Highlights from Pure London's strong AW19 edition
by Isabella Griffiths
ROUNDUP London trade show Pure returned to Olympia for its a/w 19 edition, continuing its ‘festival of fashion’ theme. If looming Brexit and its associated uncertainty were on peoples’ minds, it didn’t show, as the atmosphere was generally bustling and the mood amongst brands and buyers seemed mostly upbeat, if not pragmatic at the least. There seemed to be a general consensus that whilst the economic and political climate was difficult, shops need stock, and brands need to supply it, and everyone seemed keen to do business as usual. Footfall and attendance was good, with the Sunday of the show once again having proved the busiest day, but there was a steady stream of buyers throughout the three days and brands reported healthy orders and budgets. The visitor profile was dominated by UK and Irish buyers, with some international stores from across Europe thrown into the mix.
The show continued to build on and refine its key product sectors, with an updated layout, newly tweaked young fashion section Gen Z, an expanded Pure Origin and Pure Man and the introduction of Bubble at Pure London the key innovations this season. It was the first edition of Pure since it was acquired by ITE last August and integrated into the company’s fashion portfolio, bringing all key UK fashion trade shows, including Moda, Jacket Required and Scoop, under one roof. The latter, premium show Scoop, ran concurrently three miles away at the Saatchi Gallery and a free shuttle taxi service made it easy for buyers to move between the two.
Sustainability remains key focus
Sustainability once again was a key focus, not only via Pure’s Conscious area, the dedicated section for ethical and Fair Trade brands that was launched last season, but also with regards to the supply chain and within Pure Origin, as well as a comprehensive content programme that concentrated on the future of fashion and its role in effecting lasting change throughout the industry, with high profile speakers across the three days of the event including activist Katherine Hamnet, MP Mary Creagh, Professor Caryn Franklin and more, who all tackled difficult topics during engaging and well attended panel discussions, seminars and talks. According to Julie Driscoll, UK Regional Director for ITE Group, Pure’s aim is to take an industry-wide lead role on sustainability issues, with the agenda also being pushed across other key shows in the portfolio. “We are the facilitator; we’re not being didactic, we’re not preaching, we are a platform. We are in a unique position where we bring communities together. We want the whole industry to debate the topics of today,” she says. “The key thing is for us all to talk about what we can do to drive a more sustainable fashion future, not to frighten any brands or companies or associations. No one’s perfect, but let’s have the debate, let’s make one small change within each of our companies.”
Brands exhibiting in the Pure Conscious area widely praised the stronger direction on sustainable and ethical labels at the show, though some felt the area should have been integrated into the main hall to align brands with the rest of the show and to generate even greater exposure, as little natural footfall was reaching the area, which was a little tucked away on the upper floor.
In the main hall, womenswear, Pure’s largest product sector, was busy and bustling, with regular names and big established brands across mainstream and contemporary fashion such as Soya Concept, Kaffee, Onjenu, Joe Browns, B Young and Thought sitting alongside smaller brands and a selection of premium labels. Colours such as mustards, teals and gentle pastels dominated the collections, while animal prints, statement knits and a vast mix of outerwear were also among the winning styles for a/w 19.
Pure Man receives positive response
With the menswear sector set to grow by 30 per cent by 2021, the segment also continued to be a focus for Pure, and there was a raft of new brands in attendance following the incorporation of sister show Moda Gent under the Pure Man umbrella, with brands such as Marc Darcy, Skopes, Tresanti, Soulstar, Gabicci and Geographical Norway among the line-up. Head of Menswear for Pure London, Adam Gough, was happy with the response of brands and revealed future plans for the area. “We’ve relocated Moda Menswear to London, which was off the back of speaking to brands that were at Moda and wanted a change and something that catered for more classic brands in London. The response has been really good. We’ve launched a new hosted buyer programme for the first time this season and flew in key buyers to the show, and it’s been very successful. We will continue to build on this for next season,” he says. While the area felt a little quieter than its adjacent Gen Z and womenswear counterparts, exhibiting brands were nevertheless happy with the turnout and the chance to attract a fresh type of buyer and new business. Regular Moda Gent exhibitors in particular said they were pleasantly surprised with the show, though they remarked that more brands need to be added to the line-up to make Pure Man a viable menswear platform in its own right that will appeal to more men’s retailers.
Innovation to drive future of show portfolio
Another innovation this season was kid’s area Bubble at Pure London, a bid to resurrect the former ITE children’s show, which closed last year, and merge with Pure’s existing small edit of kidswear. In total the section showcased ten kids labels and felt generally very quiet and its location upstairs in the gallery space a little off the beaten track. Brands agreed that childrenswear buyers were thin on the ground and few buyers generally found their way to the area, though some benefited from a crossover with adjacent accessories and footwear. It will remain to be seen whether Bubble at Pure will be able to establish itself as a convincing kidswear destination, in particular against stiff competition from INDX Kidswear in Solihull, which ran on the same timeline (10 – 11 February) and is going from strength to strength.
Meanwhile, with an expanded exhibitor line-up of over 200 manufacturers from 13 countries, sourcing event Pure Origin welcomed a host of garment and fabric suppliers, denim and textile designers and technology specialists. Feedback from exhibitors was that footfall was generally on the quiet side, but that nevertheless valuable contacts and serious leads had been generated. Talks and seminars on the dedicated Pure Origin stage highlighted and discussed key issues within the supply chain and contributed to a steady stream of visitors.
“This season was all about innovation, so next season will be about building on this and developing key aspects further. It’s a really exciting opportunity, and for me, this season feels like the moment for London has come and that we’re in a position where we can facilitate and celebrate the business of fashion happening in London. Our key commitment across ITE and our global exhibitions is to continue to innovate and invest in the exhibitions and the buyers; it’s about content, community and commerce,” says ITE’s Julie Driscoll.
Voices from across Pure
“We’re using Pure Conscious as a launch platform into Europe and hope to come away with great contacts and accounts. It’s great that there is a dedicated area for ethical fashion brands, but I feel the location is slightly too tucked away and there’s no natural flow of traffic to this area; buyers need to make a deliberate effort to come here and already have sustainable brands on their agenda. But we’ve had interest and valuable conversations with buyers. Pure is hosting guided buyer tours to bring retailers to this space, and this has been great and very welcome. Overall, we’re happy that we took part and it’s been a good foray into the UK market for us.”- Magdalena Saralegui, Europe Regional Manager for Miami based label Lanthropy
“We’ve been showing on and off at Pure for years, most of the time downstairs in the main hall, but since the launch of Pure Conscious we wanted to support the section. While the show has been steady for us and we have seen new and existing buyers, I think the area would have benefited from being downstairs, right at the front of the show, where there would be natural footfall and even bigger exposure given to ethical brands, especially as some sustainable brands are located downstairs anyway, like Thought . A big chunk of talks and discussions on the stage centre around sustainability, and it would have been great to match that with ethical brands having a prominent place within the main hall, too. The appetite for ethical brands is there, you only have to look at some of the international shows, especially Berlin, which fill huge halls with ethical labels. Hopefully this section will continue to grow and evolve.” - Tony Mountford, manager, Komodo
“We decided to give the show a go since Moda Gent and Pure Man were amalgamated, and I would say that it’s been worthwhile coming. We’ve seen two or three existing customers, but apart from that, the rest of the contacts and accounts have been new, which is why we’re here, for new business. I hope they will get a few more brands in next time, because from a buyer perspective this area is still relatively small, so unless you are London-based and this is local to you, retailers are probably taking a day out of their stores to come here, so the menswear sector needs to be bigger to make it more appealing. But apart from that, we’re happy with how the show has been for us.” - Paul Bajaj, director, Soulstar
“We’ve done better than expected and are pleasantly surprised. We took part as a bit of an experiment and our expectations weren’t that high, to be honest, but we had a busy day on Sunday and we took some good orders throughout the course of the show and managed to see new customers. I think the show has a good buzz and we seem to have benefited from the footfall and crossover from womenswear and the other sections.” - Jeff Keogh, general manager, Gabicci
“We took some orders from womenswear stores who wanted to stock up on a few accessories for their customers’ kids, so that’s been good, because this is not our typical customer base. I think Bubble would benefit from a different location, but I can see that that’s difficult due to the way the venue and the other sectors are structured. It’s been very quiet up here.” - Frank Loughlin, Key Account Manager, Ty
“Bubble at Pure is a new platform for us and even though the area is very small and quiet, we’ve had quite a lot of interest and are pleased. I think it’s because our products and accessories are quite versatile and appeal to a diversity of buyers, and that’s worked in our favour.” - Emilie Kim, creative director, Little King
“It’s our first time at Origin and overall it’s been an interesting experience. It’s been a little bit quieter than we would have liked, but those who we did speak to have been very interested and we have been able to demonstrate our expertise in cashmere and quality of our products.” - Ayush Pandey, director, cashmere supplier Palast
“On the wholesale side of Saloos, we’ve been busy and taken some good orders; on the manufacturing side, which we are showcasing for the first time at Pure Origin, it’s been a little quieter. I think generally customers want to take a look first, take our contacts, and then go away and think about what they want to do, which is fair enough. With that in mind, we will have hopefully made some good contacts that will be followed up after the show.” - Trevor Stokes, business account manager for manufacturer Fabuline, which also owns wholesale brand Saloos
“We’re from Greece and new to the UK and really like the vibe here at Pure; the athleisure section is not as busy as the other sectors, but nevertheless it’s been a good launch platform and we’ve had a lot of interest from buyers. The UK market is a very big focus for us because it’s big and athleisure is already very established here. We’re not too worried about Brexit and hope there will be trade deals in their own right, that’s why we decided to take the plunge anyway and at this moment in time.” - Ismini Chalinka, brand manager, Baya Athleisure
“We’ve had an ok show; footfall hasn’t been quite as strong as we had hoped, but that’s across the board of all trade shows and the exhibition landscape is changing. We’re a relatively small brand, so the investment in physical shows is increasingly difficult for us to justify if the ROI isn’t there. But, I have a full book of new leads and some orders, so all in all, I’m not too unhappy with the show, but I think going forward we will see a lot fewer small brands at big trade shows.” - Antoine Simons, brand manager, Antoine Verde Eco Sunglasses
“We’ve had a great show, especially on Sunday we were absolutely mobbed. We didn’t really expect this and thought buyers would be a lot more cautious this season, but we’ve had great order volumes and a really good mix of existing and new customers. Retailers seemed really ready to buy and their budgets were healthy. Our collection is also very strong this season, so that’s definitely a reflection of that, too.” - Kim Crossen, agent, Nymph
“We’re happy, we’ve been busy throughout the show and it’s had a good vibe and good mix of retailers. There’s obviously a lot of uncertainty in the market, but it doesn’t seem to have affected buyers’ mood or our business, so that’s encouraging. We’re feeling positive.” - Simon Whittington, head of UK & Ireland Sales, Thought
“We used to show at Scoop (and Pure previously) and decided to give Pure another go this season, and it’s been very positive. We had a lot of new and existing customers come onto the stand, some European buyers, too. Existing customers have been happy with their a/w 18 sell-throughs, and this was reflected in their order volumes for a/w19. We still want to grow the UK market, and this has been a successful show for us.” - Cesare Tome, brand manager, Urbancode
“We always come to Pure, it’s one of our main buying shows and yet again it’s delivered. I’ve been looking to add some newness to my regular brand mix and have found some quirky new labels here, and overall the collections have been really strong this season. It’s increasingly important that we find standout product that will have the Wow factor, so that’s been my main agenda – the competition is stiff, and the climate is difficult, but as retailers you have to carry on and keep finding those special brands, so I’ve not held back on budget this season.” - Sylvia Kerr, owner, Storey Womenswear Boutique, Dungannon, Ulster
“I’ve come to Pure with an open mind and to find some new collections to add to my store. Obviously Brexit is at the back of my mind, and I am slightly more cautious about price points and the kind of brands I am buying, especially if they are from Europe. I have just bought a short order brand and made sure that we agreed that the first part will be delivered before end of March.” - Elaine Mosson, owner, Avec Panache Boutique, Milngavie, Glasgow
Photo credit: FashionUnited