JATC founder talks new zones and the importance of catering to Northern brands
With trade show season fully underway, Just Around the Corner (JATC) is also preparing its locations for the return of buyers, boasting 400 brands over a combined 60,000 square foot of space for both its London and Manchester shows.
This summer, its Northern trade show will kick off the calendar, from August 2 to 3, located in Manchester’s Freight Island venue. Now in its second edition, the sold out show will see the debut of new dedicated zones and an array of fresh brands set to exhibit in the iconic location. JATC’s staple London edition will closely follow, running from August 7 to 9, and has been relocated to Brick Lane’s larger T1 and T2 spaces in The Truman Brewery following significant demand from brands and buyers alike.
In conversation with FashionUnited, JATC’s founder Juls Dawson spoke about the upcoming events, what to expect and why the Northern fashion industry shouldn’t be overlooked.
What are the important elements of JATC that make it so unique?
For our venues, we always use industrial backdrops to our locations – we don’t use conference centres like many of the events in the UK. We get in guest street vendors to provide free nourishment throughout the event, for both exhibitors and visitors alike. This season, for example, we have an award-winning street vendor Nahiri. We also encourage an order writing environment and we are very relaxed and laid back in our approach. From an exhibitor perspective, we try to make things as easy as possible with regards to set up and there are no hidden costs for extras. In the UK, we are unique in our range of categories and genders. I would say we were more like a European trade show in that we have a bit of an edge in comparison to other shows in the UK.
Can you tell me a little bit about the new zones that you have added and why you have added them?
A new area for us is The Edit through which we wanted to extend our womenswear offering to encompass a more premium and slightly older demographic brand mix. We knew there was a gap in the market for a Northern event for this sector, so the uptake has been phenomenal with 50 brands coming on board, which has meant that we have sold out of space in Manchester. We decided to roll that concept out in London and we have got a similar number of brands showing in The Edit there.
Recently, in the last couple of weeks, we have had a few agencies and brands from the intimates and swimwear sector, which was an area we weren’t planning to launch this season. They don’t have a vehicle to show their wears in the UK at the moment, so we have got 15 brands coming in on swim and resort. Going forward, assuming it's successful, we know there are a lot more brands and agencies to grow this area. And because of the nature of the product we will likely give this a dedicated exclusive space.
The Lifestyle area is an area we have dipped our toes into this season. Going forward we have actually brought on a consultant who is going to focus on this area for January next year. We plan to significantly grow it to cover jewellery, beauty, skincare, lifestyle, home tech and more. It's a specialist area that is out of our traditional reach. It feels right to bring somebody in with vast experience to focus on it. I think there is a need for a wholesale trade show vehicle for these categories. Particularly in sectors like skincare and fragrance and jewellery, I believe we could be a good platform for them.
Are there many differences between the London and Manchester brand mix and locations?
I would say about 50 percent of the brands are showing both locations so there is a reason to come to both venues. We are moving London into T1 and T2. It will still be in the Truman Brewery complex but it's the first time we have moved to those specific locations. Manchester’s Freight Island, however, is just a special venue, it's by far one of the best venues, of my 25 years as an agent, that I have ever shown in. It's an old train station that is usually used as a music and entertainment venue. This summer will make it even more special because there are outside areas where we can all meet and have a drink. There is also the opening of Mayfield Park which adjoins the property and is the first park to be built in 100 hundred years.
Why did you decide to expand into Manchester?
A year ago today, it was our first London menswear show on what was ‘freedom day’ – when lockdown had finished. When we looked at the results after the show, we noticed that most of the visitors were from the South East. That got the thought process started of why don’t we do a Northern event. We thought: “If they don’t come to us, why don’t we go to them?” We started looking into Manchester and talking to brands and agents, and realised after a 40 year hiatus in what is the Northern powerhouse of Manchester, there was demand for an event there. Some friends of mine are involved with the venue, which is perfectly located next to Piccadilly train station and it just felt right.
I think Manchester has more potential to outgrow our London event. With this only being our second event there, it is already showing those signs – and the fact that we are sold out, we could have sold a lot more space. The demand is there, we are just dealing with how we grow it for January. Luckily, the site is under constant development so there are further options to expand on site.
What are you expecting in terms of attendance for this year?
The Manchester event is a two day event so we are hoping to reach 1,200 buyers – pre-registration is already up 100 percent. In London, we are looking at 3,000. We were hoping that, with travel restrictions lifted, we would see some Irish and European buyers in attendance, but I think we will likely be impacted by the current airport conditions and cancelled flights in regards to international travel. I think, as many international buyers are not going to events this year because of the risk, it will impact many UK trade shows this season.
You announced that you will be collaborating with Eric Musgrave, a renowned journalist who will be taking over the JATC Instagram. Can you tell me a little bit about what that will entail?
Eric is an industry legend and has been with many publications over the years. He is so well respected. We are honoured to have him on board to take over our Instagram for two days in Manchester. He will be talking to visitors and brands alike and will be giving his view point and insight as well. Eric is a massive supporter of trade shows, particularly Northern trade shows as he hails from Leeds originally. Throughout his career, he has always been concerned about the industry being too London-centric so he is the perfect individual to communicate with our audience and the trade show.