Pure London: strong line-up of new faces
The latest edition of Pure London offered its usual mix of strong brands, with plenty of new names to add an extra edge alongside the established labels at the event.
But despite the attractive products on show, visitor traffic to the the halls seemed slower than usual, perhaps no surprise in the current Brexit-hit environment and at a time when fashion retail is undergoing fundamental shifts due to the online explosion.
Exhibitors told Fashion Network that Sunday had been quiet and Monday looked to be so too in the morning, but the pace did pick up and we also had feedback that some brands “had their best show yet”.
The Conscious section remains a pioneering part of the show, given its focus on sustainability, and it’s significant that Pure organiser ITE Group, which acquired the event a little over a year ago, seems to be listening to requests for it to made a more integral part of the core event with news that it’s to move from the gallery to the main floor in future (as will the kidswear and athleisure sections).
Sustainability was also key to the speaker programme. Keynote speaker Patrick Grant of Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons, blasted the UK government’s rejection of all recommendations from the Environmental Audit Committee report into fast fashion and urged stricter regulations to clean up the industry, including more stringent labelling.
“I think that everything we buy that’s made of plastic should be labelled plastic. Because consumers don't know what polyester or acrylic or nylon are,” he said. “Virgin plastics should be labelled. You have a picture of a diseased lung on the back of a cigarette packet. This stuff [plastics] is as toxic as nicotine. Bad fashion is literally killing stuff. If at the point of purchase, you were presented with something that showed you it, some people just might think twice.”
The organiser also zeroed in on trends for SS20 with four key directions presented by trends specialist USP. Honest celebrated imperfection and blended raw untreated neutrals with vibrant colours of the ocean and yellow tinted bamboo; Limitless was a brave and rebellious attitude, with a palette of neons, pink and lilac on elevated sportswear and 80s/90s-style tailoring; Ritual focused on soft tailoring and floaty layers mixed with contemporary touches and boho prairie dresses in a sun kissed palette of peaches and orange; and Brave was maximalist, eccentric, bold and unexpected with clashing brights and electric combinations mixed with paler tones.
All of those trends were seen on the event’s runway as well as on the main floor, although it was clear that many exhibitors were playing safe for next spring, showing updates on the ultra-feminine, fluid and brightly printed dresses that have been strong sellers this summer.
NEW NAMES: TOP PICKS
As mentioned earlier, the show was packed with new exhibitors, some of them established names but new to the event, and others young companies hoping to be the big brands of the future.
We loved Berlin-based Susumu AI, that blends founder/creative director Alisa Menkhaus’s shared German and Japanese heritage. Think contemporary style in delicately patterned Japanese kimono fabrics and fluid plains. The manufacturers of the former are under threat from the decline in the kimono as an everyday option in Japan so the brand’s use of these textiles is helping to support a traditional industry.
With wholesale prices ranging from around €90 to €350, Menkhaus said that the brand appeals to a professional woman in her 30s who wants something different than the usual corporate look.
She founded the company two years ago after time spent at Roberto Cavalli and as a stylist and freelance designer, and decided to show at Pure given the strong trend focus of the UK retail industry (“the UK is the best market to be in right now, they care about trends here,” she said). While Germany is “working well” for the brand, “we want to grow faster,” she explained, adding that “we’ve had a good response at Pure, everyone was interested and asking us about the fabrics.”
The brand is currently stocked in Austria’s Kastner & Öhler department store and is also targeting boutiques and concept stores.
Another new name with a strong connection to a specific cultural heritage is Cotton Loops, a Nigerian brand with a sustainability/ethical positioning (all waste upcycled). Less than a year old, Pure was its first-ever international outing. Describing it as a “brilliant show”, founder Bolupe Adebiyi said she’s reaching out to the wider retail sector after receiving “lots of [consumer] orders from the UK” on its webstore.
Featured on the Pure runway, her look feeds into the current trend for easy dresses and separates that suit multiple body shapes, as well as the demand for natural fabrics. The cuts are simple and unfussy (“we’re not big on fastenings, we’re very minimal,” Adebiyi said), and the aim is for the pieces to be versatile and able to be dressed up or down. And a defining feature is the focus on black and white as the core colour palette, with lively B/W prints adding an edge. Wholesale prices range from around £30 to £60.
Night Porter was another interesting concept making an impact. It was launched only in February by friends Sharon Lewis and Barbara Gidman who felt that “there was a huge gap in the market for loungewear dresses” targeting the 35+ customer with something different from the “dull and frumpy, cute or skimpy/sexy” options that are currently out there. They decided to do “more glamorous loungewear dresses that could also travel with you throughout the day.”
Essentially, they’re offering clothes in which a woman can relax at home, feeling comfortable on the sofa but also looking good enough to answer the door or go out in. “You can sleep in these dresses then wake up and do breakfast in them too,” they explained. “We call them doorbell-ready. They’re made to use however you want... great for travelling too.” The material is crease-resistant, breathable, and has built-in (comfortable) support.
The company operates a made-to-order model with prices around £165-£175 for a dress and it has just signed its first stockist, e-tailer Thebiascut. Pure was its first big trade show and Lewis and Gidman said stand visitors seemed “very interested” in the concept.
Up in the Conscious section, sustainability was key, of course, but there were plenty of brands proving that this doesn’t have to mean boring. Focused on slow fashion and investment dressing, Mimush is a Romanian brand that specialises in linen. The company originally made natural cosmetics and wanted to expand into complementary sustainable product areas with linen seen as a good pick as it’s such a durable material.
It now has an e-tail site in Romania with its pieces retailing from around £70 to £150. As with the other labels we spoke to, Pure was a big move for the brand as it was its first international show.
The firm’s positioning, as with all the Conscious section exhibitors, is ethical, while the design thinking is influenced by Scandi and Japanese style. That means simple shapes that don’t date — tunics, wraps skirts, cropped pants, colour-block linen tees and hobo bags made to buy and wear for years.
“Linen is very long-lasting. It’s modern and classic, timeless, you can wear it in 10 years’ time and the style should work in 10 years too,” managing partner Mima Sorocean said.
Smaller brands such as Mimush do get a chance to stand out from the crowd in the Conscious section and another that struck a chord was Scarabeus Sacer, an Egyptian label that launched only a couple of weeks ago.
Ethical and organic, the label addresses the UN SDGs (sustainable development goals). Why show at Pure? “It’s a learning experience, we wanted to understand how things are here and see other brands and get access to buyers and to potential collaborations with other brands,” said CEO Ali Elnawawi, adding that the UK is a major target market.
With Elnawawi being a medical doctor who previously worked with the UN, and COO May Kassem being a psychologist, the label’s first collection is called Mind, Body & Soul and shines a spotlight on mental illness. That sounds very worthy, but the designs that have been created from this concept are undeniably appealing, each with a story linked to the mental health theme.
The graphics seem custom-made for brand collaborations in the premium market (the T-shirts retail at between £50 and £60).
Kassem said she wants the pieces to be seen as “conversation starters for social issues. We want what you wear to be something that you believe in. We want to encourage people to go ethical and know it can be good quality.”
Also focusing on quality, Indian label Core by JSI embraced a sophisticated style that should appeal beyond the sustainability-focused market. It uses only plant-based and recycled textiles with heavy use of cupro (seen these days as a vegan-friendly, more easycare alternative to silk) as well as textiles that come from orange peel, bamboo and other natural sources.
“It’s all about contemporary style, very simple, clean, crisp lines with a sustainable sensibility,” said creative director Sayesha Grewal. “We make sure they’re produced ethically but it’s about making a difference without making people feel they have to compromise on style.” It’s what she calls helping consumers to be “subconsciously sustainable.”
With ‘affordable premium’ pricing (items start at around £80 up to £200), the company has a store in Bangalore, plus a webstore and is currently targeting the UK because of its strong acceptance of sustainable brands.
Grewal said Pure had been good. “People are really receptive to the brand. Being here has created a network that I think will lead to conversions when we prove ourselves, because we are fairly new.”
Our final pick is Menesthò, an upscale brand focusing on summer season style from beachwear to daywear, plus swimwear with a twist... the twist being that the pieces are reversible and customisable.
On the brand’s webstore, shoppers can select the basic style then choose the colours and plain or printed materials they want as the main and secondary fabrics.
The pieces are all manufactured in London to avoid increasing the carbon footprint of the company and the firm has a zero-waste policy, which is what attracted it to swimwear. “It’s easy to control the waste,” MD Giorgos Grivas told us, adding that swimwear is also fun.
The company is actively targeting countries with a strong (and long) swim season, such as Spain, Greece and Australia, but has also been focusing on markets like Scandinavia where the larger number of tall women means a ready market for its one-pieces that have a long torso option, and the UK of course.
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