The Return of Trade Shows
Pitti Uomo, the world’s biggest menswear trade fair, holds its 100th edition in Florence this week, after two virtual events
Organisers expect about 300 brands and up to 8,000 buyers, both down from before the pandemic as many international visitors stay away
Other trade shows are planning to return this summer, including Cabana in Miami Beach later this month and Liberty West in Los Angeles in August
Trade shows are back. Will the crowds return too? Even with pandemic receding, event planners are likely trying to avoid tightly packed halls and elbow-to-elbow queues to inspect brands’ merchandise. The real question is whether trade fairs can once again spark the commerce and connections that convinced fashion industry insiders to trot the globe attending these events season after season.
It may be years before international travel restrictions are fully lifted, and corporate travel budgets may never return to 2019 levels. And while trade fairs have adapted with more robust digital offerings, the pandemic also saw a boom in virtual showrooms. The biggest, including NuOrder, Joor and Faire, have raised copious amounts of funding and are planning to expand their reach. The decline of wholesale was also a threat to trade shows well before Covid-19; brands that see their future in direct sales have little need to impress buyers in a convention hall or medieval fortress.
The Bottom Line: There are real questions about the future of trade shows in fashion-adjacent industries, including luxury watches. But in fashion, there are still plenty of multi-brand retailers, and plenty of buyers who want to see clothes in person before committing to a big order. Trade shows will have their place.
The Return of Fashion Shows
Marc Jacobs will hold a fashion show at the New York Public Library on June 28, his first since February 2020
New York has lifted most pandemic restrictions and the city’s retail and nightlife are mounting a rapid, if uneven comeback
Designers staged live runway shows in Paris and Milan earlier this month
If American fashion was waiting for a signal that the pandemic was over, a live, in-person Marc Jacobs show at the New York Public Library is a good one. Jacobs typically closes out New York Fashion Week, and his theatrical stagings make his shows among the few to reliably penetrate beyond the industry bubble. There were a trickle of fashion gatherings as the pandemic receded this spring — and no shortage of informal dinners and parties — but this will be the first true blockbuster event. Barring another wave of infections, more are likely to follow. Expect some hiccups; fashion shows, parties and activations are a challenge to pull off, even without the added hurdles of requiring attendees show proof of vaccination and other health precautions. But industry insiders’ calendars are going to fill quickly, as the biggest luxury brands in particular seem to have turned the page on the pandemic.
The Bottom Line: Events were a missing piece of the branding puzzle over the last 18 months, whether it was large labels that used runway shows and celebrity-filled parties to dazzle consumers, or emerging designers leveraging real-life moments to charm key tastemakers and cut through the noise online.
What’s a Store For?
BoF will host a virtual summit on the future of post-pandemic retail, hosted by editor-in-chief Imran Amed and retail futurist Doug Stephens
Speakers include executives from Condé Nast, Ssense, Elyse Walker, Hero and more
The June 30 summit is exclusive to BoF Professional members, who can register for their spot here.
The future of brick-and-mortar stores was already in flux before 2020, but the pandemic forced even the most conservative brands to rethink their retail strategy. With e-commerce grabbing an ever-larger share of sales, many stores need a reason to exist other than to move product. At BoF’s latest Professional Summit, experts will lay out some new models for retail, whether it’s stores as brand billboards, community hubs, immersive experiences and beyond. They’ll also discuss what success looks like, and how to measure it. The stakes are high: vacancy rates in once-busy shopping districts, already high pre-pandemic, have soared, and the future of the mall was looking dubious well before last year. Some landlords say the worst is yet to come.
The Bottom Line: Stephens told BoF recently that “the store is a stage and a studio. It’s about drama, theatre, animation. It’s about building and broadcasting experiences.” He’ll likely have more to say about “retail as media channel” this week.
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