Fashion week in Paris has just come to an end, the calendar closes for the most important runway in the world, and we could almost certainly say that even those not interested in this world have heard of some of their fashion shows. Perhaps not of the arrival of Hedi Slimane to Celine in an Attila manner, but most likely of the beach that Chanel has set up: the image of the ‘real’ sea and sand set up at the Grand Palais by Lagerfeld, which no relevant television news has been able to resist its coverage.
However, coinciding with the dates of the fashion shows, trade shows are held in the French capital to which prêt-à-porter and accessories brands from the four continents come to sell their collections. “Ah, you’re going to Paris. Great! you will attend the fashion shows “, I am usually told when I mention the proximity of my trip. “No, I go to the sales rooms, to Tranoï, to Première Classe, Woman …”, I comment. To which they respond, in numerous occasions, with ignorance of that indispensable and commercial vein that runs through the Parisian fashion week. And yet, in those trade shows, and in some other that take place in Milan or Florence, is where they sell -even to Spanish customers- the collections of what are called author signature labels or independent brands, that is, those that do not belong to large conglomerates. Of the sales that they make in those scarce 4 or 5 days, the survival of these brands and their internationalization plans has depended for a long time.
Paris attracts buyers from all over the world, with a significant proportion from Asia, at this time a fundamental market for luxury and high-end brands. Of course, these commercial salons and showrooms that are assembled around the French capital are attended by a large number of Spanish brands: in this edition there have been more than 60 companies among fashion and accessories. Some with a route of more than two decades of trade shows, such as Ailanto, Helena Rohner or Anton Heunis, and others with just one or two editions behind them, such as Leandro Cano, Duarte o Reliquiae
The fact is that, years ago, the only way to sell internationally was to set up a stand at these trade shows, but the issue of distributing fashion at this time has become much more complex and much more arduous. On the one hand, the offer of brands has multiplied by a thousand, which makes it very difficult to select buyers, who hardly have time to discover new talents. If you have a loyal clientele, they will go to see your collections, but if you do not have it, it is very likely that you will pass time at the trade show watching people go by … To this we must add that Paris is at the end of the calendar, with which the buyers arrive already with a very exhausted budget. On the other hand, since the crisis of 2008, there has been a decrease in the attendance of buyers as a result of the decline of the multi-brand channel – “the corridors are empty”, “there is no one”, the fair is heard to be discouraged – and all, the traditional seasonality of fashion is in the process of disappearing. The fast fashion and the instantaneity of social networks through which trends are spread have accustomed consumers to want to buy what they see at that time, without having to wait six months between the fashion show and the arrival at the clothing store.
With this situation, the future of trade shows is uncertain, but its replacement is yet to be defined. I do not mean by this that they will disappear from one day to the next. In fact, many of the Spanish brands that come to Paris return again and again because it remains a central meeting point with its customers. But digital showrooms begin to gain strength, where buyers see the collections in detail, with technical data and prices and accurate images. This may not be the route a buyer chooses to acquire a brand for the first time, but if they already know it, it facilitates operations and simplifies travels and journeys. New brands, the newcomers, find it more difficult, but not impossible, and combining a strategy of physical presence in trade shows and online in digital showrooms can be a way. Nobody said that fashion was a stroll in the park…