Market movements – redefining the world’s fashion landscape

The world’s leading trade fair organisers are choosing to create new fashion and textile events in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, a move that could be reflecting changes in the global fashion landscape. Like no other sector, trade show organisers are in constant dialogue with industry insiders, work with local and international partners, and become experts in political and economic conditions. This is their secret weapon, and they are taking advantage of these insights to lead a mini revolution in the global clothing and textiles sector.

Messe Frakfurt acquired Source Africa and ATF last year - Messe Frankfurt
Incidentally, four of the world’s largest trade fair organisers are from Germany, with Messe Frankfurt  taking the third spot with revenue of around 661 million euros years a year, followed by Messe Düsseldorf in the fifth place with 330 million euros. Both are known for their fashion and textile events. Messe Frankfurt’s Texpertise Network is the largest chain of textile trade fairs in the world and it also organises the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin as well as the Fashion Sustain and Fashion Tech conference duo. Meanwhile, Messe Düsseldorf had a stake in Igedo Company, the organiser of trade fair Gallery and Gallery Shoes in Düsseldorf as well as CPM in Moscow, until last year and continues to be an important partner for the shows.

So what does it mean when trade show organisers start investing in cities that, at first sight, are neither well-known production centres nor established sales markets? It means they foresee the medium-term saturation of existing markets and turn their attention to markets with growth opportunities, where there is potential to establish a presence before the competition – an investment for the future.

Last week, Messe Düsseldorf announced the launch of a new fashion fair in Iran in partnership with Igedo Company. The inaugural edition of ‘Lifestyle Iran’ will take place on 5-8 December in Shiraz. The fair’s creation comes at a time when a rising middle class and emerging segments like modest wear are boosting the local fashion sector. And Shiraz provides an attractive backdrop to the show, supported by increasing demand for branded fashion, shoes and accessories products following the lifting of economic sanctions on the country.

Instagram has become Iran’s leading social media app, partly because Facebook and Twitter are banned, but also
because designers and creatives are finding there a space to express their artistic vision and get inspired by their international counterparts. This creates a wonderful breeding ground for both domestic brands and brands from abroad. “Traveling around the country quickly demonstrates that in general, personal care and appearance play an important role in Iran. There is also a growing interest in high fashion as well as other segments, and there is a growing population that can afford it. Their appetite for fashion is enormous. This is clearly visible in Shiraz, but also in other cities of the country,” says Peter Schmitz, director of Official Participations at Messe Düsseldorf to

Last year Messe Frankfurt took over South Africa’s largest trade fairs for textiles, shoes and clothing, South Africa and ATF, and held the third edition of Africa Sourcing & Fashion Week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The organiser is basing its efforts in sub-Saharan African countries on several studies that predict that the fashion industry there will see its sales volume double over the next 10 years to generate up to $5 trillion annually. Many brands including H&M and Primark also source part of their product there.

It seems only logical that countries like South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Egypt will take a leading role in building a productive and favourable industry, where production remains, as much as possible, in the continent in order to change Africa’s underprivileged position in the global economy. Meanwhile, “African style” is currently all the rage on the catwalk, but not only due to its ethno-chic vibe, but because new designers with African heritage are giving their culture a new visual interpretation.

So the industry is following suit and getting involved in these new countries. And the launch of new trade shows serves as a testament to their growth, as organisers believe that these markets are politically stable and ready to see visible growth within the next few years. The trade shows will also do their part in boosting growth, helping small and medium sized companies test markets they would have probably never reached on their own. Only time will tell if this strategy pays off. Either way, it is clear that the caravan of trade fairs is moving.

Translated by Barbara Santamaria

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