Bread && Butter show launches experiential new format targeting ‘Generation Next’
The new-style Bread && Butter trade show felt more like a music festival, with a soundtrack that was ubiquitous and occasionally overpowering. Across the Berlin Arena aisles, the lights, colours and multiple types of entertainment offered by fashion brands made the show seem like a school recess on a gigantic scale.
Which age cohort is the show targeting? Not Millennials, apparently. The staff at Bread && Butter are keen to call it ‘Generation Next’.
“We keep hearing the word ‘Millennials’ hundreds of times a day. We’d rather call them ‘Generation Next’," said Kai Zollhofer, in charge of exhibitors at Bread && Butter. "We are starting to know them well. We have been analysing this generation’s expectations and preferences since the last two editions, keeping a close watch on the trends that affect them. Our staff spends time with young people belonging to this age group, we have regular conversations with them.”
The Berlin show is fond of wordplay. It defines itself as a pop-up event, and shies away from the term ‘store’. And yet, Bread && Butter is clearly inspired by the kind of temporary stores now popular with fashion labels. Also, the show’s new formula features rigorously selected products, with a premium on exclusives and limited editions. Altogether, about one hundred products, showcased by 43 exhibitor brands. Many labels used the show, and the Zalando website, to pre-launch new products ahead of a global introduction. Products which were on sale at the show, in a ‘see now, buy now’ spirit, while last year, the products featured at the show could only be bought on Zalando.
“People who come to the show want to be able to see, feel and even buy the products immediately. But we asked exhibitors to limit the number of items they presented. This is no longer a B2B show, reserved to industry professionals. Showcasing an entire collection, or even simply a dozen items, is no longer relevant, it waters down the message. The impact is much stronger if brands focus on one product or a small capsule collection only,” said Kai Zollhofer.
Exhibitors worked hard during last week-end to appeal to ‘Generation Next’ consumers in this giant pop-up event. Right after the entrance, Adidas offered its own take on tuner vehicles: a motorbike and a car, customised with a nod to the 90s, in the blue, pink and white colours of the Falcon shoe, the model on sale at the show. And while the M.A.C. stand welcomed ‘all gender, all race’ visitors, the manicure atelier and the braiding bar at Adidas were clearly targeted to young women.
It was customer experience kingdom, and people were willing to queue up for the chance of entering the Fila booth and being showered with fake euro bills. Once past this ordeal, the lucky few waited for their turn to plunge a pair of white sport socks into a dye vat. At The North Face, the more daring visitors could scale a climbing wall. Enough to inspire some of them to try and reach the summit to win a The North Face jacket.
‘Generation Next’ is of course heavily addicted to selfies, and Bread && Butter exhibitors were well aware of this. Vying for the greatest number of likes and page views were Reebok’s giant doughnut, Wrangler’s dodgems, Crosley’s karaoke and an array of other attractions. Diesel’s stand featured a replica Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap stall, for the launch of the label’s exclusive collaboration with the Berlin cult kebab diner. For each purchase at the stand, Diesel offered a voucher for a kebab at Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap’s stall at Bread && Butter, open to all on the banks of the Spree river.
Diesel commented, “It’s the first time we've experienced the new Bread && Butter format. This kind of hybrid event fits hand in glove with our approach. Of course, the Mustafa collaboration originates from and is all about Berlin, but for us this launch has a universal appeal, and the capsule collection can work in all our markets, from Europe to Japan."
From Timberland to Levi’s and Weekday, customisation was the name of the game for the products on sale at the show. The venue’s aisles turned into catwalks for impromptu shows, where you could spot some truly original creations. The Vans stand had a constant queue of visitors, vying for one of the brand’s 1,000 pairs of sneakers available for pre-ordering, or keen to buy one of the 1,000 pairs on sale at the show. Those who bought a pair, some of them young, some less so, were then encouraged to customise the shoes at one of the four ateliers operated by Vans where, arming themselves with patience, they were able to embroider, decorate, colour or paint their new shoes. “We are also offering skateboarding courses in our skate park at the show," Simon Charlesworth, the marketing director of Vans, told FashionNetwork.com. "We put a lot of effort into inventing something new. Rooted as we are in sport, art, music and street culture, taking part in the show was a natural thing for us. As for the customisation options, they are proof of how far young people are prepared to go to personalise their trainers. It’s a very enriching experience for us."
Even after 8 p.m. on Friday, the giant pop-up event didn’t empty out, as a spate of new visitors streamed in for the Lauryn Hill gig. “We don’t want to compete with music festivals, even if we feature concerts and DJ sets," said Carsten Hendrich, vice-president of Zalando’s Creative Lab and the brains behind the new Bread && Butter format. "We are keen for the event to maintain a balance between fashion and music. And the catering options are also part of the show. We are a lifestyle platform which offers what ‘Generation Next’ expects."
This is why Bread && Butter sells dreams, some of them branded, alongside curried Vienna sausages and kebabs, spiced up with music and experiences galore. A physical event, rooted in real life, from which Zalando and the exhibitors expect direct returns, digital and otherwise. Also, a model that can be replicated in other cities. “Why not? It’s not something that’s on the cards now, but it could eventually be one of our next projects. In Paris, or perhaps elsewhere,” said Hendrich.
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