting. It’s the place to connect with everyone from first-time exhibitors to heritage brands, key buyers to new leads, sourcing partners to athletes, advocacy organizations to media. You never know who you’re going to meet in the aisles or what a conversation may lead to, and the opportunities for discovery are unparalleled.
As we return to in-person events, it’s important to be reminded of the value of community. We’ve all learned to work in new ways, and currently many of those solutions have us operating independently. Yet communities are where you meet new people, nourish relationships and find motivation. Businesses can’t grow by talking to the same audience. So, we’re actively working to expand these communal experiences while also developing complementary digital offerings for our industry to stay connected year-round.
Over the next year, we’re looking forward to more industry reunions—we’re back in Denver in January and June—and to providing the community with more ways to stay connected and relevant. Outdoor participation has boomed through the pandemic, so it’s essential for our industry to reach these new consumers and keep them engaged. There’s no better place to do that than by joining industry peers in a space designed to open doors to a world of opportunity.
California Market Center
The advancement I’m most looking forward to is the increased mindfulness of unnecessary waste and the creation and implementation of more-sustainable options for on-site signage, décor, printed materials, single-use plastics and shipping of goods. Not only are these items costly to both event producers and exhibitors but they also create a massive amount of waste for trade shows across the country. A few actions our team has already taken include generalizing and reusing as much on-site signage as possible, producing show bags made from recycled materials and using QR codes to reduce printed materials. This is just the start of what I hope to be more advancements to reduce waste and adopt more-sustainable practices in our industry.
In the immediate future, we are working to streamline our attendee registration process for California Market Center–produced events including LA Textile, Label Array, LA Majors and LA Market by utilizing tools that have recently become more mainstream, such as the use of QR codes. In the past several years, we have incentivized attendees to preregister online prior to their visit, which has become even more important in recent times to help mitigate long registration lines on-site and encourage social distancing.
Executive Vice President
In the coming year, Emerald is looking forward to continuing to support the recovery of the exhibitions industry and getting back to producing even more safe and successful in-person events.
The pandemic demonstrated the importance of face-to-face connections—both personally and professionally. Now more than ever people want to connect and meet face to face to share ideas, products and innovations, to be inspired and share best practices and discuss challenges. These serendipitous conversations are extremely valuable and play a critical role in driving customer engagement and success.
We will continue our focus on three main components—physical and digital events, content, and the transactional platform that will drive connections, commerce and growth for Emerald’s customers and communities.
We look forward to leading the industry in leveraging technology to enhance the show experience, offering more interactive experiences and increasing sustainability measures with our event production.
Fashion Market Northern California
FMNC has implemented many changes this year that we look forward to continuing in 2022. Our new venue, where we produced five shows in 2021, will continue to be the Embassy Suites in South San Francisco. A great and convenient location for attendees in the Bay Area and those further away, the show is located 10 minutes from San Francisco International Airport.
We will continue to embrace the importance of a big presence on social media in the production of our shows. Keeping buyers and exhibitors informed, excited and interested is key to the future of our shows.
In 2022, our show will continue to increase attendance and participation of buyers and exhibitors by keeping both parties excited to attend FMNC. We will again offer a fantastic complimentary tote bag in January—a great way to start off the year organized! We will also offer valet parking on Sundays, upgrade our food options and add more festivities. We believe that the important part of production moving forward is ensuring everyone feels excited, recognized and appreciated, all while offering a broad range of premier brands of clothing and accessories. FMNC has been producing shows for more than 50 years, and we love new challenges, so we’ll continually improve to keep our shows strong!
Main Street Events
After nearly two years of predominantly connecting virtually, we look toward to our full return to in-person connections in 2022. ILOE Studios is focused on highlighting and building back the relational aspects of the trade-show experience. Personal service and interactions are the cornerstone of our business philosophy now and into the future. While we remain laser-focused on producing a high-quality market at our shows, we are also positioning ourselves to help cultivate new partnerships industrywide—from brands and manufacturers to retail stores to our fellow show producers—in support of the greater fashion community.
For our part, an initial step has been developing our buyer concierge program, which will assist buyers with every aspect of their market experience. Whether it’s registering for the show or securing accommodations to discovering new brands and partnership opportunities, we are committed to delivering a personalized, first-class experience to all our industry colleagues. And while we look forward to also leveraging exciting new technologies to support these efforts, our aim is to ensure such technology never fully replaces the energizing experience of connecting with one another in person.
To that end, we are pleased to launch our ILOE Studios—Las Vegas event and to announce the return of ILOE Studios—Chicago. With our newly expanded regional presence, we are providing our brand and retail-store partners with a trusted, uniform and uniquely personalized experience no matter where they do business.