PARIS, France — Ahead of the womenswear shows, and seeking to assist brands in bridging the gap between digital, virtual and physical solutions, Who’s Next will hold its trade show at the Place de la Porte de Versailles between September 4 and 7, with its accessories tradeshow Premiere Classe to follow in October.
The fairs display ready-to-wear, accessories, beauty and lifestyle, with adjacent trade shows for sustainable fashion and innovative solutions, called Impact and Traffic respectively, which host workshops, talks and masterclasses addressing new ways of producing and consuming fashion.
Previously welcoming over 1,300 brands, the trade shows typically expects 45,000 visitors at each edition, of which 70 percent are retail, multi-brand, department store and e-commerce buyers. This year, however, the tradeshow will also open its doors to manufacturers and the end consumer, offering exhibiting brands connections at varying levels of the supply chain. The safety of its collaborators, partners, exhibitors and visitors is Who’s Next’s “number one priority.”
Now, BoF sits down with Who’s Next (WSN) CEO Frédéric Maus to hear more about the tradeshow organiser’s learnings over lockdown, as well as their evolutions and expectations for the upcoming fair.
Why have you decided to move ahead with the trade show in September?
Our main purpose is to help brands develop their businesses and we believe we have a duty to help them grow. Many people have been forced to close their businesses — from retailers and brands to manufacturers — and a lot of other trade shows have decided to postpone. But we did not believe that was possible because people need us. It’s a duty and the best choice for our community.
The lockdown period has made us question our raison d’être more than ever and everyone’s expectations are changing, but it’s in our DNA to be inclusive and collaborative. The brands need to connect and in some cases, they need to find new distributors.
The safety of our collaborators, partners, exhibitors and visitors is our number one priority. We will do our utmost to enable they get the most out of the event, while ensuring the safest possible conditions, so we will have an obligatory wearing of a mask or visor, hand disinfectant, social distancing, intensified cleaning procedures… All necessary measures to protect health and safety will be put in place.
How has WSN supported its community during lockdown?
In the first week of lockdown, we receive lots of phone calls and emails from brands asking: “What do we do?” While it was a strange time, we realised it was an opportunity for the industry to evolve, and we asked ourselves, “What can we do together?”
We found that our communities wanted to speak to each other and share their insights. So, WSN joined forces with market players to organise a survey for everyone to express themselves collectively and transparently. Built around four key themes, it asked questions about pre-sale promotions periods and the summer sales dates, as well as each respondent’s current situation and initiatives that should be implemented after the coronavirus. It also enquired into their visions and expectations for the future of fashion.
What were the most impactful findings of the survey?
With more than 5000 respondents, our survey supported the French fashion industry’s appeal to the government to push back the sales period. It also revealed the profound desire for a change of direction within fashion, to transform the industry into one with a more inspiring message and more meaningful values, in order to keep up with current demands and get closer to the end consumer.
The next generation of consumer votes for the world they want with their wallets.
Above all, the major lesson from the survey is that, being collaborative and attentive will allow us to make big changes — and all the issues raised in the survey will be addressed at our trade shows, from business recovery and the ecological transition to digital transformation and getting closer to the end consumer.
How is WSN facilitating brands’ connection to the end consumer and why?
The nature of consumption is changing with Gen-Z and Millennial shoppers. Department stores chains were once the temples of consumption and unshakeable businesses, but now there is a total inversion to the distribution of fashion. Today, the department store doesn’t have the role of telling you what to buy — the consumer knows what they want to buy.
Brands’ need for awareness with the end consumer in an increasingly direct to consumer landscape is what has pushed us to transform our 30-year-old B2B business to prepare a new B2C event for 2021, so that we can be as close as possible to the younger generations’ lifestyle priorities and new ways of consuming.
The next generation of consumer votes for the world they want with their wallets — their consumption reflects their lifestyle priorities and you can no longer separate purchases with what is going on in the world and its politics. These consumers want to get closer to the brands, want to express themselves through an affiliation with a brand, and we are looking to make that direct connection.
What other essential industry topics does WSN cater to?
WSN also looks at two key industry topics for brands to address: sustainability and digitisation. Our trade show Impact, which we established a year ago, unites initiatives that support the ecological transition. It enables the fashion community to meet change-makers and discover innovative collections, offering a source of inspiration, information and solutions for those committed to transforming themselves and the industry.
Traffic is dedicated to digital solutions and innovation, which will help brands and retailers transform and adapt to a post-lockdown, more data-driven world. In our survey, we were surprised to discover that 78 percent of respondents do not use digital solutions, but the world is changing and they need to know to become more digitalised.
Traffic and Impact offer actionable content through talks, workshops and expert panels, so that visitors can find the answers and partners they need for recovery.
How is WSN supporting sustainability developments internally?
The WSN group is also actively committed to making its events greener to encourage clients to act in this way too. Trade shows, if they want to be relevant, have to provide answers and solutions. While we had represented sustainable brands for nearly a decade, last year we decided to showcase them much more through Impact, and to give them more space to express themselves.
When we launched Impact last year, it was obvious for us that we really needed to change ourselves in the same way. Trade shows in the past had an awful carbon footprint because we believed it required building thousands and thousands of square meters, and then it was all thrown out at the end. This is not acceptable.
By June, our goal is to have a zero-carbon event — and one of the first in the world. For example, already, there is either no carpet or we use carpet that is made from recycled materials. We decided Impact was an external and internal project for us and it was not a top-down idea and approach, but a project built up by a few people within the company.
What digital innovations are you implementing internally to assist the WSN community?
As this “new normal” begins, we will be offering a supplementary digital solution to make our events and exchanges accessible to those who cannot physically make it to the trade shows through Vimeet, a digital platform accessible to professionals with their badge, free of charge for buyers for the next edition.
With each show, we’re going to launch some new digital features, but first we will gather feedback from our community to adapt a strategy and launch a platform that would fit all the needs of the brands, buyers and retailers alike.
This is a sponsored feature paid for by Who’s Next as part of a BoF partnership.