Pure London – Menswear
In principle, nothing wrong with adding a new event for menswear to an established and respected womenswear show, and some might argue sensible de-risking. If the proposition is to leverage some crossover from womenswear boutiques looking to add or transition to a menswear capsule, then there’s potentially a double-hedge built into the proposition – if the womenswear buyers are even aware of the existence of menswear at the show. So, this may be perhaps why they were positioned in the front, first quarter of the main hall, to put the notion front-of-mind for the visiting buyer used to hunting down their womenswear brands. This did in fact happen for at least one brand that had a potential convert from a hybrid women/men’s boutique as a happy accident of being there.
But the real story and success of the show will always be the number and quality of menswear buyers that were and are attracted to the ‘men’s part of the event, specifically looking to see the brands on display that fits their customer profile.
With the size and reputation of Pure as event organizers, one would expect them to be given a good chance to demonstrate what they can do to finesse a new trade show for men as well as a realistic acceptance that it is unlikely to come together on the first show and need to be built over time. And I think by and large this is what happened. Depending on where you were positioned may have made a difference – a couple of the brands nearer the main entrance had good customer experiences, some orders and in their words “good potential.” And for first timers to the UK market – Flibustier from France, the sort of jewellery Johnny Depp or Keith Richards might wear (one did copy the other I believe) – a little too hi-end for London Edge and the gothic crew, it was a great beginning positioned at the front next to the DJ.
Ditto with Remus Uomo represented by Douglas & Grahame, also at the main entrance, an elongated 10.5-meter stand helping to grab and hold your attention with a distinctively Italian styled menswear offering. They had arrived with an open mind and had a reasonable mix of buyer interest they were satisfied with. As you moved further into the men’s section it was a mixed bag of relative success, indifference and disappointment. (This is going to be true of pretty much any trade show, by the way, though Jacket Required seemed to buck this towards an overall positive experience across the board.
The successes at Pure this time for some men’s brands arguably may be down to just having the right product. Eric and Sophie – rucksacks innovatively incorporating Harris Tweed and denim with an engaging silhouette seem to do well – international buyer interest, orders taken, so Sophie was a happy bunny. Or The Shackleton, which I think, can re-write the rules for itself and go to many events, if it chooses to do so and succeed on the quality of its UK heritage brand story.
Elsewhere some brands – specialist shirt companies, happy to experiment with the event, will give it more time to prove itself and negotiate alternative positioning. And then just to contradict matters a German ‘heritage’ brand Zeha Berlin Schuh Design, promoting a nice line in ‘40s worker-style boots’, on song with the ‘worker’ themes being promoted across many brands, had not much buyer interest or traction whatsoever, with a very good cross-aisle positioned stand, between the two main rooms. You would imagine, the people that liked The Shackleton would like them too, but of course, it’s not that simple. And they were not alone in the almost no-interest department. I have witnessed this within the womenswear show, next to two key attention-grabbing spots – the main catwalk and the UKti stand – and still no buyer interest. So, it’s not a given by any stretch and the argument for curation, by brand and brand adjacencies becomes far more compelling. And you need to do your own marketing as a brand.
The one brand that seemed to be getting it all right on the night was EKS’KWIZIT (ex-squeeze me?) and a joy to see. I loved the fact that they were inventive and took the idea of exhibiting to a whole new live dimension – a ‘live’ artist on their stand painting designs onto a canvas to illustrate their designs on their T-shirts are original artistic interpretations. The most fascinating aspect is that the retailer can play a part in designing the range for their customers based on known style preferences, from a library of designs and ‘customize’ within the design itself, in the same way the consumer can online. A very interesting model and would love to see how this gains support in the market. Orders decide. A cool idea, well executed and supported by international and domestic UK buyer interest. Not too far away was Guide London – another brand happy with the signs of what the show might yield with new clients, some orders taken, some international interest and a ‘let’s wait and see’ positively disposed attitude.
As far as future success is concerned, repeat bookings and conversions for next season will tell its own story. I do think it needs some heavyweight brands to show, almost demonstrating their commitment to the need for another well-positioned menswear show, and to use their marketing muscle to persuade the buying community to attend to the benefit of all other brands. But it will still be a tough nut to crack, following immediately on from Jacket Required which has gone from strength to strength and ‘ in the DNA’ of the UK buyer’s schedule – the most important and fundamental requirement. And the fact that by the time the event arrives the budgets that are or may still be available have already had some serious dents made in them, with not much more remaining to warrant attending another show, with buyer and trade show fatigue already presumably setting in. And it’s at the busiest time as far as converting orders and responding to the brands you want to work with. No-one wants to see trade show budgets not earning the response to support business growth. But nothing is guaranteed and it’s already a very well populated trade show market to demonstrate better fit, let alone finding more compelling reasons for buyers to attend another event. Moda Birmingham is just around the corner for example…
By Paul Markevicius