Pandemic Disrupts Frankfurt’s Second-Ever Fashion Week – WWD

One of only three official shows that took place during Germany’s understated Frankfurt Fashion Week took place in an unused office building, making the most of the pandemic restrictions.

Susumu Ai’s Berlin-based show saw models walking down a central aisle, before zigzagging through several connected offices. This meant that the audience of 100 could still be invited: they were divided and sent to the different rooms, where they could watch the glances go by but still maintain the social distance.

Despite the restrictions due to the pandemic and the cancellation of most of the biggest events at Frankfurt Fashion Week, “it was very special to us,” Susumu Ai designer Alisa Menkhaus told WWD.

He felt that, as with so many other industries affected by the COVID-19 crisis, necessity had been the mother of invention and brought more creativity and digital advancement.

“It looked like the future,” he enthused.

Attendees at the second fashion week in Frankfurt, Hessian state, central Germany only had two weeks to find alternatives after event organizers were forced to cancel most in-person activities in late December. .

This included the series of trade shows organized by the Berlin-based Premium Group that would bring buyers and international media to the city.

Previously, several trade fairs were planned: Premium for high-end mainstream brands; Look for streetwear; Neonyt for eco-friendly items, as well as two newcomers, The Ground, a fashion festival aimed at consumers, and Val: ue, which is described as a new fair “for established brands”. All have been erased.

The result was a greatly reduced program that had primarily national appeal and provided an opportunity for local industry insiders to meet on a few occasions.

A number of smaller events with invited guests were still allowed under German pandemic rules, meaning guests had to be fully vaccinated or cured of a COVID-19 infection and also had to show a quick test for infection, done on the same day. .

Instead of shows and stands, Nenonyt, which has become increasingly prominent as the industry gets greener, was reduced to an installation last Tuesday night. The guests were able to browse around 50 ecological labels combined with 13 models.

It was frustrating, admitted Bettina Baer, ​​Neonyt’s show director. “The unstable state of the pandemic is what makes our work really hard. But in the end – and it might seem like a stereotype – teamwork made it possible to transform what was once a fashion show into an installation, which was more like an art exhibit, “he told WWD.

As part of last Wednesday’s Fashionsustain conference, the live streaming panels moved on. Discussions, on topics such as transparent supply chains, corporate responsibility and consumer behavior, were live streamed as a restricted, socially distanced and mask-wearing audience watched.

The contact with the city is part of the Frankfurt Fashion Week project and there were also other events going on in the metropolis, including several photo exhibitions and further meetings at the Frankfurt Fashion Lounge. The latter was a separate place where it was possible to shop on the runway after small shows by the likes of Berlin favorite, Dawid Tomaszewski, and loyal Frankfurt supporter, Albrecht Ollendiek.

Ollendiek’s show took place inside the city’s historic opera building, and the gazes of the women at lunch appropriately reflected the fact that the state of Hesse is one of the richest in Germany, with a GDP of around 280 billion euros, equivalent to that of a small country.

“All in all, when you were walking around the city, it was hard to tell there was a fashion week,” said a WWD attendee. “In Berlin you could always tell that something was happening. There would have been interesting looking people on the train or many people lining up to attend shows in unusual places. You would know it. But here, it didn’t really seem like things had gone with a bang. “

Then again, it was an unusually difficult start for Germany’s youngest fashion event.

When it was first announced, it drew criticism for moving the Premium Group’s series of clothing fairs from Berlin to Frankfurt, which is generally best known as Germany’s financial center and home to the European Central Bank.

At the same time, the city mayor boasted that Frankfurt would become Germany’s “new fashion capital”. In addition, the week is managed by Messe Frankfurt, one of the largest trade fair and congress operators in the world.

Messe Frankfurt operates 58 different textile fairs around the world and sees the new local fashion week as a logical element in its broader portfolio of similar trade shows.

“We see it as part of a whole ecosystem,” Detlef Braun, managing director of Messe Frankfurt, explained to WWD, adding that the unique strength of Frankfurt Fashion Week for international attendees will be its constant focus on sustainability and technology.

Unfortunately, the launch event in July 2021 was digital only due to the health crisis. Then, a week before Christmas 2021, most of the major events of the January edition had to be canceled again due to the rapid increase in infection rates. The other fairs scheduled for the first quarter at Messe Frankfurt have also been suspended.

“The past two years have been very difficult,” Braun confirmed when WWD asked how the company had made money from the past two events.

Before the pandemic, Messe Frankfurt itself was doing well. Due to the pandemic, however, turnover in 2020 has collapsed, from 736 million euros in 2019 to just 257 million euros. Analysts expect turnover in 2021 to reach around 140 million euros.

Braun insisted that the deficit would not jeopardize the next edition of Frankfurt Fashion Week, scheduled for early July, however.

The city of Frankfurt and its state government are also financial partners of the event, having promised to invest € 10 million over three years in the hope that it will attract millions more businesses to the city.

“During the last two events, there were no revenue streams,” Braun admitted. “And of course we have to handle things very carefully at the moment. But the feedback we’ve received from our shareholders and partners indicates this is a good investment. It may not be harvest time yet, “he concluded,” but we think it’s worth it. “

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