Focused on the themes of digitisation and sustainability, the initiators of Frankfurt Fashion Week — Premium Group and Messe Frankfurt — opened its inaugural digital doors on July 5. Seeking to complement existing trade shows and fashion weeks, and combine the strengths of traditionally competing industry players, Frankfurt Fashion Week offers a platform for networking and business forums online before launching its physical events in Germany’s financial capital early next year.
The July event — entitled Reform the Future: Frankfurt Fashion Week — is showcasing a mix of high fashion brands, up-and-coming designers and newcomers, including Levi’s, Veja and MCM Worldwide. Brands can showcase digital collections, launches and product drops that are integrated among virtual events, panel talks and community spaces, as well as a film premiere.
While Covid-19 regulations remain in place, the five-day schedule is an online-only event. However, the organisers are planning a hybrid event in January 2022, which will combine physically attended trade shows — with some of Europe’s largest fashion trade shows under one roof, including Premium, Seek and Neonyt, a hub for sustainable fashion — knowledge conferences, show cases, and other events held throughout the central German city.
The initiators are also working with The Conscious Fashion Campaign (CFC), working in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP) to adhere to their Sustainable Development Goals, which the initiators of Frankfurt Fashion Week intend to make mandatory for participating brands by 2023.
Now, BoF sits down with Anita Tillmann, managing partner of the Premium Group, to discuss its digital launch and the group’s visions of the incoming hybrid event.
Why did you decide to launch Frankfurt Fashion Week?
For this new concept, Frankfurt Fashion Week, we are not looking to compete with other fashion weeks or trade shows — in fact, it’s the opposite. We want to work with and bring together the movers and shakers of our industry to create new networks, to educate, to exchange information and ideas, to answer the questions of our times, and to innovate together.
We are starting Frankfurt Fashion Week from scratch, so we can set a completely new standard. We are uniting global industry players and trade organisers to combine our strengths and create something bigger. Messe Frankfurt is a global leader in the textile industry, running about 65 textile trade shows worldwide, while at Premium Group, we know a lot about the intersection of fashion and technology, from virtual fashion to NFTs and blockchain. Another partnering trade show, Neonyt, is solely focused on sustainability.
Normally, we would be competitors but we’re working in “coopetition” because we believe that when we put the competitive aspect aside and focus on supporting our visitors and brands, we will be more successful in drawing them in. These combined areas of expertise will support our main focus areas: sustainability and digitisation.
What will your digital event in July entail?
We will introduce a new digital format called Frankfurt Fashion Week Studio (FFW Studio), which will combine trade shows, conferences and inspirational content beyond FFW online. We will work with media partners to bring content to the fore on this digital channel and provide a space where people can create new content together.
We will have talks in two conferences with an amazing line up, from designers such as Patrick McDowell, among others. Speakers will also include the CFDA’s Steven Kolb, Caroline Rush from the British Fashion Council, Pascal Morand from Fédération Française de la Haute Couture, Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana’s Carlo Capasa and the founder of South Africa Fashion Week, Lucilla Booyzen.
FFW Studio will be both a marketplace of ideas and product, so you can receive a higher-level of information and the chance to connect afterwards. We know a lot of formats where people talk, then the conference stops and nothing happens. A big aim of ours is enabling execution. We want people to make new networks, new businesses, exchange ideas, and so on.
Why did you partner with the United Nations’ Conscious Fashion Campaign?
We have partnered with The Conscious Fashion Campaign (CFC), working in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP) at Frankfurt Fashion Week, and we want to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be a prerequisite for all exhibitors by 2023. Otherwise, they won’t be allowed to participate. We might lose money through this approach, but it is important that environmental and social action is taken. We want to encourage change and we want to help the industry and our clients — our entire ecosystem — to work with and meet these goals.
We want to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals will be a prerequisite for all exhibitors by 2023. Otherwise, they won’t be allowed to participate.
We have found that many of our clients don’t even know about the SDGs or they are afraid that they can’t reach them by themselves. They might not also have the time or knowledge to find out who the relevant players in the market are — but we do. So, we will do the research upfront, we will make suggestions, bring the right people together through the creation of platforms, dinners, conferences and trade shows.
We are also working with the interdisciplinary initiative, The New European Bauhaus. Its conference, Werkstatt der Zukunft or Workshop of the Future, is based on the European Green Deal — a set of policy initiatives set out by the European Commission with an aim to make Europe climate neutral by 2050. The opening speech will be from president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, and Mariya Gabriel, the European commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth.
What is your vision for the physical Frankfurt Fashion Week in 2022?
In January 2022, we intend to build the biggest trade platform in Europe by combining trade shows from Premium Group and Messe Frankfurt. We will set up a new trade show together called The Ground, which will have a B2C aspect. We will invite buyers but also the end consumers, rather like a festival, in a way that is pure storytelling.
We are not looking to compete with other fashion weeks or trade shows. We want to work with and bring together the movers and shakers of our industry.
There are a lot of direct-to-consumer brands who started with an Instagram shop, or on Shopify, and now want to go wholesale because they need to grow in new ways. They want a platform through which they can be introduced to wholesale and the industry but still sell D2C. All these aspects will be enabled through The Ground.
Why continue physical events later in the year?
At the end of the day, fashion is a people’s business. We can use technology to work more efficiently in different fields and reach a wider audience, but we need the exchange. I think the pandemic has helped us understand and appreciate in-person meetings — you can’t replace them. So, while I think the big dates will remain mandatory, I would imagine a lot of these surplus side events will disappear because we won’t have the time and we don’t want to be constantly on the road anymore.
What significance does the Frankfurt location play?
Frankfurt has always been business-oriented by nature and all the partners involved in Frankfurt Fashion Week are business and innovation-oriented. Frankfurt is a historic trade centre, as well as a cosmopolitan city. It is central and easy to reach. We believe the location makes Frankfurt a perfect host city, offering enough space to unite the industry – which is exactly what we wanted. After all, we still need to figure out how you can make your business work without losing money while following sustainability requirements.
We all thought it might be hard to put Frankfurt on the map, but it feels like everyone is looking for something new. We are creating business accelerator programmes to match creativity with finance knowledge, working with Horizon Europe — the key funding programme for research and innovation in the EU — which has a €2.4 billion programme for creative industries.
This is a sponsored feature paid for by Frankfurt Fashion Week as part of a BoF partnership.