Berlin fashion fairs look to refocus after difficult season

The German capital’s fashion fairs have long been success stories – but
the general problems of the industry finally caught up with them this
season. For years, visitors had swarmed the halls of the main events
Premium and Panorama, but it was noticeably calmer this time round. The
organisers did not publish numbers, but many exhibitors and buyers made no
secret of their concerns.

In times when fundamental changes in the clothing trade question the
relevance of conventional trade fairs, Berlin has to look for a new profile
in order to survive against overwhelming competition from traditional
fashion capitals. A possible – and obvious – solution emerged this season:
An even stronger focus on the currently ubiquitous theme of sustainability,
which has already been developing deep roots in Berlin for years.

Panorama is shrinking

The current problems became obvious during this season’s fairs,
especially at Panorama. The major trade fair for commercial brands had
enjoyed years of success but clearly could not reach its former heights
this season. It occupied fewer halls at West Berlin’s exhibition centre,
while a planned new area for occasion wear that had been announced in May
was shelved because it could not attract a sufficient number of exhibitors.
Visitor frequency was noticeably lower than last summer, and the brand
portfolio did not match the diversity of previous years. Exhibitors even
reported that they had been offered free additional space to avoid obvious
vacancies in the huge halls. P>

Berlin fashion fairs look to refocus after difficult season


Although the organisers had introduced a few new elements – such as
so-called “concept store” spaces in the centre of each hall – they happened
to neglect the big trend of the summer: Sustainable brands were found
almost exclusively in their designated area called Xoom, which had shrunk
compared to last season and led a rather shadowy existence in a hall at the
very back of the fair. The experiences of the exhibitors there were
accordingly mixed: some complained about a lack of visitors; others were
happy to have met many buyers from conventional retailers.

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Sustainability was centre stage at Premium h2>

The other fairs took the chance to drag sustainability out of its niche.
This was particularly evident at Premium, where environmentally friendly
brands occupied a well-designed area in the centre of the main hall at
Gleisdreieck. It was open to its surroundings and therefore able to set the
tone for the rest of the fair. This did not appear contrived, because
participating labels such as Ecoalf or Armedangels effortlessly combined
high sustainability standards with convincing fashion statements. P>

Berlin fashion fairs look to refocus after difficult season

Moreover, such brands were not limited to a designated reservation at
Premium. All over the fair, exhibitors brought the subject of
sustainability to the fore with specially designed stalls. Their visual
impact was enhanced by the ongoing adjustments to the overall setup of the
event: The new stand concept, introduced last winter, encourages exhibitors
to emphasise key brand messages, for example by presenting selected looks
on dummies. It was implemented even more consistently this time and gave
the trade fair a coherent, pleasantly structured appearance in many core

At Seek, sustainable brands were also more visible than last season.
Premium’s younger, more casual sister fair does not go for clear
segmentation anyway, so they mixed quite naturally with conventional
exhibitors, but many of them managed to stick out with original stall
designs based on ecological themes.

Berlin fashion fairs look to refocus after difficult season

-Sustainable fashion fair Neonyt celebrates a successful season h2>

Given the eye-catching presence of environmentally conscious labels at
the conventional trade fairs, the makers of the Neonyt relished their role
as successful pioneers. The fair that focuses entirely on sustainable
fashion debuted last winter after the merger of its two long-established
predecessors Green Showroom and Ethical Fashion Show. Unlike its
competitors, Neonyt received extremely positive visitor feedback this
season. Its selection of 170 sustainable brands from twenty countries
attracted not just the usual buyers for specialized eco-conscious stores,
but also a remarkable number of prestigious conventional retailers.

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Berlin fashion fairs look to refocus after difficult season

Olaf Schmidt, vice president of textiles & textile technologies at
Messe Frankfurt, the company behind Neonyt, welcomed the fact that
sustainable fashion was becoming more and more mainstream: “Ten years after
the founding of Neonyt’s predecessor Green Showroom, this segment is about
to make a breakthrough and change becomes tangible,“ he pointed out in the
closing statement of the fair. He also emphasized the significance of this
development for the whole city: Berlin fashion week had established itself
globally “as a pioneering platform in terms of sustainability,“ said
Schmidt. Therefore, an even stronger focus on conscious fashion could be a
way to refresh its flagging trade fairs.

But that strategy is not without risk. Some exhibitors stated that they
have specifically focused on the topic of sustainability this season
because of its huge media presence in recent months. Countless reports on
the Fridays for Future protests, plastic waste in the oceans or air
pollution have shaped the public mood – especially in Germany. The current
media attention on environmental issues also raised the general profile of
eco-friendly fashion, making it an appealing proposition for retailers
eager to lure customers with up-to-date, relevant messages. But it is still
far from certain that green fashion will be able to give the industry – and
Berlin’s fairs – a truly sustainable boost. After all, the daily news may
be dominated by other issues again soon.

Photos: FashionUnited (4), Messe Frankfurt (1)



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