Fashion trade shows have been around for a long time and imo, are still highly relevant both as an exhibitor and as a visitor.
For this post, I am focusing on what you can get out of them as a visitor and how it can benefit your fashion brand. Whilst there will be many buyers looking at what the exhibitors have to offer, shows are also an excellent place to connect, build relationships and learn from your peers so are a great place to hang out as brand founder or budding fashion entrepreneur. Everybody is talking shop, everyone in the place has some connection to the fashion industry and is using this unique opportunity to make new contacts, sniff out the coming season trends and immerse themselves in the world of fashion!
Here is my advice for how you can prepare and get the most out of your visit.
A couple of weeks before, identify your goals for attending in the first place. If you are going to a fabric and trims show (such as Premère Vision or Texfusion, London) note down what you actually need, what your budget is, what countries you are aiming to work with. The more prepared you are, the more professional you will appear to the vendor who in turn will take you much more seriously as a potential client.
If you are attending a fashion brand trade show, the same rules apply. Know why you are there. Do you want to see what other brands have created for the coming seasons? Sniff out competitors, meet with a speaker, sit in on a seminar? Plan it out and know your objectives. This will help you to successfully manage your time whilst there. Most good trade shows have an app that you can install. It will have a full list of the shows schedule, vendors and exhibitors as well as all events, talks and shows throughout the event. Use this to help you plan out exactly what you want to achieve and who you want to see.
Catch a seminar or panel talk
All good trade shows have extras and one of the most important is the seminar programme. Go to the website of the show you are attending and see who is on the speakers list. Can you imagine? This is your chance to get some amazing, free advice and points of view from some of the industries most experienced peers. Often they hang around for a few individual questions after the talk so use this time to introduce yourself, ask that burning question or just to say hello and thank them for their talk. There should be a myriad of topics covered and many that will interest you. Make a note of the ones you definitely want to attend and slot them into your schedule. This is really an opportunity you shouldn’t miss out on.
See runway and trend shows
Along with the seminars, there are usually catwalk and seasonal trend shows throughout the day. Go see them !! Just the joy of seeing a catwalk show is reason enough to attend but they are also a great research tool. See how the stylists have put the pieces together, what colours are prominent, what the set looks like, what are the main trends for the next season and how to wear them, how has the hair and make up been styled, the music. All this can be used as inspiration and research for your own fashion business and fourthcoming collection.
The days can go by in a blur so remember to take a notebook and pen for those seminars and trend shows. Write down the name of the vendor and the fabric you were interested in. So much amazing advice is being given out that you really need to use it to your advantage. If you’re not the jotting down type, use your phone-not to photograph the exhibitors collections which will be frowned upon- but to snap a reference number, record a snippet of a panel talk or capture a fabulously styled outfit on the runway. Whichever method you prefer, don’t go home empty handed !
As I said before, there will be many of your industry peers at the same shows so make the most of this and have some kind of plan to speak to them. I know this is easier said than done as I am not one of lifes natural conversation starters but I always find it helps to think of a few general things beforehand to open the conversation. Something as simple as ‘did you catch xxxx on the sustainable panel talk’ will do. Oh and also, know what to say when you are asked what you do. I know it sounds ridiculous but having a couple of well thought out lines can be helpful in these situations. For example mine is, ‘Hi I’m Deedee and I am the owner fashion design and development consultancy.
Network side note: To card or not to card?
I am of course talking about business cards. They seem to be going out of style I admit but if you don’t have one, it just seems like a missed opportunity to hand someone all your details neatly in one place. A beautifully designed card can also make you memorable to the person you gave it to so do think about getting a batch made up.
Wear comfortable (yet fabulous) shoes!
There is nothing worse than having to trek around a huge events floor for hours on end with heels that are getting rubbed raw. Make sure you wear shoes you know won’t cripple you. This also goes for clothing. Trade shows can get hot and stuffy so light layers is key. Leave the bulky sweaters and puffa coats at home. There will be a cloakroom but the queue for said cloakroom will basically make you lose the will to live. Trust me on this.
Follow up that lead
Lastly, once the show is over and you have slept solidly for at least 2 and a half days, follow up those all important contacts you have just made. Doesn’t need to be anything fancy but an ‘It was very nice to meet you’ mail, text or DM goes a long way in building relationships. If your objective was to gather information either for your own personal growth, the growth of your brand, an article or blog post… use your notes. Break them down by subject, talk, trend and use them to your advantage. Same if you had an appointment with a vendor. Follow up the lead, see how you can work together or negotiate a price.
Explore the city
Chances are, you have travelled to attend this show and will more than likely have an overnight stay. Use this time! Discovering a new place can be just as useful as attending the show. Definitely have an inspo shopping trip, look at window displays, colour trends but also, look up, get outside, be inspired.
Lastly, it would be impossible to see everyone and take advantage of everything there is, but that is why you set your goals beforehand. Remember?? Use these tips to help navigate your way through your next trade show and make your trip as productive as you can. Most of all though, enjoy the experience!
Speak soon, Deedee x