With changing fashion week schedules, merging Menswear and Womenswear shows and shifting fashion capitals, you must have heard the discussion of the wholesale relevance many times by now. To wholesale or not to wholesale, that’s the question. The short answer is yes, the long answer is written below.
When are you ready for a fashion tradeshow?
The most direct way to try out the wholesale approach is participating in seasonal fashion tradeshows and showrooms during international fashion weeks. The favourite spots among independent designers – Paris, Milan, Berlin. Even if it is a quicker option (than trying to get into the top Sales Agency), you are not ready until you are. If your answer is affirmative to the following questions, then go and try:
– Have you been to an international tradeshow before as a visitor, especially the one you are planning to be a part of?
– Have you researched what fashion tradeshows (I’m not even talking a city, you should know that by now) are the best place for your brand? Have you asked other designers? Have you seen similar positioning brands participating in their events year over year? Have you spoke (emailed at least) with at least five different sales managers of different showrooms and compared their Terms & Conditions (and prices)?
– Have you got your business plan tuned to sell wholesale? Is your pricepoint wholesale ready? Have you, in theory, planned your Cashflow if you start selling wholesale?
– Do you have production sorted? If by a stroke of luck you receive your first order at your first tradeshow, can you guarantee that in 4-6 months you will be able to produce 30 items of this dress in red, 50 items of that coat in black and beige, and 100 pairs of jeans in sizes 25 to 30?
Multi-brand Showroom or a Tradeshow?
To choose your best collaborator is one of the most important tasks and it might take several seasons or years until you know what works for your brand – fashion tradeshows like WHITE Milano or a multi-brand showroom like Cube in Paris. There are quite a lot options to choose from. As already mentioned, you should go and visit before paying a fee for participation (which might start from 1000 EUR). It is also important to choose a target city. Don’t assume that Berlin is only for alternative hippie brands and Paris loves only glamour.
It is vital to decide if you are after a tradeshow experience with hundreds of emerging and established brands and other add-ons such as industry talks, events, and seminars, or you would like to share a space in a multi-brand showroom with a couple of dozens other curated brands. If you’re after the more intimate showroom experience, it’s important to understand the location and the concept of the showroom. Some showrooms will only provide you with space, others will also take care of the PR and invite fashion buyers to visit the showroom. In both cases, you should also have a list of your industry contracts and inform them about your presence at a particular showroom well in advance.
Even if you are well prepared, have done your research and made an informed decision, be aware that being a part of a tradeshow or multi-brand showroom should not be your only hope to grow. It might and will take a couple of years to build relationships with fashion buyers. With your debut, the industry will get to know you thus try to make the most of it – introduce your brand to the visitors, collect contacts, remember faces and names, always follow up after the event and invite your new contacts to the tradeshow next season, sending your lookbook beforehand.
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